Sunday 8 December 2019

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane linked with a move to take over at Stoke as pressure mounts on Mark Hughes

Martin O’Neill rumoured to be a contender to succeed Mark Hughes at Stoke. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin O’Neill rumoured to be a contender to succeed Mark Hughes at Stoke. Photo: Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Stoke City are reported to be 'considering their options' as they ponder the position of manager Mark Hughes after an alarming 1-0 home defeat against Newcastle on New Year's Day, with Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill reported to be a contender to replace him.

Hughes made a bold move of resting star players from Saturday's defeat at Chelsea as he set his sights on collecting a victory in Monday's relegation six-pointer against Newcastle.

That plan backfired as Stoke lost again, with supporters at the Bet365 Stadium calling for Hughes to be sacked as jeers rang out at the final whistle.

Now it has emerged that Stoke officials are pondering their options, with the Ireland management team of O'Neill and Keane believed to be on a list of possible contenders to take over.

Sky Sports and the local media in Stoke are among those reporting that Stoke's hierarchy are keen to appoint 'a British or Irish manager' if they decide to end the 199-game reign of Hughes now.

O'Neill has yet to sign the contract offered to him by the Football Association of Ireland to continue in his current role, with links of a possible move to take over at Everton last month eventually coming to nothing.

Now he may be tempted by the offer of a Premier League return with Stoke, but there is still no certainty that Hughes will lose his job in the next few days.

Stoke's hierarchy are noted for being reluctant to sack managers, with the current owners have only fired one manager in the last 11-years.

Their eagerness to remain loyal to their managers may mean they hand Hughes more time to turn around his side's fortunes if they do not believe there are better alternatives available, yet the latest links with O'Neill may concern FAI officials.

While O'Neill has rarely shown eagerness to sign contracts and has regularly working without signed deals throughout his career, the uncertainty over the position of the Ireland boss and his high profile assistant is likely to continue until it is confirmed that the deals have been finalised.

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