Chris Baird: Northern Ireland defender retires from international football

Chris Baird has been a useful utility player for Northern Ireland
Chris Baird has been a useful utility player for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland defender Chris Baird has confirmed his retirement from international football to concentrate on his club career with Derby County.

The 34-year-old won 79 caps and was part of manager Michael O'Neill's squad at the Euro 2016 finals in France.

He played his final game for Northern Ireland in their opening game of the tournament, a defeat by Poland in Nice.

"I am not getting any younger and I feel it is the right thing to do at this stage," said Baird.

The versatile County Antrim man made his debut against Italy in 2003 and has played at right-back, centre-back and more recently as a defensive midfielder for his country.

He lined out in nine of the 10 qualification games that took O'Neill's side to Euro 2016.

'Tough decision' to quit NI squad

"It was a tough decision because I have enjoyed every single minute that I have played for Northern Ireland," added the former Southampton, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion player, who also had spells with Reading and Burnley.

"Qualification for Euro 2016 was the icing on the cake for my international career, but I have so many fantastic memories, like the win over England and beating Spain.

"I am fortunate to have lined out with some great players over the past 13 years and I would like to thank the managers, coaches and Irish FA staff that I have worked over that time.

"I would also like to thank the Northern Ireland fans who have been absolutely tremendous. It is true - they are the best supporters in the world."

O'Neill added: "Chris has been an absolute rock for me in the four years that I have been in charge. His defensive qualities, his reading of the game and his experience have been invaluable, especially in our Euro 2016 qualification campaign.

"In addition to his football ability, he is also a fantastic person and we will miss him around the squad.

"Chris has been a tremendous servant to Northern Ireland. I fully respect his decision to retire from international football at this stage and I wish him every success as he continues his highly successful club career."

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