Wednesday 24 July 2019

Martin O'Neill hoping to reunite with James McClean as Nottingham Forest look to secure deal with Stoke

13 June 2016; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill in conversation with James McClean ahead of the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Republic of Ireland and Sweden at Stade de France in Saint Denis, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile
13 June 2016; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill in conversation with James McClean ahead of the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Republic of Ireland and Sweden at Stade de France in Saint Denis, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile

Colin Young

JAMES McCLEAN is Martin O’Neill’s first target as Nottingham Forest manager and the pair could be reunited before the end of the transfer window if O’Neill can secure a deal with Stoke City.

O’Neill’s return to the City Ground this week as the manager to replace Aitor Karanka has coincided with Nathan Jones taking over at Stoke City following Gary Rowett’s recent sacking.

McClean, signed by Rowett from West Bromwich Albion in a £5million deal in the summer, has been on the bench for Jones’s first three games and is likely to find starts will be limited under the former Luton Town boss.

Jones used a diamond formation very successfully with Luton, winning promotion to League One last season where they are now challenging Portsmouth, Sunderland and Barnsley for automatic promotion.

He may be prepared to off-load McClean to fund any transfer additions to a Stoke squad, which was relegated from the Premier League last season under Paul Lambert after O’Neill turned them down.

O’Neill is a long-time admirer of fellow Derryman McClean and he handed the winger his Premier League debut in O’Neill’s first game in charge at Sunderland eight years ago. McClean won more than 50 of his 60 Ireland caps under the former Celtic boss and was a regular starter on the international stage, regardless of club form or starts.

Former Ireland captain and O’Neill’s Ireland assistant Roy Keane is still mulling over whether to join O’Neill at the City Ground as his Number Two.

O’Neill has admitted Keane has 'a couple of personal things to attend to' but he has no doubt the combustible coach, who was involved in a number of confrontations with Ireland players in the final months of their reign, can have a positive impact at Nottingham Forest.

O’Neill said: "I’d like Roy to join because I thought we had a really great partnership. We worked together at international level, which is totally different to managing and being assistant at club level.

"We were in for periods of time and not involved for some considerable time but over the five years I enjoyed it, I thought he regardless of the set-tos now and again he was very positive with us. I could see that happening again. I’d like him to join but for all the things I saw him bring at international level to the table."

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