Michael O’Neill was full of praise for his new Stoke side after they won 4-2 at fellow strugglers Barnsley to give him a victorious start as manager.
The day after his appointment, O’Neill saw his team move off the foot of the Championship table thanks to Sam Clucas’ double.
O’Neill said: “We had to match their desire – no-one has a God-given right to be in the Championship.
“I’m obviously delighted with the result. It’s one step in the right direction. It’s very pleasing. It was a very good performance.
“Sam had a great performance and they were two great goals. His all-round game is excellent, hopefully the knock isn’t too serious.
“In this third of the season, it is very important to get the three points. We showed a lot of quality today. The key was to make sure we got the result and the performance.
“They tested us to the max and they deserve a lot of credit for that.”
O’Neill will remain in charge of Northern Ireland for the remainder of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
“It’s important for me to finish the campaign with Northern Ireland,” he added. “The players have given me everything for the last seven, eight years. It was a hard decision, but I thought it was a risk worth taking.”
The new manager saw the Potters open the scoring after only seven minutes as Brad Collins in the Barnsley goal passed the ball straight to Clucas, who chipped the ball back over him from more than 35 yards.
Stoke doubled their advantage though Lee Gregory’s penalty, but Cameron McGeehan pulled one back two minutes before the break.
Joe Allen made it 3-1 and Clucas added a fourth with another long-range effort before Patrick Schmidt got another one back for the hosts, who slipped below their opponents to the bottom of the table.
Barnsley caretaker-manager Adam Murray said: “The goals we conceded today are individual errors and that’s the story of our season so far.
“It gets past frustrating and you get a little bit angry with it. The fans do and the players do.
“It’s something I’ve said in the changing room – the players have to start taking responsibility.
“It’s happened too many times for players not to learn and take that ownership. It’s time for them to stand up.”