‘I’ll need to wear a balaclava when I’m out in Edinburgh’, says Michael O’Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
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Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has joked he will need to wear a “balaclava” next time he visits his home city of Edinburgh after turning down the Scotland job.

The 48-year-old yesterday confirmed he had agreed to a new contract to remain manager of Northern Ireland until 2024.

The former Hibs and Dundee United player admitted to being seriously tempted by the role in charge of Scotland.

O’Neill held talks with the Scottish FA, but ultimately turned down the chance to succeed Gordon Strachan.

He lives in the Capital and commutes to lead Northern Ireland at international level.

Speaking at yesterday’s inaugural Nations League draw in Switzerland, O’Neill laughed after being seated next to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan.

“I’m not anticipating any problems in Edinburgh,” he said.

“I’l be wearing a woolly heat and a balaclava, so nobody sees me.

The SFA did what they could. It’s as simple as that.

“People talked about the timeframe and the fact the decision was based around a financial element.

“It wasn’t based around that because the Irish FA made an offer to me within a week of the Switzerland game.

“If it had been purely down to a financial element, I would have signed that contract there and then.

“The talks I had with Stewart Regan and Mr (Alan) McRae were positive. I weighed everything up and just felt the right thing to do was to stay with Northern Ireland.

“That’s no slight on Scotland at all, because it’s a very tempting job.

“I just felt I had been in the Northern Ireland job for six years and that there were opportunities to grow the team.

“The IFA have also given me an enormous amount of power to grow the game and have a say in how it’s structured.”

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