Sun­der­land con­sider move for North­ern Ire­land boss O’Neill

BLACK CATS FO­CUS

Sunderland Echo - - Football - By Phil Smith philip.smith@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @Phil__Smith

Michael O’Neill is un­der se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion as Sun­der­land con­tinue their search for a new man­ager.

O’Neill is con­sid­er­ing his fu­ture as North­ern Ire­land boss, hav­ing nar­rowly missed out on qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the World Cup. His side drew 0-0 with Switzer­land on Sun­day night af­ter a 1-0 de­feat in Belfast days ear­lier. Re­ports sug­gest that North­ern Ire­land hope to tie him down to a new con­tract, while he is also un­der­stood to be Scot­land’s num­ber one pref­er­ence to suc­ceed Gor­don Stra­chan.

But the Black Cats are keen on the 48-year-old and their in­ter­est per­haps ex­plains the pro­tracted search for a new man­ager, now in its third week.

O’Neill’s out­stand­ing achieve­ments in re­cent years have caught Sun­der­land’s at­ten­tion as they look to fight back from the bot­tom of the league. Barns­ley boss Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom re­mains a lead­ing con­tender, while Ally McCoist is also in the frame.

The Black Cats are thought to have whit­tled their short­list down to four names, in­clud­ing Heck­ing­bot­tom, for­mer Rangers boss Ally McCoist and O’Neill.

Meet­ings have been held in Manch­ester and Leeds in re­cent days, with sug­ges­tions that Heck­ing­bot­tom is a clear front-run­ner played down by club sources.

No of­fi­cial ap­proach has been made for the Barns­ley boss two weeks af­ter the de­par­ture of for­mer man­ager Si­mon Grayson.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Bain is thought to still be in the process of meet­ing po­ten­tial can­di­dates and, while there re­mains some hope that an ap­point­ment can be sealed in time for the crunch home clash with Mill­wall on Satur­day, Rob­bie Stock­dale lead­ing the team at the Sta­dium of Light re­mains a strong pos­si­bil­ity.

Stock­dale has been lead­ing train­ing this week af­ter joint care­taker boss Billy McKin­lay left to join David Moyes at West Ham United.

While Bain con­tin­ues to weigh up his op­tions, as­sisted by Academy chief Jimmy Sin­clair, Heck­ing­bot­tom is un­doubt­edly in the frame to suc­ceed Grayson.

Heck­ing­bot­tom is thought to be in­ter­ested in the post, though he has spo­ken reg­u­larly of his hap­pi­ness at his boy­hood club.

For­mer Sun­der­land mid­fielder Dwight Yorke, mean­while, told talkS­port yes­ter­day that he had hoped to hold dis­cus­sions about the va­cancy.

Yorke has spo­ken of his de­sire to man­age the Black Cats in the past, hav­ing had three years on Wear­side as a player and help­ing the club win pro­mo­tion in 2007.

Ex-Manch­ester United and As­ton Villa star Yorke (pic­tured, in­set) said the club was in need of some­thing ‘new and ex­cit­ing’. “I have tried to get hold of Martin Bain and left a mes­sage or two to see if there is any come­back,” Yorke said. “The place needs a lift, some­thing new, some­thing ex­cit­ing. They have gone for ex­pe­ri­ence in the past.

“They have tried that and it hasn’t quite worked out.

“Why not give it to some­one new who is re­ally ea­ger to prove he can do the job?

“An in­ter­view would be nice. I will still con­tinue to work at that and see where I get.”

North­ern Ire­land boss Michael O’Neill is a tar­get for Scot­land, but Sun­der­land are con­sid­er­ing a move too.

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