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Next Northern Ireland manager: Several ‘former players linked with vacant post’

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The Northern Ireland national team look set to begin their search for a new manager upon the departure of Michael O’Neill.

Stoke City boss O’Neill was ready to lead the nation in the Euro 2020 play-offs. But those games have since been postponed, as has the tournament itself.

Northern Ireland’s meeting with Bosnia has been put back, forcing O’Neill to pledge his full loyalty to Championship side Stoke.

His departure has certainly left a huge gap in the national setup. O’Neill took his time to become popular at Windsor Park, but he leaves with his head held high.

After a shaky start, the Portadown man then guided his country to their first ever European Championships. The nation progressed to the knockout stages, but were eventually beaten by Wales in a closely-fought encounter.

The role may not be filled immediately, but there are numerous candidates when the time arises.

Several former players are seemingly leading the race. There are, however, many surprise candidates that could take over the exciting role.

Former Northern Ireland player Tommy Wright is now favourite for the position after leaving his role at Scottish outfit St Johnstone. The 56-year-old left after seven years in charge at the Perth outfit. 

He still had two years remaining on his contract, but could now take over his country.

Wright led St Johnstone to their first ever Scottish Cup title in 2014. He also led the club to several top-six finishes, while they sat seventh in the Scottish Premiership before the suspension of the season in March.

Wright is currently 4/6 to become the next Northern Ireland manager.

Also a strong contender is Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson. Robinson has spent several years as O’Neill’s assistant, and could receive a promotion.

Robinson is available at 2/1 to take over next.

Northern Ireland Under-21 manager Ian Baraclough may similarly receive a promotion to the national setup. He is currently 7/1 to take over from O’Neill.

Another national team coach in Austin MacPhee is available at 16/1.

Also currently 16/1 is Oran Kearney. The Irish Premiership recently returned to Coleraine after a spell with St Mirren in Scotland.

Further ex-Northern Ireland internationals may also be under consideration. They include record goalscorer David Healy and former midfielder Grant McCann.

Currently managing Irish Premiership side Linfield, Healy is currently 20/1 to become the nation’s next manager. Hull City boss McCann is available at 33/1.

Outsiders include Brendan Rodgers and Arsene Wenger at 80/1 and 150/1 respectively.

Sports Journalism graduate, Liverpool and Northern Ireland fan. Currently working as a freelance journalist for GOAL, while I am a graduate of the FISU Young Reporters Programme at the 2019 Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Can follow me on Twitter or view my linkdin biography or contact me via my email .

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