Belfast Telegraph

Michael O'Neill: It's unlikely I'll ever leave Northern Ireland for another nation

By Gareth Hanna

Michael O'Neill says that if he is to leave his role as Northern Ireland manager, it is likely to be for a club job.

The boss has penned a new six year deal with the Irish FA and has admitted that an offer to move across the Irish Sea to manage Scotland was 'very attractive'.

But after turning down a reported £600,000 a year deal with the SFA, O'Neill has indicated that his next job is more likely to be in club football.

"If I'm going to leave Northern Ireland I think realistically it's more likely to be for a club job, than for another association," he told Sky Sports.

"The Scotland job was very attractive. I was very flattered by Scottish interest. I live in Scotland and I've played a good part of my career in Scotland, so Scottish football is very close to me.

"I just felt at this time it just didn't feel right. I just didn't have the right gut instinct that it was the next move for me."

O'Neill explained his decision to pen a new long-term contract at Windsor Park, indicating an undoubted emotional connection with Northern Ireland.

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"Once you have something special and it is your own country, you just want to keep driving forward and improve football, not just for the national team, but in Northern Ireland as a whole," he said.

"The IFA came to me very quickly after the disappointment of defeat by Switzerland in the World Cup play-off and indicated that they would like to extend my contract,

"They anticipated that there would be interest, which there was. From the period from November to now, talks have been ongoing and they were very positive.

"I just felt as though it was the right thing to do. I've achieved a lot with Northern Ireland in the last six years but I still feel as though there is work to be done and I look forward to that challenge.

"We're a small nation and when you do get success, it's very sweet."

The Irish FA were said to have offered O'Neill a new deal almost immediately after the World Cup play-off defeat to Switzerland, even though his old contract had two years to run.

He said: "It's something that doesn't exist very much in the game now, particularly at club level. Even some of the nations we've played against, by the time you play them the second time, they've changed coach.

"The faith the IFA showed in me in the opening years, which were very difficult, I think I've repaid that."

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