Michael O'Neill

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Former Newcastle midfielder Michael O'Neill has been appointed as the new manager of Northern Ireland.

The 42-year-old, who recently resigned as manager of Shamrock Rovers, has agreed an initial two-year deal to manage his country, beginning on 1st Febuary 2012 and meaning his first game will be a friendly against Holland later that month.

He will then lead the Ulstermen into their World Cup 2014 qualifying fixtures, following the resignation of former boss Nigel Worthington in October.

O'Neill joined Newcastle from Coleraine in 1987 and made 48 appearances before going on to play for Dundee United and Hibernian among other clubs.

He later became assistant manager at Cowdenbeath before taking over as manager of Brechin, then managing Shamrock who became the first League of Ireland team to reach the group stages of the Europa League following this year's play-off win over Partizan Belgrade.

"I'm honoured to be chosen to manage my country," he said.

"I'm a proud Northern Irishman who was fortunate enough to win 33 senior caps and it was always an ambition to manage my country.

"To be entrusted with the role early in my managerial career is quite humbling but I am confident that we can make progress.

"Northern Ireland has a strong football tradition but one that needs to be refreshed with some more contemporary success.

"That is my primary objective - to restore a sense of belief and pride in what it means to represent Northern Ireland so that our players will want only to play for their country - that is how it should be."

O'Neill will be able to call upon Newcastle youngster Shane Ferguson, while Academy defender Lee Toland has also won caps for the country at youth level and was recently placed on standby for the under-21 squad.