Sammy McIlroy has resigned as manager of Northern Ireland following the end of their UEFA EURO 2004™ campaign and is expected to take over at Stockport County FC. A spokesman for the English second division club confirmed today that officials had been talking to McIlroy but said no agreement could yet be announced.
"He [McIlroy] has advised that his decision was based entirely on a growing desire to return to the day-to-day cut and thrust of club management," said a statement by general secretary David Bowen on the Irish Football Association's website. "He emphasised that in his four years as manager, he deeply appreciated the tremendous support that was given to him by the association, his squad members and, not least, the supporters who have backed him all the way."
The 49-year-old McIlroy, who earned 88 caps for Northern Ireland in a successful playing career, was appointed in January 2000 after more than six seasons in charge of Macclesfield Town FC, who he led into the English football league.
However, Northern Ireland finished bottom of EURO 2004™ Group 6 after failing to win a game in a qualifying campaign for the first time, and are currently on a European record run of 13 games without scoring a goal. McIlroy has decided to leave despite signing a new two-year contract in July. His final game in charge was a narrow 1-0 defeat in Greece, and his last victory came in October 2001 in Malta.
The Irish Football Association will now start the search for a new manager to take charge of their 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, as they seek to end their disappointing form of recent years and emulate their achievements in 1982 and 1986, when they reached two consecutive finals tournaments with McIlroy as a player.
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