Belfast Telegraph

Michael O'Neill appointed Stoke City manager but will remain in charge of Northern Ireland for Euro 2020 play-offs

 

Michael O’Neill has been appointed Stoke boss (Liam McBurney/PA)
Michael O’Neill has been appointed Stoke boss (Liam McBurney/PA)
Michael O’Neill
Michael O’Neill
Bags packed: Michael O’Neill will be the new Stoke City boss
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Michael O'Neill will remain in charge for Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 play-offs in March, despite having been appointed as the new Stoke City manager.

O'Neill will be at Barnsley on Saturday for his first game of his three-and-a-half year deal as Potters boss, before returning to Belfast to oversee Northern Ireland's final two Euro 2020 qualifiers, at home to the Netherlands on November 16 and away to Germany on November 19.

In a surprise move, O'Neill will also remain at the Northern Ireland helm for the Euro 2020 play-offs at the end of March, when the team are almost certain to be involved.

It is as yet unclear whether O'Neill would continue to lead the team into the European Championship finals next summer, with the IFA not yet thinking beyond the semi-finals and finals of the play-offs.

"We reluctantly agreed to allow Stoke to talk to Michael after they met the compensation requirements. Michael has now agreed terms with the EFL Championship club," confirmed Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson.

"Naturally, we are extremely disappointed that Michael is leaving us, however we are delighted all parties have agreed Michael will be in charge of the Northern Ireland team for the games against Netherlands and Germany and potential Euro 2020 play-off matches next March.

"Everyone in the GAWA family is grateful for Michael's inspirational contribution over the past eight years."

O'Neill began work on his new role on Friday morning when he took Stoke City training before the club and the Irish FA finalised a compensation agreement, with the IFA's demands understood to be around £650,000.

The boss is expected to double his £750,000 salary but will have a big job on his hands with the Potters already six points from safety in the Championship table, having won only two of their 15 Championship games so far this season, picking up just eight points.

O'Neill will have at his disposal the likes of Republic of Ireland attackers James McClean and Scott Hogan as well as experienced heads like England goalkeeper Jack Butland, former Liverpool duo Joe Allen and Tom Ince as well as ex-Manchester United man Nick Powell. He will, however, take a over a squad with the joint second worst attacking record and joint second worst defensive record in the league.

However, O'Neill will be able to use the almost eight years of experience he gained at Northern Ireland. He led the nation up over 100 places in the FIFA World Rankings to an all-time high of 20th, qualifying for the knockout stages of Euro 2016 along the way and reaching the play-offs for the 2018 World Cup.

“He has instilled incredible belief among our players and inspired countless young people to play football and aspire to play for Northern Ireland," continued Nelson. "He has also given our wonderful fans plenty to cheer about in recent years.”

Before accepting the national job in 2011, O'Neill led two club teams, beginning his managerial career by taking over Brechin City and then moving to Dublin giants Shamrock Rovers, who he led to the Europa League group stage in 2011.

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