Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill outsider for Hull job as IFA accept clubs will move in

By Steven Beacom

The Irish FA are expecting clubs to make a move for Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill in the weeks and months ahead.

And to that end they are preparing to put a plan in place to deal with the situation when it arises.

Such is the IFA's relationship with O'Neill, they will inform him of any interested parties and should clubs be willing to pay the £750,000 compensation required the decision would then be up to the manager.

Following the resignation of Steve Bruce as manager of Hull City yesterday, O'Neill's name cropped up as a potential replacement and while he is considered an outsider for the post, being mentioned in conjunction with a vacant Premier League role shows the respect with which he is held in the game.

O'Neill, currently on holiday, made history by inspiring Northern Ireland to the Euro finals and once he and the team got to France last month they exceeded most people's expectations by reaching the knockout stages.

After the tournament, O'Neill told the Belfast Telegraph that the Euro experience made him "hungrier than ever to develop and progress football in Northern Ireland" and he is ready to guide the country again in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which begin in September. Equally though he would listen to what interested clubs have to say.

The IFA would prefer him to stay, but know the lure of club football is strong. As exclusively revealed by the Belfast Telegraph in February, as part of O'Neill's new four-year contract, any club that wants the Northern Ireland manager would have to pay the IFA £750,000 in compensation.

O'Neill was in the frame to take over from Celtic before Brendan Rodgers was appointed.

During the Euro 2016 finals, the then Irish FA President Jim Shaw said: "Michael is doing a fantastic job and taking us to new levels. We want Michael to stay a long time but we appreciate the better he does the more interest there will be in him."

Shaw may no longer be the figurehead of Northern Ireland football's governing body, with the controversial David Martin replacing him recently, but the feelings on O'Neill inside the Association remain the same.

Bruce's departure from Hull came on the same day that Sam Allardyce was announced as the new England manager. Former Manchester United defender Bruce, whose mum hails from Northern Ireland and whose son Alex played for Northern Ireland, had been interviewed for the England job.

Bruce, 55, led Hull to two promotions to the top-flight in his four-year reign at the club.

The former Birmingham, Wigan and Sunderland manager was reportedly unhappy with a lack of assurances from the club's owners over the recruitment of new players this transfer window.

Mike Phelan, Bruce's former United team-mate and his assistant at Hull, has been placed in caretaker charge. He will be one of the chief contenders for the manager's job. Former Everton boss Roberto Martinez is also in the mix, as is Neil Warnock.

Ryan Giggs, who left Manchester United in the summer, may interest Assem Allam though the uncertainty at the club would not appeal to the Welshman.

O'Neill would be similar in that thinking. The Northern Ireland boss would do his homework before joining any club.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane have also been linked with replacing Bruce.

Regarding their departing manager, a statement on Hull's website read: "Following four incredible seasons with the Tigers including two promotions and our first ever FA Cup final, we can confirm that manager Steve Bruce has left the club by mutual consent.

"The Board of Directors would like to thank Steve for all his efforts since his appointment in 2012 culminating in a glorious day at Wembley in May which saw the club bounce back into the Premier League. Steve has excelled and will be remembered for being the most successful manager in our history to date."

"Steve wishes the club and the owners all the very best for the forthcoming season. Steve also wishes to place on record his thanks to the supporters for their unwavering support and also to all the players and staff who have worked with him during his time at the KCOM Stadium."

Belfast Telegraph


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