Release Date: 09/09/2006
AS MANY people will be aware, there has been much speculation over my future as Northern Ireland manager in the wake of our fantastic victory over Spain.
I would like to apologise if the unfortunate sequence of events overshadowed that incredible win, but I felt I needed time to address several serious issues in the wake of the matches against both Iceland and Spain.
I would also like to thank the people of Northern Ireland for the amazing support they have shown to both the players and myself since I took over two-and-a-half years ago. The fact Windsor Park is regularly sold out for our home matches is not only testament to the progress we have made but also to the depth of loyalty amongst Northern Ireland fans.
Unfortunately, that support does not seem to be reflected in the coverage the team receives from some sections of the Northern Ireland media. During my time in charge, we have risen 52 places in the FIFA rankings, beaten World Cup quarter-finalists, England and Spain, as well as drawing with World Cup semi-finalists, Portugal. One more victory would take my record past that of every manager since Billy Bingham.
Despite these successes, the level and ferocity of the criticism from certain sections of the media has astonished me. Certainly the NI team deserve more respect for what we have achieved and the progress that has been made these past three seasons.
Criticism is part and parcel of football but some of the criticism has been out of all proportion, especially when considering the team had not won for 15 matches and had failed to score in 1298 minutes before I took over. I know that I did not come from the golden age of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup teams however, I was immensely proud to represent Northern Ireland if only for three times as a player and those caps hold pride of place in my home.
It led me to question whether I wanted to continue as Northern Ireland manager and if the team could continue to make such progress in this climate of negativity.
But after discussions with the IFA and largely thanks to the tremendous messages of support I've received from the people of Northern Ireland, I have decided to continue in my role for the remainder of my contract.
All I have ever asked of my players is total commitment to the Northern Ireland cause and therefore I know they would expect nothing less from me.
There has been speculation linking me with managerial positions in England but I categorically deny the underlying events of the past few days have been sparked by any desire to return to club football.
I hope we can now put this series of events behind us and continue working for the benefit and progress of Northern Ireland football. With the continued support of the fans, I am certain that the team will produce many more performances as memorable as Wednesday's victory.
Onwards and Upwards
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