Sport Soccer

Thursday 12 December 2019

Stoke target Quique Sanchez Flores coy on future as uncertainty around Martin O'Neill's Ireland future continues

Quique Sanchez Flores and (inset) Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane
Quique Sanchez Flores and (inset) Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane

Phil Medlicott

Espanyol and former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores is Stoke's first choice to succeed Mark Hughes.

It is understood a Stoke delegation met Flores in Barcelona on Wednesday, and that Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is also under consideration.

The Potters sacked boss Hughes last weekend after the 2-1 FA Cup loss at League Two Coventry, which followed a run of seven losses in 10 Premier League games.

The 18th-placed Staffordshire outfit were interested in Derby manager Gary Rowett until he signed a new contract with the Rams on Tuesday.

Flores' one season in English football to date saw him guide Watford to a 13th-placed Premier League finish in 2015-16, with the Hornets also reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.

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The 52-year-old Spaniard then took charge at Espanyol in the summer of 2016, on a three-year deal, and they finished eighth in La Liga last term.

Speaking after Espanyol's 2-0 win over Levante in the Copa del Rey tonight, Flores refused to comment on the speculation linking him to the Stoke job.

“I do not want to talk about me in such a big day for the club," he said.

“The commitment to my profession is very clear to me, for more than 30 years when I started playing, that is unavoidable,” he said.

“I am very grateful to Espanyol. At some point I felt that we did not advance at the promised speed, but that is not because Espanyol have not wanted to, but because they have not been able to, they have given me the tools they have been able to, we are in happy times, to enjoy, to laugh in the dressing room, I think we are in the right dynamic.”

O'Neill and his coaching team agreed contract extensions with the Football Association of Ireland last October.

But the 65-year-old said after the Republic lost their World Cup qualifying play-off the following month that he would need to have "a real think" about his future, and still nothing has been signed.

More to follow...

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