Belfast Telegraph

IFA should offer O'Neill a long-term contract

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

By Stuart McKinley

The Irish FA is about to enter into talks with Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill about a new contract.

Having watched the team play a modern style of football, far removed from the turgid stuff served up under his two immediate predecessors and much more suited to the international stage, I can only applaud the move.

But the IFA's top brass should have saved themselves the bother.

When those responsible for making the decision on the new boss chose O'Neill they should have gone all out and handed him a four-year deal.

Yes, it would have been an extraordinary move by the association, who have only ever employed managers for the duration of a single campaign, but O'Neill was always going to need more than a couple of years to turn things around.

It may have taken him 10 games to record his first victory, but anyone who has watched Northern Ireland under O'Neill can see the progress that has been made and that the win has been coming for a while.

A long-term contract may have put pressure on O'Neill, but publicly declaring that he was getting the first campaign free to rebuild would have taken that off him straight away.

It's not just at senior level that he has changed things. The work he has done at underage level is beginning to bear fruit already and the future is looking brighter than it has for years.

When IFA chiefs Jim Shaw and Patrick Nelson sit down with O'Neill to sort out this new contract they should offer him four years so that he can reap the benefits – not someone else.

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