Belfast Telegraph

Jennings: Michael O'Neill should be toasting a job in top flight

Goalkeeping great insists Michael is Premier class

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland legend Pat Jennings says Michael O'Neill deserves to be a Premier League manager.

O'Neill is on the shortlist to net the Leicester City job after the axe fell on Claudio Ranieri and Jennings feels the man who led Northern Ireland to the last 16 of the Euro 2016 finals can work his magic in England's top flight.

More: As Northern Ireland's football past put proudly on display, the big question is: Will the boss be around to make more history?

"Without a doubt, Michael can manage in the Premier League," said Jennings, Northern Ireland's record appearance holder with 119 caps. "When you look at what he has achieved with Northern Ireland, with a limited pool of players - it is incredible.

"I am surprised that there aren't more people looking at what he has achieved. We would hate to lose him as Northern Ireland manager, but that's football. I think when a Premier League club comes calling, I am sure it is hard to turn down but it's a decision, if it comes, for Michael to make."

O'Neill yesterday refused to confirm that an approach had been made by the Foxes but admitted he was flattered by the interest.

O'Neill said: "There are no contacts that I am aware of but that's a question for Patrick (Nelson, Irish FA chief-executive). There's speculation and that's the nature of it. You consider these things if the opportunity arises but I'm not actively looking for a club job."

Jennings admitted the Leicester job would be hard for O'Neill to turn down, adding: "It isn't just about money, but it is about winning things and having ambition. But I am sure a full-time club job is attractive."

The Northern Ireland boss also expressed his sympathy for the Italian who has been sacked just nine months after the club's fairytale Premier League success and those sentiments were echoed by Jennings.

The former Spurs and Arsenal number one is also a fascinated observer as the heat is cranked up on Gunners chief Arsene Wenger.

"Managers will take a job and you don't how long it will last," he added.

"When I was a player, a manager came in for at least three or four years and had a youth policy.

"Now it is four or five games and you are under pressure. Look at Arsene Wenger, who is under pressure at Arsenal. And look at what he has achieved. I feel so sorry for him, considering what he has achieved.

"That's the way the game is at the minute. You lose two or three games on the bounce and the fans are suddenly at you.

"They see revolt at other clubs and they want it at theirs. But you can't be changing manager every year.

"There is talk of a boycott before the Bayern (Munich) match, which is sad to see. When you consider what Arsene has done for Arsenal, and qualifying for the Champions League every year. He has built an unbelievable new training ground and stadium at the Emirates. It's brilliant.

"He should be allowed to choose when to leave. I am sure he will want to go out on a successful year, and not the way the club is at the minute. He will want to finish on a high. The club should be together."

Belfast Telegraph


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