Scotland, West Brom, Rangers, the United States? Jimmy Nicholl would not rule out Michael O’Neill staying with Northern Ireland

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JIMMY NICHOLL insists he would not rule out Michael O’Neill staying on as Northern Ireland manager, despite growing interest in his services from Scotland, West Brom and the United States.

The Irish FA have granted their Scottish counterparts permission to speak to O’Neill after he was targeted as the man the SFA want to replace Gordon Strachan.

But Hampden bosses are likely to face stiff competition from West Brom in the wake of the Premier League’s sacking of Tony Pulis, whilst O’Neill has also been linked with the head coach’s role with the US national team and at Rangers.

The IFA have responded by tabling the offer of a lucrative four-year contract extension, reportedly worth £1 million per year, which would see the former Hibs and Dundee United midfielder in charge of his country until 2024.

Nicholl has acted as the 48-year-old’s assistant manager since March 2015 and accepts that the lure of the club game could be too much for O’Neill after six years in international football.

However, the former Manchester United and Rangers defender believes his countryman could yet be persuaded to keep trying to work miracles with Northern Ireland.

Nicholl, now Paul Hartley’s number two at Falkirk, said: “Just because the IFA gave permission for him to talk to the SFA doesn’t mean he’s going to move.

“Then again, does he want club football?

“If Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt, Jonny Evans, Steve Davis and all these boys turn round and say there’s another campaign in them, who’s to say he’ll go anywhere?

DECISION

“The obvious thing before was that he wanted to take his country to a World Cup, but now that’s gone he’s got a decision to make.

“It’s entirely up to him, what direction he sees himself going in. Does he want day-to-day club football, or does he enjoy the international scene.

“Maybe he’s shown his hand by turning down Sunderland, a big club.

“Does he want a big club like that, with 40,000 or 45,000 people watching and the chance to turn them around?

“Or does he want to try to turn around Scotland’s hopes of getting to a big tournament?

“Or is he going to stay with Northern Ireland?

“I don’t know myself but he’ll talk and talk and talk, and I think he’s a wee bit up in the air himself.”

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