Michael O’Neill focusing for now on Northern Ireland job

Manager yet to have discussions with Scottish FA about a possible switch

Michael O’Neill: “The [Northern Ireland] job is one that’s very important to me and I’ve worked very hard at it and it’s not one I’m going to leave very easily.”  Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

Michael O’Neill: “The [Northern Ireland] job is one that’s very important to me and I’ve worked very hard at it and it’s not one I’m going to leave very easily.” Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

 

Michael O’Neill has warned the Scottish Football Association they may struggle to prise him away from the Northern Ireland job.

Hampden chiefs have been granted permission to talk to the 48-year-old about becoming Gordon Strachan’s successor as Scotland manager.

But a month after the SFA made their approach, O’Neill says discussions have yet to even begin.

Instead, he confirmed he has opened negotiations with the Irish Football Association about extending his Northern Ireland deal – which expires in 2020 – for another four years.

O’Neill, who has also been linked with the Untied States vacancy, led his country to their first major tournament in three decades when they qualified for Euro 2016.

But he has been tipped to call time on his six-year reign after failing to reach next summer’s World Cup.

However, speaking to the BBC, O’Neill said: “There’s been a lot of speculation since the World Cup play-off defeat [to Switzerland] – speculation driven by others, driven by the media. At this minute in time, I’m still under contract with the IFA and there’s two years to go on that contract.

“Discussions have begun about extending that contract. There’s not a deal on the table. It’s early days in the discussions but my focus is on doing the job I’m in at the minute.

“I’m contracted to 2020 and hopefully in 2020 I can take the team to the European Championships again. There’s been no discussions [with other national teams] at all.

“People are always assuming that I’m going to make a decision to leave the position but I’ve never said that. I know the SFA has indicated they would like to speak with me but there’s been nothing more than that.

“The job is one that’s very important to me and I’ve worked very hard at it and it’s not one I’m going to leave very easily,” he added.

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