herald

Monday 16 July 2018

O'Neill's new deal

Michael O’Neill. Photo: PA
Michael O’Neill. Photo: PA

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has signed a four-year contract extension, less than three weeks after turning down the Scotland managerial vacancy.

The 48-year-old, whose previous deal was to expire 2020, has reached an agreement with the IFA on a lucrative six-year package, worth in the region of £700,000 per year, that runs until 2024.

O'Neill, who was appointed by the IFA in December 2011, spoke to the Scottish Football Association about succeeding Gordon Strachan last month but elected not to take up their post.

He guided Northern Ireland to the last 16 at Euro 2016, which was their first major tournament since 1986, and then led his nation to a play-off for the 2018 World Cup when they suffered a 1-0 aggregate loss to Switzerland over two legs in November.

O'Neill was in demand after the defeat to the Swiss and spoke to West Brom and Sunderland when their positions were available, with the SFA also swiftly identifying him as its preferred candidate.

However, while the SFA dithered over agreeing to pay his £500,000 compensation fee, the IFA acted swiftly and opened up new discussions about a deal that O'Neill has now penned.

O'Neill held a press conference at Windsor Park in Belfast on Friday afternoon in which he said progressing in his current job appealed more than any other opportunities that came his way.

"I am extremely proud to manage my country and I am pleased to be extending my time in charge of the senior team," he said.

"In recent months I have been approached about taking other opportunities in football. However, no other challenge attracted me as much as taking Northern Ireland back to a major tournament.

"I'm delighted to sign the contract, to have the opportunity to continue in the job. I was still under contract so it was great for the association to do what they did and show the faith in me going forward.

"I'm excited about the challenge. I'm over the disappointment of Switzerland. It was a good time for me to reflect on everything and I had to make the right decision not only for me, but for the association. That was important. I'm excited and looking forward to what lies ahead."

Under the terms of his new deal, O'Neill will also take on the role of chief football officer that will give him a greater say in the development of the game at grassroots level in Northern Ireland.

In terms of the senior set-up, O'Neill revealed he spoke to his players about continuing in the post and was encouraged by the response given many of his key figures are in their 30s.

"I had the option to go to clubs, I had the opportunity to go and work as national team coach of another association but there is no greater honour than managing your own country," he added.

"When you have what we've had over the last four years and having spoken to the players, they believe there is more in the tank, that was a big factor in the decision.

"Our ranking is (joint) 25th in the world, we've been as high as 20th. We want to try and maintain that as long as possible.

"There's no greater satisfaction in football than having what we've had as manager of your own country."

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