'I wasn't breaking any rules' - Martin O'Neill breaks silence on Stoke talks
MARTIN O'NEILL says he wasn't 'breaking any rules' when he discussed the opportunity to return to the Premier League with Stoke.
And the Ireland manager insists that he is energised by the prospect of staying on in the role and launching a bid to qualify for Euro 2020.
He signed his new contract in Switzerland ahead of today's UEFA Nations League draw and, speaking after the event, the Derryman broke his silence on the confusion that hung over his intentions.
O'Neill verbally agreed to stay on in October but the heavy defeat to Denmark a month later forced a rethink and he was sounded out by Everton before he received the firm offer from Stoke, which he eventually rejected.
FAI CEO John Delaney said last week that the 65-year-old had an 'understanding' which allowed him to hold talks with Premier League clubs.
And the Irish boss honed in on that point when pressed on the Stoke saga, asserting that his decision to speak with others should not plant any seeds of doubt about his Irish commitment.
"In terms of adhering to my agreement with John, I wasn't breaking any rules for a start," said O'Neill.
"But I think as John mentioned, I'm not one that is liable to take myself off at a moment's notice. I think that (if you look at) the number of years I've spent at clubs, I've been here for four years as well and I wouldn't take things too lightly. I'm here and delighted to be here."
O'Neill admitted that he mulled over his position in the aftermath of the World Cup playoff pain at the Aviva Stadium. "I think that's obvious," he said, when the 'period of reflection' mentioned by Delaney was raised, before confirming that the terms and conditions had yet to be thrashed out when the verbal agreement was made in October.
"We had an agreement but both of us could agree, that you have to agree to terms for a start. I'm sure you were in the same position yourselves with your employers. You might have an agreement but until everything is actually settled, who knows what the finances might have been? Who knows? I had an agreement to stay on here."
O'Neill will be going over old ground in the UEFA Nations League after Ireland were paired with World Cup opponents Wales and Denmark. They will play both nations on a home and away basis in the autumn.
"It's a tough old draw for us anyway," said O'Neill, "We know the opposition and they know us."
The prospect of gaining some kind of revenge on the Danes is an added incentive for the Irish camp.
"Once the draw was made there, you'd sense that would be it," said O'Neill, "I'm sure the players will feel exactly the same."