Belfast Telegraph

Leave Michael O'Neill alone, says Northern Ireland legend Norman Whiteside

By Graham Luney

Norman Whiteside has pleaded with top England and Scottish clubs to leave Michael O'Neill alone and allow him to finish the job he started with Northern Ireland.

O'Neill has been tipped to land a top club job after guiding his country to their first-ever European Championship finals in France this summer, ending 30 years of hurt after their last taste of major tournament action at the 1986 World Cup.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed in February that Celtic could make a move for O'Neill if Ronny Deila departs Parkhead but former Manchester United favourite Whiteside, who featured in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups for Northern Ireland, has issued a hands off warning to clubs ahead of the Euro 2016 finals.

"I would say to the clubs looking at Michael just leave him alone," said the 50-year-old (above). "He has just signed a new four-year deal and as a young manager it might be an ambition of his to take on a top job with a club in the Premier League or Championship but I say let him get on with being Northern Ireland manager.

"Hopefully he continues to enjoy success with Northern Ireland and should that happen, I've no doubt the opportunity will arise where he can do the same with a top club. First and foremost, let's enjoy the Euros and then Michael can start planning for the World Cup qualifiers."

Northern Ireland have moved up to 26th in the Fifa world rankings, their highest-ever placing and one spot better than in 2007 under Lawrie Sanchez.

Belfast Telegraph