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NI legends Magilton and Healy call for Norwood to reconsider his international retirement

 

Stay aboard: Oliver Norwood has been urged to rethink
Stay aboard: Oliver Norwood has been urged to rethink
Jim Magilton
David Healy

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland greats David Healy and Jim Magilton have hit out at Oliver Norwood's decision to retire from international duty at the age of 28 and are urging the midfielder to change his mind.

Sheffield United star Norwood shocked and disappointed Northern Ireland fans and manager Michael O'Neill earlier this week when he announced that he was calling it a day at the highest level having won 57 caps.

O'Neill said that the player was making a 'huge mistake'. Healy and Magilton view Norwood's call it the same way.

In his statement, Norwood didn't give any reasons for retiring, though there have been suggestions he wants to make the most of playing in the Premier League with the Blades after finally reaching the top flight a decade on from starting his career.

It's worth noting the midfielder had made himself unavailable for the opening four Euro 2020 qualifiers when he was still a Championship player.

Rumours of a dispute between Norwood and O'Neill, following a supposed dressing room bust-up after a Nations League game with Bosnia-Herzegovina, have been refuted by the manager's camp.

When Norwood initially opted to stay away from the international scene, O'Neill travelled to meet him and genuinely felt the ex-Brighton and Fulham ace would return to the fold.

Linfield boss Healy, who played 95 times for Northern Ireland and is the country's record goalscorer, said: "I like Ollie as a person, and he is a good guy, but his decision to retire from international football at 28 beggars belief.

"For me, it is the wrong call. Ollie has had a fine career at international level but he could go on and become a Northern Ireland legend.

"There is a possibility that he could play in two major tournaments like our greats of the '80s, and I don't understand why he is giving up that opportunity.

"I would also say that, at 28, he is coming into his peak years. Obviously he wants to do well in the Premier League but he could also play international football at the same time.

"Steven Davis has done it, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Craig Cathcart. Even back in the day players like Neil Lennon, Steve Lomas and Keith Gillespie did both. I did it myself.

"Playing for your country is the biggest honour you can have in sport.

"I would have done anything to play for Northern Ireland and I always thought Ollie loved it too. I remembered seeing how much it meant to him and his family when we qualified for the Euro 2016 finals.

"I just hope he reflects on his decision and changes his mind and comes back."

Healy added that Norwood's retirement was unfair on O'Neill.

"It is Michael who gave Ollie a platform at international level and that helped him in his club career. Michael deserves more," stated the ex-Rangers man.

"Ollie came through the system with Northern Ireland and I genuinely feel that when players become senior internationals like him they then have to give something back.

"He should be in the squad and advising young players like Jamal Lewis, Gavin Whyte and Paul Smyth about his experiences and helping them progress."

Former Southampton star Magilton won 52 caps before retiring from international football at the age 33 for family reasons when Sammy McIlroy was in charge.

"I based my decision on emotion. My son had epilepsy," said Magilton, playing for Ipswich in the top flight at the time. "It had nothing to do with longevity in the Premier League for me. I didn't want to be a away from my boy.

"Sammy was very supportive. He had given me a new lease of life with Northern Ireland, making me captain, and I felt like I'd let him down.

"I also regretted my decision almost as soon as I'd made it because there is nothing like international football. At 28, I think Ollie will regret it.

"He is in his prime and has the chance to face Holland and Germany in big upcoming Euro qualifiers. Based on my own experiences, it is a poor decision from Ollie. It's far too early to give up international football and I hope he reflects on things and decides to return.

"The experiences he gains at international level provides added value to him as a footballer and makes him a better player.

"Michael O'Neill has shown great trust in Ollie, playing him in every game, which shows you what he thinks about him. I believe Norwood was playing the best international football of his career before this and he could have become even better."

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