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Blow for SFA

O’Neill turns down offer to be Scotland team boss

Michael O'Neill

Michael O’Neill has left the SFA with a major headache after rejecting the Scotland manager’s job (pic: SNS Group).

The Scottish FA has suffered a major setback in its search for a new Scotland manager after Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill turned down the chance to succeed Gordon Strachan.

The 48-year-old, who was interviewed on Thursday, said it was a ‘huge honour’ to have been offered the role but has decided it is not the right fit for him at the present time.

O’Neill had been the No. 1 target for the SFA since Strachan’s sacking nearly four months ago and his decision leaves chief executive Stewart Regan back at square one in his bid to find a new man to take the national team forward.

Former Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers manager O’Neill, who has been offered an extension to remain with Northern Ireland until 2024, said: “It’s a huge honour to be offered the position, however I do not feel that this is the right opportunity for me at this moment in my career.

“I would like to place on record my gratitude to the SFA for the very professional manner in which they conducted negotiations and I would also like to wish them every success for the future.”

Questions will now be asked of the SFA’s pursuit of O’Neill and who they could turn to now.

Alex McLeish will no doubt re-emerge as a possible candidate, as will Malky Mackay, the SFA performance director having been appointed for the friendly against the Netherlands in November.

“The process of identifying and recruiting a new Scotland national coach remains ongoing,” said Mr Regan.

“The board of the Scottish FA appointed a sub-committee to oversee the recruitment process, compile a list of suitable candidates and ultimately make a recommendation.

“As part of that process, and in recognition of his work in taking Northern Ireland to UEFA Euro 2016, Michael O’Neill was identified as an obvious candidate for consideration.

“To that end, we requested permission to speak to Michael from the Irish Football Association, which was accepted. Michael and his advisers met our delegation in Edinburgh on Thursday and discussed all aspects of the role during a three-hour meeting.

“While this was a positive and cordial discussion, we respect Michael’s decision to remain loyal to Northern Ireland, with whom he has enjoyed great success.

“We wish him well in his future endeavours and thank the Irish FA for their professionalism throughout.

“We now continue our recruitment process from the candidate list established by the selection committee, with a view to giving the new national coach ample time to prepare the squad for the UEFA Nations League.”

Scotland, whose next game is a friendly against Costa Rica at Hampden Park in March, will learn their opponents for the Nations League campaign in September on Wednesday.

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