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O'Neill set to sign new contract as Chambers exits

MICHAEL O'NEILL expects to sign a new contract with Shamrock Rovers before the start of the season.

The Northern Irishman, who last year steered the Hoops to a first league title since 1994, hopes to conclude negotiations on an extension before the bid to regain the title kicks off in March. One year remains on his current deal.

"We are in discussions, and it's something I'd envisage would come to a resolution before the start of the season," said O'Neill. "I'm relaxed with the situation and I think the club are."

O'Neill had mixed news on the transfer front yesterday, with the league's top goalkeeper, Alan Mannus, re-signing for another year, but they have lost midfielder James Chambers to SPL side Hamilton.

"He's not going there for any great financial gain," said O'Neill. "He just sees it as a progression in his career."

The champions are looking to bring in a couple more players in the next week, with options in Scotland and Ireland being considered.

O'Neill (41) believes Rovers are a work in progress, with European progression another serious target in 2011. Longer term, the improvement of training facilities and the agreement of a scholarship arrangement with a local school -- in an attempt to keep teenagers at home rather than going to England early -- are two aspirations.

O'Neill was speaking alongside his opposite number at Sligo, Paul Cook, at Carton House, where they were launching Champion Sports' sponsorship of FC Barcelona coaching clinics at the Maynooth venue next month.

Cook is less advanced in terms of finalising his squad than O'Neill, but completed the signing of ex-Bohs man Jason McGuinness yesterday, with Raffaele Cretaro another likely to join. Benin international Romauld Boco is training with the club, yet remains in contract negotiations.

"I love the kid, but to deal with him over contracts he is an absolute nightmare, and I mean that in the best possible sense," said Cook.

The Liverpudlian manager was linked with a move to England over the winter with his managerial stock rising, and admits he harbours ambitions of going back when the right opportunity arises. In the short term, though, he is looking forward to Europe this year, where progression through a round or two in the Europa League might provide the finance to bolster the squad for a possible title run-in -- in a year where he anticipates the league race will be wide open as opposed to a Rovers v Rovers battle.

"I love managing Sligo," said Cook, "You do want to leave eventually, but you're not just going to jump ship. You would have to be careful where you jumped."

  • Richard Dunne, John O'Shea and Kevin Doyle have been shortlisted for the '3' FAI Senior International Player of the Year award for 2010 -- which will be announced on February 6. Greg Cunningham, Darron Gibson and Shane Long are in the frame Young International award.

Irish Independent