Belfast Telegraph

'Don't expect flashy football': Stoke fans give mixed reaction to Michael O'Neill's arrival at Championship club

Norther Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Norther Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

News of Michael O'Neill's appointment has been given a mixed reaction from Stoke supporters, with some wary of a lack of club experience and others warning of a potentially negative style of football.

The 50-year-old has been unveiled as the Potters' fourth permanent manager since Mark Hughes left in January last year.

With the club rooted to the foot of the Championship table, morale is low around the bet365 Stadium.

And, within a section of the support, O'Neill's appointment seems to have done little to shed immediate light into the situation.

Despite O'Neill's impressive achievements as Northern Ireland manager - taking the nation up over 100 places to 20th in the FIFA World Rankings and qualifying for the knockout stages of Euro 2016 - some fans remain to be convinced.

"Odd very odd," said Julie Williams. "Think it might have been last resort, but we have to give him the chance to be a hero and I hope he is."

With the likes of former Brighton boss Chris Hughton and ex Stoke chief Tony Pulis also amongst the bookies' favourites, the fans were concerned over a lack of recent club experience in the chosen man.

"It's a strange one to even consider him," said Dal Tavernor, despite O'Neill taking Shamrock Rovers to the Europa League group stage in 2011. "He's got virtually no club experience, no experience of pre season, transfers, player development nor promotion/relegation.

"It's like interviewing an apprentice to lead a big team when you need experience. It might all work out for the best, but again you have to question the recruitment here and the common sense."

And also on the list of gripes was the potential playing style, with Chris Roberts advising fellow fans not to 'expect flashing football' and that 'certain players will definitely want to leave in January.'

However, it was far from all negative as some fans welcomed what Jim Allsop said was a 'shrewd appointment'.

"Most importantly this guy is calm, intelligent and has a good strategic brain, all things we are going to need to stay up," added Trevor Coxon.

Christopher Gallimore shared the excitement and predicted that O'Neill will create a "disciplined, inventive and unpredictable" team on the field.

But, it is evident, there is still an air of negativity around the support-base, with some fans even warning O'Neill that he, rather than the club, may have made an ill-advised decision.

"The club is in turmoil the squad is the worst we have had for years," said Johnny Hough. "Good luck to any manager joining this club we have just ruined 2 managers who have done well elsewhere and will do so again."

The reaction this side of the Irish Sea, of course, was much more predictable as Northern Ireland supporters were united in devastation at the departure of a much-loved, highly successful manager.

"He made dreams come true by getting wee Norn Iron to Euro 2016 and making a more than decent fist of it in France. For that alone we should be forever grateful to him," said Christopher Barry.

"Good appointment for stoke massive loss for Northern Ireland," added Wayne Williams. "We've made unforgettable memories.. he is a legend."

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