Northern Ireland fans around the world were in jubilant form yesterday as manager Michael O’Neill put pen to paper on a new contract that will see him lead the national team until 2024.
The four-year contract extension is the longest and believed to be the most lucrative in the Irish Football Association’s history.
It comes after the 48-year-old turned down the chance to become manager of Scotland – the country where he currently resides.
O’Neill, who has 31 international caps for Northern Ireland and has been the team’s manager for six years, will now guide the national team through the next two European Championship campaigns and the qualifying series for the 2022 World Cup which will take place in Qatar.
Speaking to the News Letter from Canada, John Brownlee of Toronto Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club said: “For most of the fans in Canada it is a relief that he decided to stay and it is great that he mentions that GAWA had an influence – I guess he enjoys the craic with the greatest fans in the world.”
Vince Curry from 1st Maze NISC based in Lisburn said: “As a club we are delighted that Michael will be staying.
“After the campaign we did think he would have been snapped up by a Premier League club such as West Brom or the likes.
“We also thought he may think he’s taken the team as far as he can and has nothing left to prove so would have sought a further challenge elsewhere so we’re delighted he’s decided to stay for another four years.
“One of his priorities moving forward will be to bring more youth into the squad.”
Nial Coulter from North of England NISC said: “We all know how much of a rapport he has with the fans and players, so it’s fantastic news that Michael is extending his contract.
“This will give him an opportunity to continue building his legacy and also hopefully encourage some of the senior players to prolong their international careers for at least another campaign.”
Raymond Taylor, chairman of Antrim NISC said: “It’s great for the fans and it’s great for our wee country.
“It means he’ll be here for the next two European campaigns and the Qatar World Cup campaign.
“I don’t think there’s a better man for the job.
“With him living in Scotland he could have taken the easy option, but fair play to him for staying with us.”