Belfast Telegraph

Norwich open talks to secure Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has become a top target for Norwich City in their search for a new manager.

And the Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that an influential Norwich official has spoken to O'Neill's representatives about the possibility of taking over at the Championship outfit.

Sources close to the club have told this newspaper that O'Neill is much admired in the Carrow Road boardroom due to his stunning success with Northern Ireland and that new Norwich Sporting Director Stuart Webber has made contact with those representing the 47-year-old.

It is understood that Norwich have made no official approach to the Irish FA yet, as they weigh up a number of options in their bid to find a replacement for Alex Neil, with O'Neill very much in their thinking.

The Canaries ditched Neil in March after he failed to mount a serious promotion challenge and are desperate to make it to the Premier League next season.

Also in the running are Fleetwood manager Uwe Rosler, Leeds United's Garry Monk and Huddersfield Town's David Wagner.

Like O'Neill, Rosler is highly thought of in the Norwich boardroom, but the German won't be making any moves until it is decided in the play-offs whether Fleetwood will be promoted from League One to the Championship.

Alan Irvine is acting as caretaker boss until the end of the Championship season on Sunday, when the Canaries host QPR.

Norwich have had three Northern Ireland men manage them in the past; Martin O'Neill, Bryan Hamilton and Nigel Worthington, and currently goalkeeper Michael McGovern and striker Kyle Lafferty are at the club, though the latter is set to leave in the summer.

O'Neill has done a staggering job with Northern Ireland, inspiring the team to qualify for the European Championship finals for the first time in the nation's history. At Euro 2016, his managerial ability was there for the world to see as he guided Northern Ireland into the knockout stages.

The ex-Shamrock Rovers boss has followed that up with an impressive showing in the World Cup qualifying campaign, with his side well placed to make the play-offs.

O'Neill's players have spoken in the past at their surprise that more clubs have not shown an interest in him. With his stock so high, this summer could be the time when the IFA receive calls for their manager.

When O'Neill signed a new four-year deal with the IFA 13 months ago, a clause was included in the contract if clubs wanted to lure the former Newcastle, Hibs and Dundee United star away. Premier League clubs would have to pay £750,000, though for a Championship team like Norwich the fee would be less.

O'Neill, revered throughout the country, is content in the Northern Ireland job and is in no hurry to leave, but has consistently said that if a club came in for him he would consider and assess the situation carefully before making any decision.

Northern Ireland are currently lying in second place in their World Cup qualifying group. They face a trip next month to Azerbaijan (June 10) where an away victory would strengthen the grip on the play-off spot. Before that there is a friendly at home to New Zealand.

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