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Jonny Evans surprised at lack of interest in Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

Jonny Evans of Northern Ireland and Gareth Bale of Wales compete for the ball during the Euro 2016 last-16 tie
Image: Jonny Evans says he was surprised not clubs came in to take Michael O'Neill away from Northern Ireland

Jonny Evans admits a number of Northern Ireland's squad were surprised to see Michael O'Neill remain in charge of the national side following their successful campaign at Euro 2016

O'Neill had been linked with a move to club football after guiding Northern Ireland through their group in France, before they eventually lost to semi-finalists Wales in the last-16 of the tournament.

Despite being linked with Hull and Celtic, the 47-year-old was overlooked but Evans believes their loss is Northern Ireland's gain, as O'Neill prepares to lead his side into their opening World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.

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"I'm not going to deny that a few of us have said we are surprised a club hasn't come in for him," Evans said.

"It's been strange no-one has come in for him. He's in a great position and I think no matter what happens in this campaign he'll always be in a strong position.

"We are all really fond of the manager, we would all like to see him being given that chance to go and prove himself at club level. I don't think we'd hold it against him if he did move on and manage a club.

"We're really grateful as players that we have him for this campaign because we know the hunger he has and it really has a big impact on us as a team and individuals."

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Michael O'Neill felt his Northern Ireland side deserved to progress
Image: O'Neill helped guide Northern Ireland through their group at Euro 2016

Northern Ireland head into Sunday's game on the back of their first appearance at a major tournament in 30 years.

However, O'Neill's side face a tough task to get out of their 2018 World Cup qualification group, which includes defending champions Germany, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino, in addition to the Czechs.

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But despite the difficulty of their Group C opponents, Evans believes his side stand a strong chance of making it through, largely thanks to O'Neill's detailed approach to preparation.

"I spoke to Michael a week or two after the Euros and he was studying the Czechs and getting ready for this game," Evans said.

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 12: Bartosz Kapustka of Poland fouls Chris Baird of Northern Ireland resulting in an yellow card during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C matc
Image: Northern Ireland eventually lost to Wales in the last-16 in France

"That really struck me that we have a manager who has probably reached the pinnacle of his career, yet within a week he had already moved on.

"He knows everything that is going on. I wouldn't like to call him a 'control freak' but he does look after everything from things that are on the menu at dinner time to the running stats that we get.

"You can see he's always having meetings with the physios and the doctors to make sure he is on top of things. He is really detailed.

Northern Ireland's Conor Washington (left) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team mates Oliver Norwood and Jonathan Evans
Image: Northern Ireland face the Czech Republic in their opening World Cup qualifier on Sunday

"He trusts his staff to get on with things but him taking an interest gives them an incentive to do even more. The staff absolutely work their socks off and they play a big part for us.

"I hadn't met Michael before he took the job. The first campaign didn't go great but there was always this belief that things were changing for the better.

"He's a big thinker; he's not all blood and sweat. He has a brain. When you analyse what he says, it all makes sense."

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