Belfast Telegraph

Challenge of Premier League would interest me, admits Northern Ireland boss Michael

By Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill has revealed that he would see it as a challenge to manage in the Premier League in the future...or at international level again once he has achieved all he can with Northern Ireland.

The former Shamrock Rovers boss is relishing the prospect of leading his country in the Euro 2016 finals with players, fans and the Irish FA hoping he will be around for some time to come after next year's games in France.

To that end the IFA will reward O'Neill with a richly deserved new four-year contract, though there is still every chance that clubs will try to tempt him away from the international scene.

It was interesting to note that prior to Northern Ireland's 1-0 victory over Latvia on Friday night, WBA defender Jonny Evans spoke of his belief that O'Neill had the qualities to manage in the top flight of English football.

Given that Evans has worked with some of the biggest names in the game - Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and Roy Keane at Sunderland - he more than most of the Northern Ireland players would know what it takes to be a managerial success in the Premier League.

O'Neill, who won the Philips Manager of the month prize for October having guided Northern Ireland to the Euro finals, said: "It is nice to hear a player of that standing say that. Any manager will always look at what level he is capable of operating at."

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Asked about ever managing in the Premier League, the 46-year-old provided a fascinating answer.

He said: "Working in the Premier League can be like being on a mechancial horse. You are just trying to stay on it.

"I like it when I have a challenge so I can look at it and assess how we can meet it and then go and do it as I have done with Northern Ireland.

"In the Premier League the style can be different with some managers trying to make sure they go three or four games without successive defeats because once that happens they are under pressure.

"Down the line managing in the Premier League would interest me but I do enjoy international football and enjoy the job I am in now.

"If in years from now, and I wasn't in charge of Northern Ireland, someone came to me about managing another nation that is a challenge that would be interesting too.

"With what we have achieved with Northern Ireland there are a lot of things that would apply to other countries too.

"The biggest challenge in the Northern Ireland job for me was never the football in terms of knowing the game and tactically and how to set teams up.

"I knew how to do all that. It was to come in and manage players who were at Manchester United and clubs like that because I had never managed players at that level and players who had played in the Premier League.

"But things have gone really well on that front and I have enjoyed working with all the players."

Belfast Telegraph