Belfast Telegraph

Austin MacPhee bookies' favourite to be next Northern Ireland boss

Austin MacPhee.
Austin MacPhee.

Austin MacPhee has emerged as the bookies favourite to replace Michael O'Neill as Northern Ireland manager.

MacPhee, who is currently caretaker manager at Scottish Premiership club Hearts, has been involved in the Northern Ireland setup since 2014.

He is one of the contenders for the Hearts job on a permanent basis, but his hopes may have dwindled after a 5-0 thumping at Rangers on Sunday. He joined the club in 2016 as assistant to Ian Cathro and continued under Craig Levein.

While Michael O'Neill's departure date as Northern Ireland manager is not yet known, the IFA are already hunting for a successor.

Newly installed Stoke City manager O'Neill will remain in charge of Northern Ireland for the Euro 2020 play-offs in March and could even lead his side to the tournament if they qualify.

Bookmakers Paddy Power, BetVictor and Befair have all listed MacPhee as the favourite to succeed O'Neill on a permanent basis.

All three have listed Motherwell manager and former Northern Ireland U21s boss Stephen Robinson as second favourite for the job.

The bookies also list St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright, Linfield manager David Healy and Coleraine manager Oran Kearney among the favourites for the post.

MacPhee has not hidden his desire to take on the Hearts job permanently, which would rule him out of the running for the Northern Ireland gig.

"I think that so far the players and staff have been fantastic," he said after the Rangers defeat.

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

"What I would say is that in the next period of time [Hearts owner] Mrs Budge will make the right decision for the long-term future of the club.

"Right now all I do is manage this on a day-to-day basis and try and be as honest with everyone as I can, and to try and get the team on the pitch that can pick up three points on Wednesday against Livingston."

Northern Ireland face a trip to Bosnia on March 26 in their quest to qualify for Euro 2020.

If they win that game they will face the winners of Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland at Windsor Park on March 31.

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