USA could hijack Scottish FA’s bid to land Michael O’Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
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The Scottish FA face could face competition from the USA if they decide to pursue the services of Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.

In the aftermath of his agonising failure to lead his own country to the 2018 World Cup finals, O’Neill is now a leading contender for the Scotland manager’s job vacated by Gordon Strachan last month.

It has now emerged that O’Neill is also regarded by the United States Soccer Federation as a serious candidate to become their new head coach. Bruce Arena resigned from the position last month after the US missed out on qualification for a World Cup finals for the first time since 1986.

Arena’s assistant Dave Sarachan is in interim charge for tonight’s friendly against Portugal but is not being considered for the job. Former England manager Sam Allardyce has been linked with the post, but reports in the USA yesterday identified O’Neill as a more likely option.

Sources at the SFA reported no fresh developments in the search for Strachan’s replacement last night. But the sub-committee tasked with finding a preferred candidate, headed by chief executive Stewart Regan, are closely monitoring O’Neill’s situation.

The former Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers manager, who lives in Edinburgh, was non-committal about his future when speaking after Northern Ireland’s 0-0 draw against Switzerland in Basel on Sunday evening which saw them lose their World Cup play-off tie 1-0 on aggregate.

O’Neill, 48, who has also been linked with the vacancies at Rangers and Sunderland, is under contract with the Irish FA until the end of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. But he has clauses in his agreement which would allow him to move on if he wished.

His stock is high after leading Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals in France and following it up with a World Cup qualifying campaign which saw his team finish second in their group behind Germany.

Unsurprisingly, the players have expressed their fervent hope O’Neill will resist any offers which come his way.

“Michael is integral to everything we have done and everyone loves working with him,” said Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis. “From a selfish point of view we would love to continue this journey with him at the helm. It’s only natural that other parties are going to be interested in him because he has done so well.”