Sunday 17 November 2019

O'Neill to double salary after agreeing Stoke switch

O’Neill: On the move. Photo: REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo
O’Neill: On the move. Photo: REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

Graham Lunney

Northern Ireland fans and players are digesting the news that the successful Michael O'Neill era is coming to an end.

O'Neill will remain in charge for the last two Euro 2020 group games, at home to the Netherlands on Saturday week and then away to Germany in Frankfurt the following Tuesday, but after that, it's an emotional farewell.

The former Shamrock Rovers boss has opted to return to the high-pressure environment of club football and the task is a sizeable one at Championship strugglers Stoke City.

The Potters, bottom of the table, are six points adrift of Championship survival and desperate for an astute manager to steer them to safety.

Like many appointments, it's a gamble for the 50-year-old O'Neill but the numbers add up as he will double the £750,000 (€870,000) salary he earns at the IFA and pocket around £1.5m (€1.74m) a year.

And it's a four-year contract which has proved too good to resist following Stoke's official approach to the Irish FA (IFA).

A compensation fee of around £650,000 (€754,000) will be agreed with the IFA, allowing O'Neill ­- who has a contract until 2024 ­- to bring his eight-year spell as Northern Ireland boss to an end.

Struggling City are seeking a successor to Nathan Jones, who was sacked on November 1 after just nine months in charge and after being rebuffed in their pursuit of Preston North End manager Alex Neil, they viewed the Ballymena man as someone who could inspire a much-needed revival.

Northern Ireland fans will be gutted to lose one of their country's greatest ever managers, someone who rewarded them with the unforgettable Euro 2016 journey which culminated in defeat to Wales at the last-16 stage in France.

Then a controversial refereeing decision proved decisive in a play-off against Switzerland, cruelly denying O'Neill's men a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Supporters will have been anticipating such a development, with many surprised the former Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers boss wasn't snapped up by a club after the Euro 2016 success, Northern Ireland's first major tournament in 30 years.

Sunderland made a move for him in 2017 but O'Neill wasn't interested. He was also strongly linked with jobs at Middlesbrough and West Brom, as well as being unsuccessfully targeted by Scotland last year.

It has been an extremely difficult year for the Potters, who have fallen out of the Premier League and have won just two league matches in this campaign. However, they have a number of well-known players including Republic of Ireland international James McClean.

O'Neill, who has been informed there will be money to spend in January, could be at Oakwell tomorrow for Stoke's game against the side immediately above them in the table, Barnsley.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Champions Cup preview, the World Cup hangover and Joe Schmidt's next team

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport