Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Neill can go to top : Stevens

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

SHAMROCK ROVERS defender Enda Stevens isn't surprised by speculation linking manager Michael O'Neill to the newly vacant job as manager of Hibernian, but expects the Northern Ireland international to be on the plane to Rubin Kazan this month.

Hibs sacked Colin Calderwood on Sunday and O'Neill -- a former player for the Easter Road club -- is one of the bookies' favourites for the role.

Stevens is friends with Hibs player Richie Towell and believes that the Hoops boss would be a popular appointment by the SPL club.

"He is always linked with the Hibs job," said Stevens. "I know Richie, and he said that every time they are not doing well, the fans are shouting for Michael O'Neill."

O'Neill has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal with the League of Ireland champions and has been linked with the Northern Ireland job among other positions while his situation remains unclear.

However, it's understood that the 42-year-old is close to finalising an extension with the Tallaght club for 2012 -- once some outstanding issues are resolved. Still, Stevens anticipates that his manager will make the leap to the next level sooner rather than later.

The left-back will move to Aston Villa in January, and stresses that two years working under O'Neill were a key factor in earning the move to the Premier League giants.

"He's able to go to the top," says Stevens. "A lot of people have said it -- not just me -- but a lot of people who have worked with top managers have said that he is up there. His knowledge of the game is second to none and I think he deserves a chance.

"I noticed a big change when I went in from what I had worked with before.

"I haven't got a clue (if he will stay). It's between him and the club. He is probably preparing for next year, probably knows what he wants to do and who he wants to bring in.

"I'd be very surprised if he wasn't there for Rubin Kazan, but I could be wrong."

After regaining their league crown and progressing to the Europa League group stages, it's been a historic year for Rovers, although it's not exactly reflected by their peers in the shortlist for the PFAI awards that was announced yesterday.

Pat Sullivan is the only Rovers player nominated for the Player of the Year gong, while Sullivan, Stevens and fellow defender Craig Sives have been voted onto the Premier Division Team of the Year.

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