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Saturday 22 September 2018

O'Neill now 'in serious talks' to quit Ireland role

Duo want extended contracts to return to Premier League return management

Roy Keane at the SSE Airtricity / Soccer Writers Association of Ireland Awards 2017 at The Conrad Hotel in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Roy Keane at the SSE Airtricity / Soccer Writers Association of Ireland Awards 2017 at The Conrad Hotel in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Luke Edwards

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane have been offered a return to the Premier League with Stoke City after four years in the international arena.

The English club were still trying to thrash out terms with O'Neill late last night.

The Northern Irishman is expected to bring Keane (right) with him as his assistant if he can agree a deal to return to club management for the first time since Sunderland sacked him in 2013.

Although Stoke are understood to have offered O'Neill the chance to succeed Mark Hughes after former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores decided to remain at Espanyol, it remains to be seen if he will go.

Sources suggest that the length of the contract may be a sticking point as O'Neill does not want a short-term deal that could leave him vulnerable to being fired in the summer even if he keeps Stoke in the top flight.

O'Neill had effectively decided to remain in the Ireland job last Friday.

Indeed, Keane is thought to have helped persuade him to stay over the past few weeks, but the Stoke offer could prove too tempting.

Sources have said club owner Peter Coates feels O'Neill's vast experience of managing in the Premier League make him the best person to turn their season around.

O'Neill has never been relegated from the top flight as a manager and had success with Aston Villa and Leicester City either side of a fruitful spell with Celtic.

He had been mulling over signing a new two-year contract to continue with Ireland until the end of their European Championship campaign in 2020, but Stoke are determined to bring him back into club management.

Stoke sacked Hughes last weekend after an FA Cup third-round defeat to Coventry City which left the club with just a relegation battle to contend with, and their league position remains precarious ahead of tomorrow night's game against Manchester United.

Stoke have not beaten United in any competitions at Old Trafford since April 1976.

O'Neill has done a good job with Ireland, despite defeat by Denmark in the World Cup play-off.

He verbally agreed a new contract with Ireland before that November loss but was stung by the criticism that followed and decided to delay signing it.

Sunday Independent

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