Belfast Telegraph

Scots job may tempt O'Neill, says Rodgers


By Graham Luney

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes Michael O'Neill could be tempted by the challenge of transforming Scotland into a major international force.

The Irish FA have given the Northern Ireland boss permission to speak to their Scottish counterparts but they hope an improved contract offer will persuade the 48-year-old to a reject a move.

In the next few days the SFA will offer the former Brechin and Shamrock Rovers boss a lucrative package to seal the deal.

Rodgers said: "There is a nucleus of a very exciting squad and you go into the European Championship next year and feel you would have a chance of qualifying. If Michael sees that as a challenge then I think Scotland is a great job for someone."

O'Neill said he wasn't interested in the Sunderland job and it emerged last night that Wales boss Chris Coleman will take on that role.

Irish FA board members gathered for a scheduled meeting yesterday afternoon, but a long-standing agreement with Edinburgh-based O’Neill means permission to talk to the Scots was a formality.

The SFA would be liable for compensation if they persuade O’Neill to swap jobs but, under the terms of his contract, the body would not have to fork out as much as a Premier League club in England.

O’Neill is under contract until June 2020 but he may be open to a new challenge after tasting World Cup play-off heartbreak against Switzerland.

Scotland and Hearts defender Christophe Berra is excited at the prospect of working with the man who guided Northern Ireland to the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

“He’s done a great job at Northern Ireland,” the 41-cap defender said. “His stock is high right now so they have every right (to go for him).

“He is a British manager, will know a lot of the players, he lives in Edinburgh so I think it would be very suitable for him.

“But it’s down to him if he wants to stay at Northern Ireland or go back to club football.

“In the last two campaigns Northern Ireland have done superbly well and they were very unfortunate not to qualify for the World Cup or even get into at least extra-time (against Switzerland).

“He’s done really well, and if Scotland do get him it’s a great job to have.”

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright is the firm favourite to succeed O’Neill should the former Hibernian player quit just before the sixth anniversary of his Northern Ireland reign.

Wright stressed he was happy in Perth and added: “My chairman (Steve Brown) wants me to stay longer.

“When we signed the last contract, and that was quite a while ago, he said that one day, when you leave here, it could be for your national team job.

“He knows that it is like any Scottish manager, if they were linked to the Scottish job, your country is your country, and for me it is the top job that I could probably ever achieve.”

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