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Date TimeNovember 08, 2019
VoiceStoke’s attraction to O’Neill is obvious – he maximises resources by creating an environment players relish
What Stoke can expect after prising Michael ONeill from Northern Ireland | Ewan Murray
One of Michael O’Neill’s final acts as the Northern Ireland manager emphasises why the lure of club football was always going to prove too strong eventually. O’Neill used to adopt self-deprecating humour when explaining how seeking out international players from the nether regions of the game had become normality. A trip to Blackpool v Peterborough in League One where the reason for attending, Jordan Thompson, went unused summed up a scenario whereby O’Neill had created national heroes from the unlikeliest of backdrops. There was time for the 50-year-old to attend Celtic’s League Cup demolition of Hibernian later the same day; none of the 36 players listed are eligible to play for Northern Ireland.
O’Neill’s achievements with the national side barely need explaining. In what mirrors the situation now, as the 50-year-old steps into Stoke City, eyebrows were raised when he swapped a highly successful tenure at Shamrock Rovers for his country. The assumption was that O’Neill could and should have instead claimed a club post in England. As the Northern Irish toiled – there was a friendly draw with Malta before competitive losses to Azerbaijan and Luxembourg – the manager’s leap into international football appeared outright folly.

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