Belfast Telegraph

I will be heartbroken if Michael O'Neill leaves Northern Ireland, says Josh Magennis

On form: Josh Magennis has thrived under Michael O’Neill
On form: Josh Magennis has thrived under Michael O’Neill

By Paul Ferguson

Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis admits he would be left heartbroken if his mentor and international boss Michael O’Neill quit for a job in club management.

O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s most successful manager since Billy Bingham, has been linked in recent weeks with a number of vacant positions including West Brom and Celtic.

And former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, on a trip to Belfast last month, stated “it was only a matter of time” before the Ballymena man is snapped up by a club.

But as Bangor-born Bolton player Magennis prepared for Saturday’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn, the 28-year-old said that he hopes O’Neill, who is 17 months into a lucrative six-year contract, will remain at the helm to offer Northern Ireland the best chance of success in the future.

“I would be absolutely gutted if he left because he has worked wonders for me,” concedes Magennis, who could be given the lone striker’s role against Estonia after scoring the winner in March’s qualifying victory over Belarus.

Magennis added: “You have got to respect people if they feel they want to try something new — especially if there’s a deal on the table that can’t be turned down.

“He’s well within his right to make that decision because he’s been absolutely amazing — not just for me, but for the country.”

The striker owes his successful international career to O’Neill having made all but three of his 42 appearances under the 49-year-old’s stewardship, while O’Neill was also instrumental in his transfers to Charlton and then Bolton Wanderers.

“We’ve been competitive, we’ve managed to get to the Euros and the World Cup play-offs. People couldn’t really see us doing any of that and we kept on proving people wrong,” Magennis added.

“He has galvanised Northern Ireland football — Windsor is rocking, grassroots football has improved immensely and, for the most part, we’ve been on a high.

“We maybe had a sticky patch with the Nations League but he was able to find new players and identify new formations.

“The day Michael does leave is going to be heartbreaking — but he might stay because he has a real legacy taking place.

“We just have to wait and see but, as a selfish person, I wouldn’t want him to leave.”

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