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Michael O'Neill closes in on new four-year Northern Ireland deal


Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland will take on Slovenia in a friendly in March

Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland will take on Slovenia in a friendly in March

Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland will take on Slovenia in a friendly in March

Michael O'Neill expects to put pen to paper on a new four-year deal as Northern Ireland manager in the coming weeks.

O'Neill's stock has never been higher after he led the country to Euro 2016 qualification, their first major tournament in 30 years, and was named coach of the year at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show.

His current deal expires after the finals in France but, while his exploits will surely have grabbed the attention of club chairmen in England and Scotland, he is happy to continue in his current role.

"We're well down the line, discussions have been very positive to date," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I don't envisage everything being signed and sealed before Christmas but we haven't hit any stumbling blocks yet. I'd imagine it'll come to a conclusion some time in the New Year."

O'Neill was eager to have the security of a four-year deal because with a slew of retirements possible in the summer, he anticipates the next campaign being a tough one.

But the Irish FA will also be protected by the new terms, which will include a compensation package should suitors wish to tempt O'Neill away.

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"With any contract, it's a long-term commitment, it has to be right. It's not a two-year deal, it will be a four-year deal," he explained.

"It has to be right for me first of all, and for the Association as well. It's just about making sure that both parties get what they want out of it and making sure that there's protection on both sides is key."

O'Neill is honest enough to admit he would consider alternative employment but does not intend to rush back into club management at the first opportunity.

"While I would look at those if and when they came along, they're not something that I'm actively seeking," he said.

"I'm not out there saying to an agent 'You need to get me a club job now'. If it comes along and presents itself, I would evaluate it.

"You have to just play it by ear. It's very much driven by who wants you, and the structure of that opportunity.

"It's not just a case of 'there's a club job, there's the salary, go and take it'....it's more about 'What's the stability of the club? What's the structure of the club? What's the chances of you having some level of success at the club?'

The IFA, meanwhile, have announced the first of four proposed friendlies before the Euros.

They will take on Slovenia at Windsor Park on March 28, with another fixture that month and two more shortly before the tournament to come.

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