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Michael O'Neill urged to guide Northern Ireland to World Cup before club switch

 

By Steven Beacom

Former Northern Ireland manager Bryan Hamilton has urged current boss Michael O'Neill not to dive into any decisions after being targeted by Norwich City, insisting that plenty more club offers will come his way in the future.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday that Norwich's Sporting Director Stuart Webber has held talks with O'Neill's representatives about the possibility of taking over at the Championship outfit, who sacked Alex Neil in March.

O'Neill, whose £500,000 per year contract with the Irish FA runs until 2020, fits the profile for the type of manager Norwich want and is understood to be on a shortlist of four which includes Fleetwood Town boss Uwe Rosler, Leeds United's Garry Monk and Huddersfield's David Wagner.

In the summer, sides such as Sunderland and Middlesbrough are expected to need new managers and will consider O'Neill, who has done such a spectacular job inspiring Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals and is looking good to guide them to a play-off place for the 2018 World Cup.

Hamilton is one of three Northern Ireland men, along with Martin O'Neill and Nigel Worthington, to take charge of the Canaries and, while he has great respect for the Carrow Road club, he believes the ex-Shamrock Rovers boss should consider the carrot of potential World Cup qualification before thinking about leaving the international scene.

"Michael is in a position where he doesn't have to dive in. He doesn't have to rush into anything," said 70-year-old Hamilton, who managed O'Neill during his spell at the helm for Northern Ireland between 1994 and 1998.

The IFA have refused to comment and have yet to be approached by Norwich, who would double the 47-year-old’s wages, but if Hamilton is correct both the Association and their boss may soon have big calls to make.

Hamilton added: “He will be a man in demand from here on in given the fantastic job he has done for Northern Ireland. I believe there will be interest from other clubs apart from Norwich.

“I wouldn’t try to advise Michael but if it was me I would be going for the World Cup and then consider a move to a club because the offers will be there.”

Norwich are desperate to win promotion to the Premier League next season.

With Sporting Director Webber expected to take control of recruitment in the summer, they are searching for a manager who can lift the players with astute coaching and high-class man management. O’Neill has already shown those qualities with Northern Ireland.

When O’Neill signed his new IFA deal, a clause was inserted whereby interested Premier League clubs would have to pay £750,000 to lure him away. The fee for a Championship side such as Norwich would be less.

O’Neill has constantly stated he would assess any club interest on its individual merits. Norwich would certainly have more appeal to him than other trigger happy clubs and boards in the Championship who rarely give their managers a chance. 

On Norwich, Hamilton, boss there in 2000, said: “It is a very good club, well run, stable with super facilities and there is potential to reach the Premier League.

“They are one of the better clubs to work for with a terrific board of directors and Delia Smith (joint majority shareholder) is one of the nicest people you could meet and very supportive. If Michael did go there I’m sure he would do a very good job.”

Yesterday, Norwich announced that seven players — including Northern Ireland star Kyle Lafferty — would be leaving the club after their season ends at home to QPR on Sunday. The Canaries, who have Alan Irvine acting as caretaker boss, aim to have an agreement in place with a new manager before the end of the month. Northern Ireland have an important World Cup qualifier away to Azerbaijan on June 10 and a home friendly versus New Zealand eight days before that.

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