Stoke City appoint O'Neill

Wright and Robinson in frame for Northern Ireland job

New job: Michael O’Neill (pic: SNS Group)

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson and St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright have been linked with the vacant Northern Ireland post.

Michael O’Neill, a former target of the Scottish FA to replace Gordon Strachan before Alex McLeish got the job for a second time, has been named as the new man in charge of English Championship strugglers Stoke City.

His appointment, on a contract believed to be worth around £1.5 million a year, brings to an end a successful eight-year spell in charge of Northern Ireland during which time he rejuvenated the team’s fortunes.

He guided them to the finals of Euro 2016 and only missed out on the 2018 World Cup finals after losing a play-off to Switzerland.

The 50-year-old’s urge to return to the day-to-day involvement with players has seen him sever his ties with the Irish FA after Stoke agreed a compensation package, although he will take charge of any Euro 2020 play-offs.

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Wright is well known to the Irish FA having been part of O’Neill’s backroom team at the start of his reign.

He is the second-longest serving manager in the Scottish Premiership after taking the reins at Perth in 2013. He may well think he has taken St Johnstone as far as he can and there is no doubt he would jump at the chance if an offer was to materialise.

“I’m a great believer in whatever’s going to happen is going to happen,” he said. “There will be speculation, I’m sure there’s a lot of good candidates out there. Possibly I’ll be one of the candidates.

“At the moment, I’m contracted until 2022. I’m excited about this squad we’ve got. We’re not out of the woods in terms of being near the bottom of the table, but we’re showing signs of getting better.”

Robinson has impressed in his time in charge at Fir Park, and the Northern Ireland vacancy could spell bad news for both managerless Hibs and Hearts. The two Edinburgh teams are in the midst of searching for new managers, with Robinson highly thought of after his work at Motherwell.

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