Northern Ireland veteran Chris Baird announces retirement from international football
Northern Ireland veteran Chris Baird has announced that he will retire from international football.
The 34-year-old, who played in defence and midfield, won 79 caps in his 13 years.
His final appearance for his country came in Northern Ireland's opening Euro 2016 game against Poland in Nice in June.
Baird currently plays club football for Championship side Derby County.
He has previously played for Southampton, Fulham, Reading, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.
Speaking about his decision to retire from international football Chris Baird said: “It was a tough decision because I have enjoyed every single minute that I have played for Northern Ireland. I discussed it with my family and as I am not getting any younger I felt it was the right thing to do at this stage.
“Qualification for Euro 2016 was the icing on the cake for my international career, but I have so many fantastic memories, like the win over England and beating Spain.
“I am fortunate to have lined out with some great players over the past 13 years and I would like to thank the managers, coaches and Irish FA staff that I have worked over that time. I would also like to thank the Northern Ireland fans who have been absolutely tremendous. It is true – they are the best supporters in the world.”
Northern Ireland international Manager, Michael O’Neill, said: “Chris has been an absolute rock for me in the four years that I have been in charge. His defensive qualities, his reading of the game and his experience have been invaluable, especially in our Euro 2016 qualification campaign.
“In addition to his football ability, he is also a fantastic person and we will miss him around the squad.
“Chris has been a tremendous servant to Northern Ireland. I fully respect his decision to retire from international football at this stage and I wish him every success as he continues his highly successful club career.”
Fans have started paying tributes online.
One said: "Chris Baird officially retires from international football what a contribution he made to Northern Ireland over the years, unsung hero."
Another posted: "Often unheralded, but important versatile player over 13 years."
All the very best to Chris Baird who is retiring from international football after 79 caps. Important player for NI and a good guy #GAWA— Steven Beacom (@StevenBeacom5) August 17, 2016
Michael O'Neill: “In addition to his football ability, [Chris Baird] is also a fantastic person and we will miss him around the squad."— Adrian Rutherford (@arutherfordNI) August 17, 2016
Chris Baird, one of Northern Ireland's unsung heroes for the past number of years. Still gutted his goal against Finland was ruled out #gawa— James Tait (@JamesTait23) August 17, 2016