Friday 13 December 2019

North dig deep to keep hold of in-demand O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: PA.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: PA.

Ed Malyon

Northern Ireland outbid the Scottish FA to hold on to manager Michael O'Neill and leave Scotland without a successor to Gordon Strachan, three months after parting ways with the former Celtic boss.

Scotland made O'Neill their top choice after sacking Strachan in October, based on the job the Ulsterman had done with minimal resources and the fact that he was based in Edinburgh.

But after offering a £600,000 (€684,000) per year basic income plus add-ons, the SFA were outbid by their Northern Irish counterparts who will pay O'Neill a salary of nearly £800,000 (€913,000).

"Having given the matter a great deal of thought and consideration, I have decided not to take up the opportunity to become the next Scotland national team manager," O'Neill said.

"It is a huge honour to be offered the position, however I do not feel that this is the right opportunity for me at this moment in my career.

"I would like to place on record my gratitude to the SFA for the very professional manner in which they conducted negotiations and I would also like to wish them every success for the future."

Stewart Regan, the SFA's chief executive, and performance director Malky Mackay are being singled out for criticism following their failure to lure O'Neill.

The pair had made the 48-year-old coach their one and only target, with their misplaced confidence in luring him to Scotland meaning Regan will now make the trip to Wednesday's Uefa Nations League draw with no manager in place.

"The process of identifying and recruiting a new Scotland national coach remains ongoing," Regan said.

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