Jim Shaw, president of the Irish Football Association, has said Northern Ireland are braced for rival interest in their manager, Michael O’Neill, after the European Championship.
O’Neill, 46, signed a new four-year contract with the IFA in March having led Northern Ireland to their first major tournament in 30 years. He further enhanced his reputation last week by orchestrating a superb win over Ukraine that has put Northern Ireland in sight of reaching the last 16. Shaw admits the IFA is likely to be approached by clubs coveting the former Shamrock Rovers manager once the tournament is over.
“Michael is doing a fantastic job and taking us to new levels,” he said. “The big decisions he took for the Ukraine game worked spectacularly. We want Michael to stay a long time but we appreciate the better he does the more interest there will be in him.”
Northern Ireland will bank an extra £2m should they pull off another coup and defeat the world champions, Germany, in their final group game in Paris on Tuesday. Qualification for France was worth £6m to the IFA, defeat of Ukraine brought a £800,000 bonus and there is another £800,000 win bonus plus £1.2m for reaching the last 16 available against Germany.
Shaw, who stood by O’Neill after a poor qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup, said: “There were a few big things I noticed about Michael and why I was so determined to see him get a new contract. Apart from being a good overall manager on every front, he had a football plan in his head and you could see it materialising.
“Results were atrocious [in the 2014 campaign] but the performances were steadily improving and away from the glare of the fans, he was working beneath the surface on the youth system and so on for the future. All of that combined told me that if you got rid of this guy you have to find somebody else who could do a better job and I couldn’t see anybody who could at that time. I honestly believe Michael could be a success as a manager in any line of business.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010