Belfast Telegraph

Club jobs can make things more complicated: Michael O'Neill

By Graham Luney

Michael O'Neill is well aware that if he swaps Northern Ireland for a club job, the manager-player relationship could become a lot more complicated.

The departure of Claudio Ranieri from the Leicester City hotseat sparked reports of player unrest in the dressing room and, following the Italian's exit, the squad has sprung to life and secured back-to-back victories.

There are allegations the former Greece manager was stabbed in the back by his men with some reports even claiming that players had met with the Thai owners of the club.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is also facing fans' protests calling for him to quit while his star man Alexis Sanchez showed little interest in sweating for the cause in the humiliating 10-2 aggregate Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

O'Neill's biggest challenge in the Northern Ireland set-up is getting his players to buy into his plans and remain with him every step of the journey.

"The power I have is whether or not I select players," said O'Neill, who will name his squad for the March 26 World Cup qualifier against Norway tomorrow.

"There is player power at clubs, there is no doubt and agents can get involved and make things difficult for a manager but in international football you must bring the players with you and keep them focused, they want to play for their country but they also have a lot to deal with at club level.

"International football used to be the pinnacle of a player's career, it's a slightly different environment now but it is important you keep a strong tight knit group, once you have success the players believe they can go and repeat that."

O'Neill's name is on the Leicester shortlist for a new boss but it appears likely that Craig Shakespeare will be given the manager's job for the remainder of the season. Ranieri's former No.2 took interim charge and has convinced the owners he is the right man to steer the club to safety after overseeing consecutive Premier League wins over Liverpool and Hull City.

Belfast Telegraph


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