O’Neill will stick with Northern Ireland if they make Euro play-offs


Belfast (AFP) – Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill plans to remain in charge should his country reach the Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs despite his impending move to Stoke.

Northern Ireland host the Netherlands in what could be O’Neill’s final match in charge at Windsor Park on Saturday after he was announced as Stoke’s new boss last week.

With Stoke battling to climb away from the Championship relegation zone, it has been suggested O’Neill would leave regardless of whether Northern Ireland reach the play-offs.

But on Friday he said he will remain in charge of Northern Ireland until the end of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, whether that ends in the next seven days or extends into March.

Asked if he was committed to staying for the rest of the campaign, O’Neill said: “That’s the plan at the minute.”

Northern Ireland face the Netherlands this weekend and Germany in Frankfurt on Tuesday in their final Group C fixtures, knowing automatic qualification is highly unlikely.

They are however currently well placed for the play-offs.

Insisting the Stoke job hasn’t been a distraction, O’Neill said: “The week has been no different from any other week. We’ve got the work done.

“The players have been very focused, maybe more so because they’re thinking, as a club manager I might sign them.”

Northern Ireland can take encouragement from their performance in Rotterdam, where Holland needed two stoppage-time goals to complete a come-from-behind 3-1 win last month.

But, regardless of the result in Belfast, O’Neill isn’t thinking about a fond farewell just yet.

“I haven’t thought about it to be honest. I’m not one for big emotion,” he said.

“I’ll just try and prepare the team as well as we can. The main thing is to try and get a result and take it to the last game.

“Maybe I’m young enough to come back in the future!”

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