Scotland make official approach for Michael O’Neill

Northern Ireland manager is under contract until next European Championship

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, has been approached by Scotland. Photograph:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, has been approached by Scotland. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

 

The Scottish Football Association has made an official approach for Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.

O’Neill has emerged as the leading contender to replace Gordon Strachan after guiding his team to the second round of Euro 2016 and the recent World Cup playoffs, where they lost out to Switzerland.

The ball is now in the court of the Irish Football Association, which has O’Neill under contract until the end of the next European Championship campaign.

The Hampden move has come soon after Northern Ireland narrowly missed out on their first World Cup finals appearance since 1986 following a controversial two-legged defeat by Switzerland.

Former Hibernian and Dundee United midfielder O’Neill lives in Edinburgh and began his managerial career with Brechin, before taking Shamrock Rovers to the Europa League group stages.

The former Newcastle player signed a new contract with Northern Ireland in March last year, which takes him to June 2020.

Sunderland and the United States have been linked with a move for the 48-year-old, as have Rangers who say they will draw up a shortlist for their own vacancy next week.

O’Neill, who is approaching his sixth anniversary as Northern Ireland manager, refused to discuss his future after his side’s goalless draw in Basel on Sunday, which sealed a 1-0 aggregate loss following Switzerland’s dubious penalty goal in Belfast.

“No, I haven’t even considered that,” he said. “Tonight is about being with my players, spending time with them and making sure they are okay.

“As I said to the players themselves, there is no need to make any rash decisions on anything they want to do.”

O’Neill’s Northern Ireland assistants are also based in Scotland. Scot Austin MacPhee is assistant manager at Hearts while Jimmy Nicholl is working at Falkirk.

Malky Mackay took charge of Scotland in a friendly defeat by the Netherlands last week but SFA chief executive Stewart Regan had already ruled him out of the running to succeed Strachan on a long-term basis.

Scotland’s next match is likely to be in March with talks taking place over a friendly in Morocco.

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