Belfast Telegraph

Club offers will flood in for Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill after Euros, says Billy Hamilton

By Steven Beacom

World Cup legend Billy Hamilton is convinced that Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill will be inundated with management offers from clubs after the Euro 2016 finals.

The former Northern Ireland striker has predicted that Championship sides with Premier League ambitions will try to tempt O’Neill away from the international arena in the days and months which follow this year’s tournament in France.

Already O’Neill is being considered by Celtic chiefs as a potential replacement for under pressure Ronny Deila in the summer and Hamilton says the interest is also strong in England for the man who, in the summer, will lead Northern Ireland into their first major tournament since 1986.

O’Neill joined up with his squad yesterday for the first international of 2016 — Thursday’s friendly against Wales in Cardiff — and for the first time since signing a new four-year contract with the IFA last week.

As the Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed last month, O’Neill’s deal is worth £500,000 per year and includes a compensation clause of £750,000 for the IFA should the manager move on.

Hamilton, who played in both the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, believes O’Neill will be a  wanted man regardless of the new contract.

Hamilton said: “Without a doubt I can see offers coming in for Michael once the Euros are over.

“I’ve heard the talk about Celtic, which doesn’t surprise me, but believe me there will be lots of interest from England too.”

Ex-Burnley and Oxford United front man Hamilton added: "Michael has done a fantastic job for Northern Ireland and I'm sure Championship clubs with big Premier League dreams will come in for him after the finals.

"There is a high turnover of managers in the Championship and I feel clubs who have been in the top flight in the past and are desperate to get back there will target the Northern Ireland boss.

"They will have watched and admired what Michael has achieved at international level, building a team to deliver results both home and away.

"What is really impressive is how he came through tough times at the start of his international management career and ended up doing what many felt was mission impossible by taking Northern Ireland to the finals of a major tournament.

"He will obviously have a huge profile at the Euros and could achieve even more there, but I believe he has put down a marker by inspiring the team to qualification.

"Already there are shrewd chairmen in England looking at him, though they know he is going to France with Northern Ireland so will bide their time before making any move.

"I believe he is destined to be a Premier League manager in the future and taking over an ambitious Championship club would fit the bill for him because he could build something special, just as he has done with Northern Ireland."

On O'Neill's new deal, Hamilton stated: "The compensation clause in the new contract is obviously a good idea for the IFA. I think it was also a gesture from Michael.

"In an ideal world Northern Ireland fans would like Michael to stay and it is possible that he may opt to continue for the duration of the 2018 World Cup campaign, but it would be unfair to expect him to stay if a really great club offer came his way."

Northern Ireland's last game was a 1-0 friendly victory at home to Latvia in November extending their undefeated run under O'Neill to eight matches.

If they avoid defeat against a Welsh side, minus star names Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, in Cardiff on Thursday, they will equal a nine-match unbeaten run set by Billy Bingham's legendary side in the mid 80s.

That would set up O'Neill's men to break that record versus Slovenia on Easter Monday at Windsor Park.

Belfast Telegraph