Saturday 21 April 2018

Martin O'Neill rejects offer to take over at Stoke and is set to stay on as Ireland manager

Martin O'Neill set to continue as Ireland boss. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin O'Neill set to continue as Ireland boss. Photo: Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Martin O'Neill has rejected an offer to take over at Stoke City and will remain as manager of the Republic of Ireland, according to reports breaking last night.

Luke Edwards from the Telegraph - who has good connections with the O'Neill camp - is reporting that the former Celtic boss was offered the chance to succeed Mark Hughes at the Bet365 Stadium, but he has rejected that opportunity and will now sign a new deal to continue as Ireland boss.

The news will come as a hammer blow to Stoke after they were handed a somewhat humiliating public rejection by their first choice candidate Quique Sanchez Flores, who turned down the chance to succeed Mark Hughes after initially appearing to accept the post.

Stoke are even believed to have prepared a welcome video for Flores that was to be published on their social media channels to welcome the former Watford boss to their club.

Yet he had a change of heart and made his intentions clear as he decided to remain in his post as Espanyol boss.

"Here I have all I need. I am the coach and will be," said Flores. "I'm well and quite happy with my situation. I don't have to explain anything else."

That decision appeared to put O'Neill at the top of Stoke's wanted list, but the Irishman is unlikely to have been impressed with the reality that he was only second or even third choice for his potential employers, with the club's decision makers appearing to be divided on appointing the 65-year-old tactician as they initially targeted Derby boss Gary Rowett and then Flores.

The uncertainty over O'Neill's position in recent days has been a source of embarrassment to Football Association of Ireland chiefs, who believed they had agreement from their manager and his assistant Roy Keane to continue in their roles, with this latest development a twist that leaves plenty of uncertainty lingering.

O'Neill's eagerness to talk to Stoke suggested his commitment to the Ireland job was at best wavering, while the Sunday Independent also reported that he staged talks with Everton over their managerial vacancy in November.

He will now need to make a strong statement of intent if he is to sign a new contract with the FAI, with Ireland Paul McGrath among those suggesting the circus surrounding O'Neill in recent days has left a lasting stain on the Irish game.

"For me, Martin is a good manager and is always going to be linked with available jobs unless he is tied down – and someone in the FAI is not on top of their job," McGrath told the Sunday World.

"I know it's a few weeks after Christmas, but it was pantomime stuff from the FAI last week, it belonged on the stage. It was farcical, they seemed afraid to say a word about the whole business.

"Irish football deserves better than to have a situation where it seemed that managing Stoke, a club clearly on a downward curve, and who were rejected by another manager yesterday, is deemed a better job than managing Ireland. That's where we stood last week."

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