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Tommy Wright will be at 'very top' of list to replace Michael O'Neill as Northern Ireland manager, says Alan Mannus

 

Tommy Wright

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus says the Irish FA will have Tommy Wright's name 'at the very top' of the shortlist when it comes to selecting Michael O'Neill's successor.

O'Neill's international tenure is widely expected to be at an end after the indefinite postponement of the Euro 2020 play-offs.

The Stoke City chief had intended to stay on and see the qualification bid through to a finish and would likely have done so even after the games were put back from March to June.

However, following the second delay and with no requirement for the play-offs to take place before March 2021, it would be increasingly difficult for O'Neill to combine his club and international commitments long enough to oversee the matches.

Instead, it is thought that a list of candidates will include Northern Ireland U21 boss Ian Baraclough, Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson, the IFA's Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton and St Johnstone boss Wright.

Mannus played under Wright for five seasons in Perth, winning the Scottish Cup in his first year at the club.

Wright also guided the Saints to three successive fourth place finishes, crowned the Scottish Premiership Manager of the Year for the 15/16 campaign.

Given the success the pair enjoyed together, it's little surprise that Mannus is tipping his former boss for the international job.

“You’ve seen managers from similar size clubs who have got opportunities,” said the Shamrock Rovers goalie. “The likes of Alex Neil (who moved to Norwich after guiding Hamilton to promotion to the Scottish Premiership).

“He deserved his chance in England but at that stage, Tommy had done a lot more.

“The IFA will have Tommy at the very top of the list – maybe him and one or two others.

“They will definitely be well aware of what he’s done. He played for Northern Ireland, captained Northern Ireland and has coached with the national team as well.

“Everyone in the game knows him over here and thinks very highly of him.”

Wright won 31 caps as Northern Ireland goalkeeper from 1989 to 1999, including helping the side to a 1-1 draw at then European champions Germany.

He began his managerial career at Limavady United, who he guided to Premiership survival before moving on to Ballymena United and Lisburn Distillery, where he won the League Cup.

He initially joined St Johnstone as assistant to compatriot Steve Lomas, and took the top job when Lomas moved on to Millwall.

Belfast Telegraph