Should Michael O'Neill switch Northern Ireland for Scotland?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 18 January 2018, 11:02

Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill has a tough decision to make after news broke that he’s opened up talks with Scotland over the possibility of switching Home Nations jobs.

A voyage across the North Channel - figuratively not literally as he already lives in Edinburgh - is by no means set in stone, so as the highly rated and respected boss weighs up his options, we take this opportunity to look at whether he should Stick or Twist.

S T I C K

O’Neill is a legend in Northern Ireland. In six years he’s completely transformed the national team, and in the process become the first boss in 30 years to lead the Green And White Army through to a major tournament: the country's first ever European Championships. Once at Euro 2016, they didn’t merely sit back and enjoy the experience, but progressed through to the knockout stages, collecting memories that will last forever.

O’Neill, whose side remarkably went from 129th to 24th in the rankings, then came agonisingly close to guiding Northern Ireland through to their first World Cup since 1986, but heartbreakingly lost out to Switzerland in a play-off.

The IFA have to do all they can to make him stay, and in fairness there’s a new six-year contract offer worth £4.5million on the table for O’Neill to continue doing the job he both loves and excels in.

Michael O’Neill’s Record At Northern Ireland:

- 53 Games

- 18 Wins

- 15 Draws

- 20 Defeats

- 34% Win Rate

- Euro 2016 Knockout Stages

The main stumbling block O’Neill faces in a move to Scotland is the risk factor. In football there’s simply no guarantee of success, no matter who you are or what club you’re at. The beautiful game’s unpredictable and chaotic nature is why we love it, and invest so much time in it.

O’Neill knows full well that football is littered with examples of managers who have left safe and secure jobs in pursuit of glory elsewhere, only to flop and find themselves discarded into the managerial wasteland. David Moyes being a pertinent example. The grass is not always greener, especially in a society obsessed with instant gratification.

T W I S T

O’Neill is obviously extremely tempted by the prospect of managing Scotland, otherwise he would have signed a new deal with Northern Ireland, and swatted away the advances of the Scottish FA.

It’s no secret that O’Neill is Scotland’s number one choice to replace the sacked Gordon Strachan - Friday will mark 100 days since his departure - and the SFA will be keen to lure O’Neill over as soon as possible so he has plenty of time to familiarise himself in his (potential) new job ahead of September’s new Nations League, with the draw for the competition next week.

The prospect of becoming the first manager this millennium to lead Scotland through to a major tournament will undoubtedly appeal to the ambitious boss. The Tartan Army have infamously not featured in a World Cup since 1998, while their last European Championship appearance dates back to 1996 (both under Craig Brown).

If O’Neill bags the job and goes on to achieve this feat he’ll become an instant icon.

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Scotland have a far wider pool of players to choose from than Northern Ireland, while man-for-man they have more quality. Should O’Neill make the switch Scotland are likely to reap the rewards of his ability to mould together a strong, disciplined and effective cohesive unit, where every player knows his role and works together for the good of the team.

O’Neill has long been linked with a move to the Premier League and Championship, but it’s clearly evident that the 48-year-old enjoys managing in the international arena. Let’s not forget that he lives in Edinburgh and after six years in one job, despite his immense success, it’s only natural that he fancies a change as he seeks to further his own career path.

Unless he can somehow propel his name in the frame for the Italy or United States jobs...it’s Scotland who would represent a decent, and potential fruitful, next port of call.

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