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Lockdown gives a chance to reflect and plan for Stoke City future, says Michael O'Neill


Wise head: Michael O'Neill isn't wasting time while football is on a break

Wise head: Michael O'Neill isn't wasting time while football is on a break

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Stoke ace Danny Batth

Stoke ace Danny Batth

Getty Images

Wise head: Michael O'Neill isn't wasting time while football is on a break

Stoke City boss Michael O'Neill has explained he has been using his time in lockdown to reflect on his opening four months in charge of the club and trying to plan for what comes next.

O'Neill became boss of the Potters on November 8 last year. His final match before the spread of the coronavirus brought football in the UK to a shuddering halt was a 5-1 win over Hull on March 7.

He had been hoping to build on the impressive victory against Grant McCann's side which took Stoke into 17th place in the Championship but then came the decision from the powers that be on the eve of an away game in Reading to stop playing.

"Just over four weeks ago we were due to play Reading on the Saturday and our game was called off on the Friday," recalled O'Neill.

"Our intention was to bring the players in on the Monday and then we thought we would give them an extra few days off until the Wednesday but by Wednesday we were essentially being told they shouldn't be training together.

"So that was it. We have not seen the players since the Friday before the Reading game. The training ground was locked down and we abided by the medical advice that we were being given.

"Quite quickly we had to find ways of working and I have been at home in Edinburgh with my family doing that.

"You have to try and use your time as wisely as possible but that is quite difficult given the uncertainty that is around at the moment."

All English Football League (EFL) clubs have received a letter from EFL chairman Rick Parry stating that training should not resume until at least May 16 with a view to a June 6 start. The clubs have also been informed that the season can be completed in 56 days when it is safe to resume.

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill added: "You are thinking of things you want to do like watching players you may want to sign and what this time has given us is a chance to reflect on the 22 games since we have been in.

"It has been interesting looking back at some of the teams we picked and the early decisions we made and doing that without knowing the players very well to where we are now.

"It has given us time to reflect on what we have done well, what we could have done better and even just trying to get to know the club a bit better.

"When I went in I was straight into a game and then I had international football and then back into another game with Stoke so pretty much it has been full on with game, preparation, dissecting the game you have played, dealing with things at the club and dealing with the January transfer window.

"There was a lot of stuff going on and a very high workload and a lot of decisions had to be made very quickly.

"This time has been useful from that point of view, though it is hard to know what the landscape will be for Championship clubs when we return.

"For us first of all we have to maintain our Championship status and then we have to see where we are as a club going forward."

Belfast Telegraph