Belfast Telegraph

Defiant Michael O'Neill sets his sights on £1.5m Stoke survival bonus

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

By Graham Luney

Michael O'Neill will pocket a tasty bonus of around £1.5m if he steers Stoke City to Championship safety.

The Northern Ireland boss has switched his focus back to the Potters who lie second from bottom, two points above Barnsley and two adrift of Middlesbrough.

After guiding his country to the Euro 2020 play-offs, O'Neill must resurrect Stoke's fortunes and a handsome reward is on the table should he succeed.

The Ballymena man has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with the club and will earn £1.5m per year, which is double his salary with Northern Ireland in his dual role as manager and Chief Football Officer.

But if the former Shamrock Rovers and Brechin City chief can secure Stoke's Championship survival, he will also receive a significant bonus of around £1.5m.

Bonus payments are common features of modern contracts and Stoke previously offered a £1m survival reward to Paul Lambert if he could guide the club to Premier League safety.

Ahead of his first home game in charge against Wigan Athletic today (3pm), O'Neill knows Stoke have won just three times at the bet365 Stadium in 2019.

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City gave their blessing for O'Neill to continue as Northern Ireland manager for the Euro 2020 play-offs in March but he is not expected to remain in charge for the finals should the men in green get that far.

It emerged yesterday that Northern Ireland will take on the Republic of Ireland for a Euro 2020 spot at Windsor Park if both win their play-off semi-finals.

O'Neill's men are away to Bosnia-Herzegovina on March 26 while the Republic are in Slovakia.

The final is scheduled for March 31. The neighbours have not met in a competitive game since a 1-1 draw in a Euro 1996 qualifier at the old Lansdowne Road in March 1995. Seventeen months earlier, the teams clashed in a World Cup qualifier played in a hostile atmosphere at Windsor Park when the Republic earned a 1-1 draw which was enough to secure a spot at the 1994 finals in the USA.

After the draw in Nyon, Republic boss Mick McCarthy said: “I can’t think of another one that would have been bigger. Let’s hope we can get it on. It’s a game that will be fabulous. It would be great to be involved in, to be playing in.

“I’m sure both the lads from Northern Ireland and us would love to play that game and it would be one of us that would be going to the Euros in 2020.

“Hopefully us, of course, because it’s (two Euro 2020 Finals games) in Dublin.”

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: “We have to get past Bosnia-Herzegovina on 26 March and we’re delighted if we do that, we’ve got a home final and that will be against either Slovakia or the Republic of Ireland.

“We’re very experienced at hosting games at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast. We’ll prepare very thoroughly on the field and off the field.”

Nelson added: “We’ve spoken to Michael and Stoke City about him leading us through the play-offs. That’s all been fully agreed.

“The next bridge will be what happens at the Euros and we will cross the bridge when we get to it.

“We’ve had Michael as our manager for eight years. He’s brought us unprecedented success. He’s the right man to lead us into the play-offs.”

O’Neill, meanwhile, has stressed the need for Stoke City to rediscover the lost fervour of the bet365 Stadium.

“It’s evident how big a part the fans played here in their Premier League days,” O’Neill said.

“We got marvellous support when we won up at Barnsley and we want to play well enough to get that same support at home.”

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