Wednesday 21 August 2019

Michael O'Neill has earned the right to choose his next step, say compatriots

Edinburgh-based Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has been approached by Scotland
Edinburgh-based Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has been approached by Scotland

Michael O'Neill has earned the right to hold talks with the Scottish Football Association, according to his Northern Irish compatriots in Scotland.

The SFA approached its counterpart in Belfast on Wednesday and hopes to appoint the Northern Ireland manager as Scotland boss.

O'Neill has spent almost six years in his current role and narrowly missed out on leading his team to the World Cup finals after taking them out of the group stages in Euro 2016.

And his former Newcastle and international team-mate Tommy Wright feels O'Neill should be offered the chance to consider his future.

The St Johnstone boss, who spoke to his close friend on Wednesday, said: "I genuinely don't know what he would do. He has to sit and look at what challenge he wants next, whether it is the challenge to get Northern Ireland into another Euros or a challenge to have a fresh start at club level or international level - that will be his decision.

"But what he has done for Northern Ireland, he deserves the right to make that decision."

O'Neill's former assistant Stephen Robinson reckons he might be tempted by the potential of Scotland.

And the former Motherwell boss added: "I know there are club jobs apparently interested as well and they are two completely different jobs.

"International football is six or seven games a year, you have a life outside of it, more down time and more thinking time, whereas a club job is more full-on and takes over your life. That's a decision he has to make, and he's earned the right and he's entitled to do that.

"He's a shrewd cookie, Michael, so I know whatever he does will be the right decision."

Neil Lennon hopes his former Northern Ireland team-mate stays in the post.

The Hibernian head coach said: " From a Northern Ireland perspective, it's not great. Michael has a bit of thinking to do. His stock is very high. He's worked miracles with the squad he has had and maybe, I don't know if he thinks it's a glass ceiling with Northern Ireland. Only Michael can answer that.

"It doesn't surprise me Scotland are in for Michael. He lives in Edinburgh, he knows the environment very well, he has played in Scotland. He is a very astute, shrewd guy.

"I don't know if he wants another stint at international level or, if he leaves Northern Ireland, he would go into club management, but I can see why Scotland have an interest in him. From a Northern Ireland perspective, we want him to stay, because he's the king there."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers feels no-one in his native land would begrudge O'Neill a fresh challenge.

The Celtic boss said: "If he came out of Northern Ireland there is no-one, Northern Irish or anyone, would hold anything against him with that, because he has devoted his life to there, brought through players and it was so unfortunate for him not to qualify.

"I was really gutted for him and the players because the players have been brilliant over both campaigns.

"Northern Irish people would want him to stay, but I think he has earned the time and respect to make a decision that is best for him."

PA Media

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