Belfast Telegraph

Oliver Norwood: International retirement is a 'huge mistake', warns Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood has announced his retirement from international football with Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)
Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood has announced his retirement from international football with Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has warned Oliver Norwood that he has made a 'huge mistake' in retiring from international football.

The 28-year-old says it's the 'right time' to make the decision, having finally got his chance in the Premier League with Sheffield United this season, captaining his side for both of their opening fixtures.

“I think he is making a huge mistake. He is only 28 and I’ve no doubt he could have continued to play club and international football for many years,” said the international boss.

As many as 52 of Norwood's 57 caps were awarded by O'Neill after the Burnley-born midfielder made his debut under Nigel Worthington in 2010.

He was an ever-present in the side that qualified for Euro 2020 and started all four games at the finals in France. He sealed his place in the nation's footballing folklore when he provided the free-kick that was headed home by Gareth McAuley in the 2-0 group stage win over Ukraine.

He started three of Northern Ireland's recent Nations League campaign, making his last appearance in October.

Norwood had then ruled himself out of the opening four Euro 2020 qualifying fixtures as Northern Ireland got the campaign off to a perfect start.

“Ollie has been a mainstay of our team for the past seven years," continued O'Neill. "I know this was not an easy decision for Ollie to make, however I think his decision is premature. He had the opportunity to leave an incredible legacy at international level and the potential to reach 100 caps.

“Ollie will be a loss to our squad, however we have won our four qualifying games to date (for Euro 2020) in his absence and the squad will continue to progress, and I believe the players in my squad are more than capable of reaching another major tournament."

Norwood hailed the Northern Ireland supporters as the best in the world as he confirmed his retirement in statement released by Sheffield United.

"After proudly representing Northern Ireland on 57 occasions, I feel now is the right time to announce my retirement from international football," said Norwood.

"I've enjoyed the highs of a major tournament - being part of the squad in France at Euro 2016 was the proudest point of my international career.

"I would like to thank the manager, Michael O'Neill, for selecting me on so many occasions to represent my country, and also to the players I've played with through the years. We've had some enjoyable times.

"A huge thank you, too, to the GAWA (Green and White Army) for the tremendous support offered through the years. In my opinion the GAWA really are the best fans in the world and hopefully the squad can deliver more success for them to enjoy."

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