Michael O’Neill expects to sign new contract with Northern Ireland shortly

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has confirmed he expects to sign a new contract with the Irish Football Association, having turned down the chance to become the next Scotland boss.

Edinburgh-based O’Neill last week held talks with the Scottish Football Association regarding its vacancy but has elected to remain with Northern Ireland.

The 48-year-old was appointed by the IFA in December 2011 and is understood to have been offered improved terms on a deal that will run until 2024.

“We had very positive discussions before Christmas and I envisage now we’ll pick up from where we left off,” O’Neill told Press Association Sport.

“It’s not in terms of negotiations, there’s just things that need to be sorted.

“The discussions were very, very positive so I look forward to having something to announce in the coming days.”

O’Neill guided the Northern Irish to the last 16 stages at Euro 2016, their first major tournament in 30 years, and the nation then progressed to a play-off for the 2018 World Cup in November.

Michael O'Neill led Northern Ireland to the last 16 at Euro 2016

Michael O’Neill led Northern Ireland to the last 16 at Euro 2016 (Jonathan Brady/PA)A controversial penalty in the first leg ultimately sent Switzerland through and there were fears O’Neill could then depart Northern Ireland, with the SFA identifying him as its preferred candidate to succeed Gordon Strachan.

However, it took the organisation two months to agree to pay the stipulated £500,000 compensation figure, and O’Neill had already held discussions with the IFA about extending his stay in the aftermath of the tie with the Swiss.

On why he rejected the Scottish offer, O’Neill added: “There wasn’t just one factor, of course it was a difficult decision.

“I live there in Scotland, know Scottish football very well, follow it very closely. It was tempting but ultimately I’ve been in this job six years and I’ve seen a lot of progression with the national team.

“Ultimately it’s very difficult once you’ve led your own country to leave for another country.”

O’Neill was speaking after attending the UEFA Nations League draw in Switzerland where Northern Ireland were pitted against Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group Three of League B.

Having agreed to remain as Northern Ireland’s manager, O’Neill will now hope his key senior players can be convinced to shelve international retirement plans.

Gareth McAuley, who had previously said he would consider his international future if O’Neill left, and Chris Brunt are amongst those the Northern Irish boss wants to stay on.

“I’ve spoken to most of the lads in question and discussions have been very, very positive,” he added.

Gareth McAuley is a staunch supporter of O'Neill
Gareth McAuley is a staunch supporter of O’Neill (Niall Carson/PA)

“Our players have had a great four years. Some played a lot of international football and didn’t have too many positives, too many great memories, and going forward they want it to last as long as possible.”

Northern Ireland have been drawn into Group Three of League B in the UEFA Nations League, and will play Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Captain Steven Davis feels Northern Ireland can take a positive mindset into the inaugural competition.

“We are playing teams in and around us in terms of world rankings so I expect the games to be close and competitive. They will be two good teams to play against,” he said on www.irishfa.com.

Before the new tournament starts in the 2018-2019 campaign, Northern Ireland are set to play friendlies against South Korea, Panama and Costa Rica.

“It will be great to get back together following the disappointment in Switzerland,” Davis said.

“It will be good to start preparing for the Nations League and to get the World Cup play-off defeat fully out of our system.”

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