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Michael O'Neill: Friends told me not to take Northern Ireland job

As a player O'Neill kept up his schoolwork to please his father

Published 15/12/2015

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is lifted into the air by his players after the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is lifted into the air by his players after the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland Manager celebrates with his players after Thursday evening's game at Windsor park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's manager Micheal O'Neill (C) celebrates with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis (L) and Gareth McAuley (R) after winning the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland fans celebrate after Northern Ireland won the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland fans celebrate after Northern Ireland won the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland fans celebrate after Northern Ireland won the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates after winning the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates after winning the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Gareth McAuley of Northern Ireland celebrates after this evenings Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Gareth McAuley of Northern Ireland celebrates after this evenings Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates after scoring his side's third goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans in the stands during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the match during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the match with teammates during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans wave a banner in the stands reading "Northern Ireland welcome to France Euro 2016" during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the match with teammates during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland Steven Davis (not pictured) celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's third goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates after scoring his side's third goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's manager Micheal O'Neill (C)c celebrates his team's second goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis (C) celebrates with Northern Ireland's defender Gareth McAuley (R) after scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis (centre, left) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the match with teammates during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the match with Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill (right) during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis (not pictured) scores his side's second goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis scores his side's second goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the match with teammates during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Stuart Dallas of Northern Ireland (2nd L) and Vasilis Torosidis of Greece (R) during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Steve Davis (L) of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Greece's Alexandros Tziolis (left) and Panagiotis Kone (centre) battle for the ball with Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Golfer Rory McIlroy during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland team celebrate Steven Davis' first goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (centre) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (centre) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (right, number 8) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the match with teammates during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (right, number 8) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the match with teammates during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's defender Gareth McAuley (R) vies for the ball with Greece's forward Kostas Mitroglou during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's midfielder Steven Davis (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Steve Davis (L) of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Steve Davis (L) of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Greece's Konstantinos Mitroglou and Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Greece's Konstantinos Mitroglou and Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Greece's Panagiotis Kone and Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood (right) battle for the ball the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis in action during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland team before the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 8, 2015. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans (R) vie for the ball with Greece's Andreas Samaris during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group F football match between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Josh Magennis of Northern Ireland (L) and Vangelis Moras of Greece (R) during the Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 8: Greece fans attends the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Northern Ireland and Greece at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Johnny Evans before Thursday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/PressEye
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill inspects the pitch before Thursday evening's Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Thursday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/PressEye
Northern Ireland captain Steve Davis reads the match day programme before Thursday evening's Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland v Greece Euro 2016 Qualifier Group Group F Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans and Kyle Lafferty during this evenings game at Windsor park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland v Greece Euro 2016 Qualifier Group Group F Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin , Jonny Evans , Kyle Lafferty and Aaron Hughes during this evenings game at Windsor park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland v Greece Euro 2016 Qualifier Group Group F Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin , Jonny Evans and Kyle Lafferty during this evenings game at Windsor park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis makes his way off the pitch before this evening's Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill inspects the pitch before this evening's Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland captain Steve Davis reads the match day programme before this evening's Euro 2016 Group F international football match at Windsor Park on October 8, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has said he was advised not to take the national job - and that as a schoolboy he had to promise his father he would keep up his studies if he wanted to follow the dream of playing professional football.

In a wide-ranging interview, broadcast on the BBC Stephen Nolan radio show this morning, the 46-year-old recalled his memories of Northern Ireland's last appearance at a major football tournament and the heroics of Gerry Armstrong against Spain in the 1982 World Cup.

He said it was his dream to play for Northern Ireland at a major finals, which never materialised, but that it was important his squad built on their impressive table-topping qualifying campaign for next year's European Championships.

He talked about how he was very academic as a child and had to phone home to get his O-Level exam results while he was on a youth training scheme with Manchester City.

He said he expected to join the staff at City, but so good were his results he carried on his studies at A-Level at the behest of his father Des.

He said: "When I went to Newcastle, part of the agreement was that I attended Gosford High School, where Alan Shearer had just left to join Southampton.

Read more: Euro 2016 draw: Northern Ireland to face reigning world champions Germany

"I got in the team a bit quicker than was expected and playing for Newcastle's first team and going to school to study A-Level maths in the city was difficult to say the least.

"The biggest stumbling block I had was a World Cup game against Malta, it was scheduled weird and was at the same time I had my A-Level maths, so ultimately I never sat it.

"I did later sit an Open University maths exam at Queen's the day before we played the Republic. Bryan Hamilton gave me permission to do that.

"The lads in the squad must have thought what was this guy about? But that was just what I did on the side outside of the football."

Read more: Northern Ireland can make it to the last 16 in France, says Davis

After his playing career ended, O'Neill took a job in the financial services industry, which he said has helped him with his football management.

He added: "I always wanted a safety net, as it were. I thought I wanted [a proper job] until I got one and realised it wasn't all it was cracked up to be."

After winning the League of Ireland with Shamrock Rovers and becoming the first team across the whole of Ireland to qualify for the group stages of a European competition, the Europa League, there was a lot of hype surrounding O'Neill and where he would take his managerial career.

He admitted there were friends who advised him not to take the Northern Ireland job, but thought he was an outsider for the position after Nigel Worthington's departure with Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie ahead of him.

"People said I could end up with a job in England but that never came to fruition," said O'Neill.

"So I thought it would be a good experience for me to go and get interviewed [by the IFA] and I subsequently got the call 24 hours later to say I was the preferred candidate for the job.

"I knew the task was daunting, I was well aware the team was not in a great place.

"I just felt when the job was offered I had to take it."

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