O’Neill focused on improving squad

first_img But the former Shamrock Rovers boss has impressed IFA officials with his behind-the-scenes work and development of younger players in the squad. O’Neill also has the support of key senior players, as evidenced by the continued presence of Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes – both of whom turn 34 before the end of the year – among his group for the trip to Adana. “The contract actually wasn’t a major thing, it was quite straightforward because the discussions we had were that everybody at the association wanted me to continue,” O’Neill told Press Association Sport. “I’ve been working for two years now and I wanted to continue that development of the team and the squad and hopefully make sure we have better results in qualifying next time. “Coming into the job I knew I wasn’t just managing an international team. We’ve restructured the age level groups, we’ve been getting the right people into the jobs and I’ve been assisting them with whatever they need. That will continue. “When I was appointed Northern Ireland manager I was honoured to have been chosen to manage my country and I am extremely happy to have agreed a new two-year deal with the Irish Football Association.” O’Neill’s side finished fifth in their six-team 2014 World Cup qualifying group and suffered a humiliating loss to Luxembourg along the way. They have won just once in 14 matches under O’Neill but the IFA is convinced they have the right man in place. IFA president Jim Shaw has been a vocal supporter of O’Neill during his tenure, and he said: “I am delighted that Michael has agreed a two-year extension to his contract. “I have no doubt that he will be able to build on the work he has already done and will take us forward in the Euro 2016 campaign. “Michael is a true professional who has passion and pride, something which he showed as a player for his country and now as a manager, and I believe he is the right man for the job of Northern Ireland manager.” O’Neill will be without Palermo striker Kyle Lafferty, whose wife is due to give birth around the date of the Turkey clash, as well as injured duo Craig Cathcart and Corry Evans, but otherwise has a full-strength panel available to him. O’Neill is desperate to persuade McAuley and Hughes to commit to one final campaign before retirement and their presence for the trip is encouraging, while captain Steven Davis and Manchester United’s Jonny Evans are also in the squad. Jonny Steele, the uncapped Larne-born midfielder who has been impressing for New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer, has been left out to focus on his club’s play-off chase. Northern Ireland squad to face Turkey on November 15: Carroll (Olympiacos), Mannus (St Johnstone); McAuley (West Brom), J Evans (Man Utd), Hodson (MK Dons), D Lafferty (Burnley), McArdle (Bradford), Hughes (Fulham), Baird (Reading); Davis (Southampton), Norwood (Huddersfield), Ferguson (Birmingham), Brunt (West Brom), Clingan (Kilmarnock), O’Connor (Rotherham); McKay (Inverness), Paterson (Huddersfield), Ward (Derby), McGinn (Aberdeen), Grigg (Brentford). Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill will begin his Euro 2016 planning in earnest next week after putting pen to paper on a new two-year contract. Press Association The friendly against Turkey on November 15 was the final fixture on his original deal with the Irish Football Association and when he announced a strong 20-man squad for the match at Windsor Avenue on Tuesday, he was able to do so having signed on to lead the Euro 2016 campaign. O’Neill took over from Nigel Worthington at the start of 2012 and has won just one of his 14 games in charge of the national side, August’s impressive 1-0 success over Russia. last_img

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