08 November 2019 18:35
Comment: Why Stoke fans' fears over Michael O'Neill are misinformed and they'll soon learn they've got a gem BelfastTelegraph.co.uk The world of a football supporter can often be a blinding bubble. -why-stoke-fans-fears-over-michael-oneill-are-misinformed-and-theyll-soon-learn-theyve-got-a-gem-38673309.html -830b-4765-8227-b51136e23242_embedded239141124 Email The world of a football supporter can often be a blinding bubble. Following your club is a way of life rather than a mere pass-time or a hobby. But when it becomes so all-consuming, the bigger picture can become obscured or even lost altogether. It's for that reason that I don't blame the section of Stoke supporters who aren't tripping themselves in excitement over the appointment of Michael O'Neill as the club's new manager.
There has been a mixed reaction to the 50-year-old's arrival, with some fans warning of a potential for negative tactics and others bemoaning a lack of experience in club football. One supporter on social media even likened the appointment to hiring an apprentice rather than a seasoned professional. But, we have to take into account the situation those fans find themselves in. The Potters are currently rooted to the foot of the Championship table with only eight points from their opening 15 matches. Their team has conceded more than twice the number of goals they've scored in the league this season.
Michael O'Neill's team was 'terrible to watch' and the manager displayed 'outrageous' tactics. 'Terrible'. What's lost on this supporter is the fact that these were the words of a manager in full knowledge that his star-studded Netherlands team had dodged a bullet with two late goals to beat O'Neill's well-organised Northern Ireland 2-1 at home. In fact, worries over O'Neill's tactical nous or managerial adventure are seriously misinformed. While the early years of his reign brought a familiar, backs-to-the-wall style of Northern Ireland performance, the man at the top has taken it upon himself to revolutionise a footballing culture. The new Northern Ireland team, more than any other in recent memory, is an exciting, high-pressing, quick-passing machine. If there's any doubt about that, ask Joachim Low about the treatment his Germany side experienced in the first half at Windsor Park in September. O'Neill is closer to a tactical daredevil than a 'new Tony Pulis' - another way he was described online. The 50-year-old has, since taking the reins in 2012, thoughtfully and intentionally, brought Northern Ireland up around 100 places in the FIFA World Rankings, qualifying for the Euro 2016 knockout stages along the way and missing out on a World Cup place only via a contentious play-off defeat to Switzerland. However, even those achievements can be turned into a negative through a struggling supporter's tinted glasses. All of a sudden, the only significance of those seven and a half years is that they have robbed O'Neill of vital experience of day-to-day club management. The reality, once again, is different. By coaxing the likes of Jamal Lewis, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, George Saville and Jordan Jones into the Northern Ireland squad, O'Neill has a recruitment record any Championship manager would be proud of. And with a track record of upsetting the odds, his stint in international football have provided the type of experience that will be invaluable in Stoke's battle to stave off the drop. The world of a Stoke supporter may be all doom and gloom on O'Neill's arrival but over this side of the Irish Sea, we'll bet them all that they have the right man to make that football bubble a brighter place. Belfast Telegraph Digital The possibility of St Johnstone losing Tommy Wright to Northern Ireland has returned. It is understood that Michael O'Neill will leave his role at Windsor Park to become the new manager of Stoke City, having agreed in principle a four-year contract. He is expected to take charge of Northern Ireland's last two Euro 2020 qualifiers, at home to Holland next Saturday and then away to Germany the following Tuesday, before moving on to the challenge of an English Championship relegation battle. The last time O'Neill's future was in doubt, when he was being courted by the SFA to replace Gordon Strachan, Wright was the favourite to replace him at the IFA. He and Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson are likely to be frontrunners should O'Neill complete his return to club football.