Michael O'Neill: Gerry Armstrong says NI boss will be a 'tough act to follow'

Michael O'Neill
O'Neill guided Northern Ireland to the finals of Euro 2016 in France

Former Northern Ireland striker Gerry Armstrong believes new Stoke City manager Michael O'Neill's tactical nous is his biggest strength.

Armstrong was reacting to news that O'Neill will carry on in his role as Northern Ireland boss despite his appointment by The Potters on Friday.

The 50-year-old has taken over at the Championship club immediately, but will manage NI for their final two qualifiers and any play-off in March.

"He's been excellent," said Armstrong.

"He's a great man-manager and a great tactician - he's had to be because of the teams he has played against and got results against for Northern Ireland.

"His appointment took me by surprise because I heard him talking during the week about the upcoming Northern Ireland games and how he was concentrating fully on those.

"He has done a fantastic job for Northern Ireland and I will be disappointed to lose him - it will be a tough ask for whoever follows him."

'He'll give young players a chance'

O'Neill left Shamrock Rovers to become Northern Ireland manager in December 2011 and guided the international side to the 2016 Euro finals before almost qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

He will now have an opportunity to help NI qualify for the 2020 Euros as he will remain in charge for the team's two final qualifiers later this month, against the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the Euro play-offs in March if NI are involved.

Stoke are currently bottom of the Championship, having won just two of their opening 15 games, but Armstrong has backed O'Neill to improve the side.

"I believe Michael has the skills and attitude to turn it round, and he will bring in the players that he needs to do that," he added.

"He will pick up on the squad very quickly, give young players their chance and make them believe in themselves, as he has done that very well for Northern Ireland."

O'Neill could manage in the Premier League - Taggart

Gerry Taggart
Taggart made over 50 appearances for Stoke City

Former Northern Ireland and Stoke City defender Gerry Taggart has said he is not surprised that the Championship club have appointed O'Neill.

Taggart, who won 51 international caps and spent three seasons at The Potters, has backed the ex-Shamrock Rovers boss to be a success at the Potters.

"Michael has been in the news about taking on jobs for a while now. He has done a fantastic job with Northern Ireland and, in my opinion, he's a manager who could easily manage in the Premier League," Taggart said.

"I'm not surprised at all that a club like Stoke would be interested in his services."

Taggart added: "Most importantly, especially with Northern Ireland, is that he has dragged every last ounce out of those players to get them where they are at the minute, which is in contention to qualify for Euro 2020.

"All the players are singing from the same hymn sheet and they all buy in into what he was trying to do. That's one of the most important things for any dressing-room."

Taggart is confident O'Neill will be able to transfer the success he has enjoyed at international level to the club game.

"First and foremost, what a manager has to do is understand the psyche of any football club," said the former Leicester centre-half.

"What the fans expect and what the board expects - and he has to portray that to the players so that they buy into it. He's a manager who has made his name in international football, but the players he has playing for him speak very highly of him."

We should be 'cut-throat' and move on - Feeney

Warren Feeney
Feeney made 46 appearances for Northern Ireland

Former Northern Ireland striker Warren Feeney, meanwhile, has warned that O'Neill carrying out the roles of Stoke and Northern Ireland manager at the same time will be difficult.

The current Ards boss said he is wary of the arrangement that has been made between The Potters and the Irish FA.

"To me you should be cut-throat about it, shake hands and just move on," he said.

"Good luck to Michael because he has done an absolutely fantastic job, but let's look forward to a different process.

"I'm looking at it from a football point of view, If that was two clubs then that's the way it would be. If he has gone to Stoke, then we have to move on.

"Also, Stoke fans don't wait - they are probably one of the most restless groups of fans you can get, so it will be difficult for Michael there."