Three Premier League clubs that could do with the Michael O’Neill factor

With his time seemingly up with the IFA, we look at what’s next for the Northern Ireland manager…


Northern Ireland fell to a crushing two-legged defeat at the hands of Ovidiu Hategan, sorry – Switzerland – in their World Cup play-off.

It’s not disrespectful to say that they’ve largely overachieved given the stature of opposition they’ve come up against – and it seems that Michael O’Neill has done all he can for the IFA.

The Premier League is a race to the shop window in terms of advertising flashy European wingers that will give you no end product. It’s a hotbed for made up words that are used to describe average midfielders with long hair who can pass the ball in three different directions.

As a gorgeous counterpoint, the top tier of English football could do with the Portadown native barking out orders on the touchline.

Here are the three clubs who should consider him as their next manager.

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Swansea City

We’re at the stage of the year where picking up points is still valuable. Paul Clement failed time and time again with Derby County when it came down to crunch clashes towards the end of the season and there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen again here.

Yes, he notched four wins in the last five in 2017, but that new manager lift that players get always seems devoid of logic.

The Swans have the second worst attacking record through eleven games and still spend their time building up carefully-knitted attacking patterns, before losing the ball and conceding stupid goals through defensive lapses.

Michael O’Neill would enhance the side’s showings considerably.

It might go against the grain of the style they’ve been trying to build up since their promotion to the top flight, but it’s a results business and nobody on that board will worry too much about the football once their top-flight status is secured.

West Bromwich Albion

It almost makes too much sense. Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans in his back four? Come on. What’s the cornerstone of the Northern Irish defence is freely available at another club whose current manager has drilled them in similar fashion.

The Baggies are potentially in danger of the drop and a lack of a bedding in period would further improve the chances of O’Neill landing this job.

Tony Pulis is Tony Pulis. West Brom will eventually get sick of him. Stoke did. Crystal Palace did.

That’s not to say they should inherit notions of the continent and start expansive, free-flowing football at the Hawthorns; more so that they should pass the torch to a fresher commodity.

They’ve got sprinkles of attacking flair in Nacer Chadli to complement the resolute midfield and bulky back four. James McClean, who is well-drilled at international level in how to chase lost causes, could do the same here. Never has a potential appointment made so much sense.

Stoke City

You will struggle to find anyone who believes Mark Hughes has done a bad job at Stoke. If anything, he’s been consistent.

In the shadow of Pulis, Hughes was always going to be welcome to try and adopt a friendlier style of play that’s allowed players to express themselves. He’s added pace, skill and an eye for goal, yet the Potters seem stuck in an endless rut of mediocrity.

It might be too early to say it’s not working, and three ninth-place finishes aren’t to be sniffed at when you consider the budget gap between the top six and the remainder. However, a revert to ‘Pulis ball’ might not be the worst idea in this case.

The one thing everyone says about Michael O’Neill when they’ve worked with him, is that his enthusiasm is infectious.

People would go through walls for him.

If you can implement that mentality and bring back some of the hard-hitting antics that gave wind to the now infamous clichés about playing in Stoke midweek, you might be onto something. You have the creativity at the top end of the pitch to match.

If anyone can find a balance in this squad, it may be the 48-year-old.

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