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Stoke make official approach for Northern Ireland manager O’Neill

Stoke have made an official approach for Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, the Irish Football Association has announced.

The Potters have been linked with a host of potential replacements since sacking Nathan Jones last week and have now contacted the IFA about their long-serving boss.

In a short statement released to the PA news agency, the IFA said: “The Irish Football Association has been approached by EFL Championship club Stoke City who are seeking permission to speak to Michael O’Neill about their vacant manager’s position.”

Netherlands v Northern Ireland – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group C – Stadion Feijenoord

Michael O’Neill, left, took charge of Northern Ireland in 2011 (John Walton/PA)

O’Neill has been in charge of his national side since December 2011 and guided them to their first major tournament in 30 years when qualifying for Euro 2016.

They still have a chance of reaching next year’s tournament too, sitting third in Group C behind Holland and Germany and face the daunting prospect of games against both powerhouses this month.

Regardless of those results, a play-off place seems likely for Northern Ireland, which will surely factor into the 50-year-old’s thinking as he ponders the prospect of taking over the Championship strugglers.

Speaking at Wednesday’s squad announcement in Belfast, O’Neill was asked about potential interest from Stoke.

“It is always flattering. It is better to be linked than not linked, let’s be honest,” said O’Neill, who turned was unsuccessfully targeted by Scotland last year.

“It it is not a distraction for me. It is something that has been ongoing for a number of years, and the focus has been on preparing for next week’s games.

“As I have always said, if and when a situation arises, then you look at that scenario at that moment in time. But right now, my focus is obviously on the two games that lie ahead.”