Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill and Keane offered Stoke jobs but contract length may prove sticking point

By Luke Edwards

Stoke City have offered Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane a return to Premier League management as they desperately try to persuade the high-profile pair to leave the Republic of Ireland after four years in international football.

Stoke are still trying to thrash out terms with O’Neill, who is expected to bring Roy Keane with him as his assistant if he can agree a deal to return to league management for the first time since he was sacked by Sunderland in 2013.

Although Stoke are understood to have officially offered O’Neill the chance to succeed Mark Hughes as manager, after the former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores decided to remain at Espanyol, it remains to be seen whether O’Neill will accept it as he already has a verbal agreement in place to extend his contract with Ireland.

Sources have also indicated that the length of the contract may be a sticking point as O’Neill is not interested in signing a short-term deal, which would potentially leave him vulnerable to being replaced in the summer, even if he keeps Stoke in the top flight.

O’Neill had effectively decided to remain in the Ireland job on Friday as both he and Keane are excited by the challenge of building a new, younger Ireland squad during their European Nations Cup campaign, which starts later this year.

Indeed, Keane is thought to have helped persuade O'Neill to stay on over the last few weeks, but the Stoke offer could prove too good and too tempting for them to turn down.

O’Neill was initially wary of Stoke’s interest as they appeared to have made Flores their preferred target, but Telegraph Sport understands they had kept lines of communication open even though the 65-year-old had told them on Friday that he was no longer interested.

Sources have told Telegraph Sport that this has actually hardened Stoke’s interest, as they did not want to miss out on chairman Peter Coates’ first choice to replace Hughes, and they feel O’Neill’s vast experience of managing in the Premier League means he is the best person to turn their season around.

O’Neill has never been relegated from the top flight as a manager and had huge success with both Aston Villa and Leicester City, either side of a fruitful spell in Scotland with Celtic.

Stoke sacked Hughes last weekend following an FA Cup third round defeat to Coventry City, which left the club with just a relegation battle to contend with, and their league position remains precarious ahead of Monday night’s game against Manchester United.

It has been a hugely disappointing campaign for The Potters and Coates made it clear he wanted O’Neill to turn things around.

O’Neill is understood to have rejected a contract at Goodison Park as he was unhappy with the length of the deal, which paved the way for Allardyce to replace Ronald Koeman last month.

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