Scottish FA to make their pursuit of Michael O'Neill official

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is a man in demand with the Scottish FA set to step up their pursuit of him
By Chris Grace

THE battle for Michael O’Neill’s management skills will be well and truly on today when the Scottish FA Board are expected to ratify an official move to talk to the Northern Ireland boss.

The IFA have made it clear that they want to keep O’Neill by offering him a new six-year deal but are well aware that Scotland are just as keen to have the 48-year-old leading their country.

After weeks of speculation surrounding O’Neill’s future following the North’s heartbreaking defeat to Switzerland in last month’s World Cup play-offs, the Scottish FA are set to finally agree to the conditions in O’Neill’s IFA contract that will allow them to hold talks with the ex-Shamrock Rovers supremo.

In order to speak to O’Neill, the SFA must state that they will pay £500,000 in compensation to the IFA should they persuade him to become their new boss.

Given that Scotland have not reached a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup and missed out for two decades on the riches which come with qualification, chief executive Stewart Regan will go into today’s meeting determined to prove to members of the board his number one target to replace Gordon Strachan is worth the compensation and a hefty salary.

Sources in Scotland believe he will achieve that aim knowing that he will come under severe pressure if he fails in his bid to bring the Edinburgh-based O’Neill to Hampden.

And then the decision will come down to O’Neill, who famously led Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals and has become a huge favourite with the Green and White Army.

O’Neill will not rush into anything knowing that he has a highly tempting new deal on the table from the IFA which would earn him more than £4 million over six years as well as the interest from Scotland.

The former Newcastle and Dundee United player also knows that he could become the subject of moves from English or Scottish clubs in the next month ahead of the January transfer window.

With Rangers hoping to land Derek McInnes, O’Neill has already been linked with the Aberdeen job.

Northern Ireland and Scotland do not play again until March when both will be involved in friendlies.

The IFA are keen to feature in a glamour match and are discussing the possibility of going on a summer tour having missed out on the World Cup finals in Russia.

They would hope and have faith that O’Neill will still be in charge believing he offers the North the best chance of building on their excellent form of the past two campaigns and taking them to the Euro 2020 finals.

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