Michael O’Neill leaves role as Northern Ireland manager

Michael O’Neill has permanently left his role as Northern Ireland manager after eight years in charge.

O’Neill was set to take charge of NI’s postponed Euros qualifier with Bosnia-Herzegovina in March.

However due to Uefa’s proposal to reschedule the game in the autumn, the 50-year-old will now solely focus on his job as Stoke City manager.

“I feel it is only fair that now is the right time for me to step aside,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill was appointed Northern Ireland manager in December 2011 and guided his country to the Euro 2016 finals in France.

His success in the international set-up presented an opportunity at club level with Championship side Stoke City in November, however O’Neill was set to see the current qualification campaign through to its conclusion before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

It seems likely Uefa will reschedule the play-off matches deciding the last four places at next year’s rescheduled European Championship after the first Nations League matches in September.

“It was important to leave the association and team in the strongest possible shape in order to not only have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2021, but allow the new manager time to build upon the success that we have had during my eight year tenure,” said O’Neill, who added he “would have loved” to help NI qualify for another major tournament.

“Throughout my time here, I have been fortunate to have worked with many great coaching, medical and support staff who have all contributed to our successes and shared in some great moments.

“As for my players, past and present, I would like to thank them all for an overwhelming level of commitment and professionalism that has helped to deliver so many unforgettable highs and great experiences for us all.

“Finally, to the fans, thank you. It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to manage my country and I will treasure my time as manager of Northern Ireland forever.

“The support you have provided myself and the team over the years has been incredibly humbling.”

O’Neill also thanked the Irish FA for their support throughout his tenure, along with CEO Patrick Nelson and presidents David Martin and Jim Shaw.

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