Belfast Telegraph

I hope 'King' Michael O'Neill stays with Northern Ireland: Neil Lennon

Former Northern Ireland midfielder Neil Lennon says he hopes 'king' Michael O'Neill remains in his current job.

O'Neill has been reportedly courted by both the Scottish FA and English Championship side Sunderland with Scotland making an official approach. However, Hibernian boss Lennon wants the Ballymena man to stay where he is.

"From a Northern Ireland perspective, we want him to stay, because he's the king there," said the Lurgan man, who made 39 appearances for Northern Ireland.

"Michael has a bit of thinking to do. His stock is very high. He's worked miracles with the squad he has had and maybe, I don't know if he thinks it's a glass ceiling with Northern Ireland. Only Michael can answer that."

O'Neill is thought to have rebuffed the first advance from Sunderland but Lennon reckons the job in Scotland, where O'Neill now lives, is the one NI fans should be more concerned about.

"Yeah, the Scotland job would be far more attractive than the Sunderland would be at this current time," he said. "Sunderland is a big club but there are some frailties there and the structure behind the scenes doesn't look to be all it should be.

"It's the bottom end of the Championship and the Scotland job is a very prestigious job, but it's a very precarious job. It's feast or famine, like a lot of international jobs. If things are going well you are the greatest thing since sliced bread and as soon as you get a negative result, you're clueless.

"It doesn't surprise me Scotland are in for Michael. He lives in Edinburgh, he knows the environment very well, he has played in Scotland. He is a very astute, shrewd guy. I don't know if he wants another stint at international level or if he leaves Northern Ireland he would go into club management, but I can see why Scotland have an interest in him.

Lennon added: "He was always intelligent, well-educated, and a very good footballer. I went to visit him when he was the manager of Shamrock Rovers and he did some great things there and he took that on.

"It wasn't all plain-sailing (with Northern Ireland), I think he won one out of (his first) 18, but the IFA showed great faith in him and Michael showed great doggedness and turned it all around and found a winning formula. He instilled a great mentality in the team and got the best out of players.''

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