Michael O’Neill reportedly on verge of returning as Northern Ireland manager

Michael O’Neill is closing in on a second stint as Northern Ireland manager, according to reports.

The 53-year-old, who guided his country to a first major tournament in 30 years when he led them to Euro 2016, left the role in 2020 after eight years in charge but is said to be close to agreeing a return.

O’Neill had been performing double duties with the Irish Football Association and Stoke at the tail end of his previous stint but decided to focus his energies on the Potters when Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ian Baraclough was sacked earlier this year by the IFA.
Ian Baraclough was sacked earlier this year by the IFA (Niall Carson/PA)

O’Neill was sacked by the the club in August after a slow start to the season but is still revered by the green and white army for the job he did in revitalising the national side.

His successor, Ian Baraclough, proved unable to keep the good times going, taking almost a year to register his first victory and was ousted in October after narrowly avoiding back-to-back relegations in the Nations League on goal difference.

Stephen Robinson, once a member of O’Neill’s coaching team, came close to landing the top job when Baraclough was appointed and was expected to be an option again alongside the likes of Tommy Wright, Northern Ireland Women’s coach Kenny Shiels and Linfield boss David Healy.

But O’Neill’s track record meant he was always likely to be first choice if interested, with both parties reportedly ready to sign a long-term deal.

The IFA has been contacted for comment by the PA news agency.