Tommy Wright accepts Northern Ireland links but says immediate focus is on St Johnstone

Tommy Wright (right) and Michael O'Neill during time as club managers in 2010. Pic by INPHO.
Tommy Wright (right) and Michael O'Neill during time as club managers in 2010. Pic by INPHO.
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St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright says his “CV is quite strong” and feels he could be among the candidates for the Northern Ireland job.

Current Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was appointed as the new Stoke boss yesterday and will return for any Euro 2020 play-off matches in March.

Wright, the former Northern Ireland goalkeeper, is among the names being linked with the national side to succeed O’Neill beyond that.

“My focus is just on (facing) Hibs,” Wright said at a pre-match press conference before today’s home game. “I’m a great believer in whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.

“I’m sure a lot of names will be thrown about there and I’m sure there will be speculation.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of good candidates out there.

“Possibly I’ll be one of the candidates because my CV is quite strong.

“I was fortunate enough to be part of his (O’Neill’s) backroom staff at the start of his time at Northern Ireland.”

Saints have won their last two matches - at home to Hamilton and Hearts - to climb off the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership and in to ninth place.

They are one point better off than managerless Hibs, and Wright says his side are moving in the right direction.

“I’m excited about this squad we’ve got,” said Wright, who is contracted at McDiarmid Park until 2022. “We’re not out of the woods in terms of being near the bottom, but showing signs of getting better.”

The Irish Football Association released a statement yesterday that described how officials “reluctantly agreed” to allow Stoke City permission to open negotiations with O’Neill - with his achievements as international manager considered “inspirational”.

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: “We reluctantly agreed to allow Stoke to talk to Michael after they met the compensation requirements.

“Michael has now agreed terms with the EFL Championship club.

“Naturally, we are extremely disappointed that Michael is leaving us, however we are delighted all parties have agreed Michael will be in charge of the Northern Ireland team for the games against Netherlands and Germany and potential Euro 2020 play-off matches in March.

“Everyone in the GAWA family is grateful for Michael’s inspirational contribution over the past eight years.

“After a difficult start to his managerial reign with Northern Ireland he honed an excellent squad and took us to the Round of 16 at Euro 2016, our first major tournament in 30 years.

“And, of course, he also took us to a play-off for World Cup Russia 2018 and the team have performed extremely well during the Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

“He has instilled incredible belief among our players and inspired countless young people to play football and aspire to play for Northern Ireland. He has also given our wonderful fans plenty to cheer about in recent years.”

The statement included how “the Irish FA was first approached by the EFL Championship club last night.

“They asked for permission to speak to Michael about their vacant manager’s position and subsequently met compensation requirements in his contract which enabled them to enter talks.”