Michael O’Neill set to stay with Northern Ireland
O’Neill met Scottish Football Association to discuss succeeding Strachan as manager
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill: he has been impressed with the speed and scale of the IFA’s offer. Photograph: EPA/Jean-Christophe Bott
Michael O’Neill will attend Uefa’s Nations League draw in Lausanne, Switzerland, next Wednesday as the soccer manager of Northern Ireland, and the likelihood is that O’Neill will remain in that role when Northern Ireland face South Korea in Belfast for a friendly in March.
The 48-year-old from Ballymena met with officials from the Scottish Football Association (SFA) on Thursday to discuss whether O’Neill would be prepared to leave Northern Ireland to succeed Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager.
A SFA source was quoted as saying these talks were “productive”, a view O’Neill is understood to have shared.
The SFA oversees a larger talent pool when it come to players and a larger organisation with better facilities. However, that does not mean O’Neill will be the next Scotland manager. There is a gap between the SFA and the Irish Football Association in terms of longevity and security in their respective offers to O’Neill.
Knowing of interest in the Edinburgh-based O’Neill from the SFA and elsewhere, the IFA acted swiftly after November’s controversial World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland and placed in front of O’Neill an improved contract – reported at £700,000 per annum – which runs until 2024.
The former Shamrock Rovers manager has been impressed with the speed and scale of the IFA’s offer, while the SFA entered negotiations over the release payment it would have to give to the IFA in order to release O’Neill from his existing contract. That sum is in the region of £500,000.
There are no further talks planned between O’Neill and the SFA, and if O’Neill does reject the Scottish offer it will leave the SFA in a difficult position as it is said to have sounded out Paul Lambert as its fall-back option should O’Neill say no. Lambert was appointed Stoke City manager last weekend.