O’Neill now favourite to take on Scotland job, say bookmakers

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

When Michael O’Neill took on the job as Northern Ireland manager, the team were ranked 88th in the world and hadn’t qualified for a major tournament in three decades.

They are now ranked 20th, have reached the last 16 of a European Championship and only missed out on World Cup qualification by the most narrow margin.

Few Northern Ireland fans would hold it against him if he were to decide to take on a new role elsewhere having achieved such great things with the country he represented as a player.

In fact, bookmakers have slashed the odds on O’Neill taking over as the next manager of Glasgow Rangers. Another possible move for O’Neill, the bookies appear to believe, is for him to take over as manager of Scotland.

Paddy Power give him odds of just 7/4 to take on the Scotland job, making him the favourite. It was a move deemed 16/1 as recently as last week.

As for the Rangers job, O’Neill is not quite considered the favourite to replace Pedro Caixinha but he is considered a front-runner with odds of 8/1.

One fan, 31-year-old Noel Boyd from Ballykelly in Co Londonderry, described O’Neill as “a bit of a genius” and said he hopes he will stay on with Northern Ireland.

He said: “If you look at how he did when he was the Shamrock Rovers manager, he got them into playing in Europe and they did well there too.

“The way he has Northern Ireland playing is unreal.

“To even get as close as that to qualifying (for the World Cup) is an achievement. Realistically we have some good players but not compared to some of the big teams so you have to give O’Neill the credit for how well they’ve played.”

On the prospect of O’Neill departing, Mr Boyd said: “If he does go, and I actually think he might stay on – I hope he does anyway – but if he does decide to go I could see him getting the Rangers job. I think that’d be perfect for him. You couldn’t blame him if he does.”

Amid the suggestions O’Neill may now end a largely successful six-year tenure at the helm of the Green and White Army, the 48-year-old was unwilling to think about his position in the immediate aftermath of his side’s setback.

He told Sky Sports: “I’ve not even given it any thought. I don’t think it’s a reasonable question at this time.”

He added: “My focus is with the players and the boys in the dressing room.”

Former Northern Ireland internationals Gerry Armstrong and Iain Dowie, speaking to Sky Sports, were amongst those to suggest O’Neill may soon leave to take up a position in club management.