Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill says Stoke job was too difficult to turn down
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By Adam Goodwin
Last Updated: 13/11/19 8:59am
Michael O'Neill admits it was a tough decision to leave Northern Ireland, but says Stoke City was too much of an attractive proposition to turn down.
The 50-year-old took the Potters job last week, after being in charge of his home nation for nearly eight years.
Having been appointed manager of the Championship club on Friday, he won his first game in charge on Saturday as his new side beat Barnsley 4-2.
O'Neill admits that, despite being offered other managerial roles during his time as Northern Ireland manager, Stoke was the right fit for him.
"This is my fourth campaign as an international manager. It's been an immensely challenging job but an extremely rewarding job as well," he exclusively told Sky Sports.
"The opportunity to manage your country probably only comes around once in your career, and if you said to me when I took it that I'd be in this position eight years later I certainly wouldn't have expected that.
"Throughout that time there have been opportunities for me to leave. Having looked under the bonnet at Stoke and getting to know the owners, it's a very attractive job.
"It's a big club that previously spent 10 years in the Premier League. Whilst they're not in that position now, there's a lot of things in place to aspire to get back to that level.
"When you're coming out of international football, especially with an association like Northern Ireland where I've developed a lot of trust and I've got a lot of control and do a lot of the decision making, it was important that the ownership model was right for me and the stability of the club was there.
"With Peter and John Coates, it's very much a family club, it was clear how much the club means to them which is very important as well.
"That's the type of model I was looking for, as opposed to a club with overseas ownership - you hear horror stories in the game.
"Ultimately, it was the potential of the club and the quality of the playing staff."
From Holland and Germany to Wigan and Cardiff - "It's different!"
O'Neill will be in the dugout for Northern Ireland's last two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Holland and Germany, both live on Sky Sports, before taking charge of Stoke's Championship fixtures against Wigan and Cardiff.
Both need wins, with Northern Ireland looking for Euro 2020 qualification and Stoke 23rd in the Championship, and O'Neill admits that it is a slightly unusual scenario.
"It's different," O'Neill said when questioned on the differerence in calibre between the teams he will be face in both jobs.
"The key to it is to be consistent and give the players clarity so they know what their jobs are and they know their responsibilities individually and collectively.
"[Northern Ireland] have a very difficult game against Holland here on Saturday night but the work we do in the three days leading up to the game will be a repetition of the work we've done consistently over the last eight years.
"I look forward to these games because we've shown already in this campaign in both the Germany and the Netherlands game away that we have traded blow for blow against both these teams.
"There's a lot of positives to take but we have to just go into these games doing everything we can to get the two most positives results we can get that could possibly qualify us.
There have been no talks of whether O'Neill will remain with Northern Ireland beyond these two qualifiers and, if they do qualify for the Euro 2020, there is the possibility that he will remain in charge of the national side for the finals.
But he said he hasn't thought about it and is just aiming to guide the The Green and White Army to their second international under his leadership.
"We won't go there just yet! It's not something I've considered, I'll just be delighted if Northern Ireland qualify."