Stoke City Boss Michael O’Neill Steps Down as Northern Ireland Manager

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has announced he has stepped down from the role. His decision was made on Wednesday, April 22 stepping down as the nation’s boss with immediate effect. O’Neill will continue his managerial role at Stoke City with the hopes of guiding the Potters back to the Premier League where they competed for 10 years from 2008-18.

Stoke City Boss Michael O’Neill Steps Down from Northern Irish Role

The Postponement of Euro 2020 Play-Offs

With UEFA announcing the postponement of the European Championships until 2021, Northern Ireland’s play-off clash with Bosnia & Herzegovina has been put on halt until the foreseeable future.

After eight and a half years in charge of the Ulstermen, qualifying for Euro 2020 would have been the perfect send-off for O’Neill, however, amidst such unprecedented times, his role was ultimately cut short.

He stated: “I would have loved the opportunity to manage Northern Ireland in the UEFA 2020 play-off game versus Bosnia and Herzegovina and the chance to qualify for another major tournament, but the current situation means that this is no longer possible.”

Satisfied with the job he had done, O’Neill claimed: “It was important to leave the association and team in the strongest possible shape in order to not only have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2021 but allow the new manager time to build upon the success that we have had during my eight-year tenure.”

His decision comes just three weeks after former Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy announced his departure from his sides set-up, similarly citing the postponement of these play-offs as the main factor, with the Republic due to play Slovakia in March.

Did Other Factors Influence the Decision of O’Neill? 

Following his departure, O’Neill had some choice words regarding the eligibility debate between Northern Ireland & the Republic. 

With numerous Northern Irish youth players being somewhat ‘poached’ by the Republic of Ireland set-up, O’Neill was never shy to express his opinion on this tricky subject, often sparking a tense back and forth between himself and then Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

Nonetheless, with his international management days behind him, O’Neill voiced his towards FIFA & UEFA stating: Ultimately the choice belongs to the individual, I have never disputed that. My only grievance has been the issue of young players being put in a position where they were asked to change their international allegiance.

“It’s not even about the FAI – ultimately UEFA and FIFA wouldn’t allow it either. It’s a shame for a player to be lost to international football, and we have seen some young players who have unfortunately experienced that’’.

O’Neill Was One of Northern Ireland’s Greatest Ever Managers

O’Neill became a hero within the six-counties in October 2015, qualifying the North for their first ever European Championships, which was to be held in France the following summer. 

It would also be the countries first major international tournament since the 1986 World Cup, and they certainly brought the noise.

Placed in Group C with Germany, Poland and Ukraine, O’Neill’s men could not make it past the group stage, narrowly being defeated 1-0  by both the Germans and the Poles, however, a 2-0 drubbing of Ukraine left Northern Ireland with much pride at the conclusion of the tournament, placing 3rd in this group.

Focus Now on Club Management

As previously stated, O’Neill has announced to stay on as Stoke City boss, with aims to guide the Staffordshire side back to Premier League stardom.

Currently, in a relegation dogfight, O’Neill has managed to turn the Potters’ fortune around since his surprise appointment in November, after they suffered eight defeats within their first ten league games.

With the Championship relation battle hotting-up, the return of football will be eagerly awaited by Stoke City fans.

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