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Jim Magilton: I can carry on Michael O'Neill's work as Northern Ireland manager

Jim Magilton

Jim Magilton believes he can keep Northern Ireland moving in the right direction when Michael O'Neill steps down.

O'Neill, who is now masterminding Stoke City's revival mission after accepting the post in November, is expected to quit as Northern Ireland boss after the Euro 2020 play-offs in late March.

Several candidates fancy the top job and Irish FA Elite Performance Director Magilton hopes to be in the running.

Magilton was O'Neill's right-hand man at League of Ireland side Shamrock Rovers but lost out to the Ballymena man in a selection process to succeed Nigel Worthington in December 2011.

This time the former Ipswich Town and Queen's Park Rangers boss believes he deserves an opportunity to keep Northern Ireland in contention for major tournaments.

"If the opportunity comes up it is something I would be very interested in," said the former Northern Ireland midfielder.

"To coach and manage at the highest level is still a big ambition of mine. I missed out last time, but my CV has expanded and my experience increased since then. I have good experience from a playing and managing point of view and I would be greatly honoured to be Northern Ireland manager.

"It's a fantastic opportunity, and for the last six years I've been working with the IFA, so the powers-that-be know exactly what I'm about and what I do. I've been around the senior set-up and all the underage teams, so I know the players and the next group who are coming through, plus I know the Association inside out.

"Michael has put Northern Ireland back on the map and I'm sure there would be hundreds of managers in for the job.

"When a manager leaves who has been so successful, the manager coming in is under pressure to recreate that, but whoever takes over will be encouraged by the wonderful results that have been achieved over the last few years," said Magilton.

Among the other names being linked with the post are Under-21 manager Ian Baraclough, Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, St Johnstone chief Tommy Wright and Linfield's David Healy.

Baraclough has previously been reported as the shock leading contender to succeed O'Neill.

It is understood the Englishman will be promoted to O'Neill's backroom staff for the critical Euro 2020 play-off showdown with Bosnia on March 26, a significant stepping stone to the top job.

And it is believed the 49-year-old has O'Neill's all-important blessing to take over at the helm when his nine years come to an end this year.

An Irish FA insider stated: "All roads seem to lead to Baraclough at this stage, for a number of reasons. He is very well thought of within the Association."

Baraclough was roundly praised in Northern Ireland when his Under-21s team finished second to Spain in the 2019 European Championship qualifiers.

However, his side have struggled in the current Euro 2021 campaign, languishing in fifth place behind Denmark, Finland, Romania and Ukraine with just three points from five games.

Former Oxford United, Southampton and Ipswich player Magilton was in charge of the Northern Ireland Under-21s from 2015 to 2017 and as part of his current role is overseeing the new NI Football Academy at Ulster University, which is preparing the country's young footballers for cross-channel careers.

Belfast Telegraph