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Brendan Rodgers' exit from Celtic is a real shock, says Northern Ireland boss O'Neill

 

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Moving on: Brendan Rodgers takes in his new surroundings at Leicester

Moving on: Brendan Rodgers takes in his new surroundings at Leicester

Moving on: Brendan Rodgers takes in his new surroundings at Leicester

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has admitted he was surprised by the timing of Brendan Rodgers' switch from Celtic to Leicester City but has backed both the new Foxes boss and Neil Lennon - who took up the reins at Parkhead - to be major hits.

Former Northern Ireland international Lennon has taken charge of the Hoops until the end of the season, while Rodgers is settling into his new post at the Premier League club.

Rodgers, who signed a contract with the Foxes until June 2022, watched his new side overcome Brighton 2-1 in the Premier League on Tuesday and Lennon's return to Celtic kicked off with a 2-1 win at Hearts in the Scottish Premiership last night.

"It was a very quick turnaround on that," said Northern Ireland boss O'Neill, a former international team-mate of Lennon. "I was a little bit surprised at the timing of it - Brendan's done an amazing job at Celtic to win seven trophies out of seven, and to do domestically what he's done, it's been phenomenal.

"He obviously felt it was the right time to go back to the Premier League. Leicester's a very attractive job, so I'm sure he'll do an equally good job there.

"Neil was available, he knows Celtic, so I think it's a good fit at this minute in time for them."

O’Neill added: “They’re both lads that I know well, and I wish them both well.”

Lennon, who made 39 appearances for Northern Ireland, guided Celtic to three titles from 2011 and also won two Scottish Cups during four years at Parkhead.

When asked if he would be interested in the Celtic job, O’Neill, speaking after meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Windsor Park yesterday, stated: “I’m under contract here, I’ve a job to do here.”

The Northern Ireland boss is now focused on the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers, starting with the home clash against Estonia on Thursday, March 21.

Netherlands and Germany are the big hitters in Group C but Estonia and Belarus will also fancy their chances of rattling O’Neill’s men.

The former Shamrock Rovers chief admitted to the Duke of Cambridge that the campaign will be “challenging”.

“He (the Duke) was well aware that the European qualification starts in March, and the group that we’re in, it’s a tough group,” added O’Neill. “And he complimented us on the progress we have made in recent years and wished us well for the campaign.

“You can tell he has a keen interest in sport, and he has a very keen interest in using sport in terms of improving different aspects of society.

“That came through today, both from himself and Kate. They were very interested in all of the projects that the IFA run, and they do very similar work themselves.

“We look forward to the games when they come round. It’s a five-month period when we’re going to have to be at our best.”

Belfast Telegraph