Michael O'Neill: Northern Ireland squad not shocked by manager's Stoke City appointment

Jonny Evans and Michael O'Neill
Evans has been been a mainstay of Northern Ireland's defence during O'Neill's eight years at the helm

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans says Michael O'Neill's imminent departure has not come as a shock to the squad.

O'Neill was appointed as manager of Stoke City last week but will remain in charge of Northern Ireland for the rest of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

"Michael had spoken to me before he took the job at Stoke and explained what was going on," said Evans.

"Come the end of this season, we all sort of accepted he's not going to be here anymore."

Northern Ireland host the Netherlands on Saturday in what could be O'Neill's final home match in charge.

They then conclude their Group C campaign against Germany in Frankfurt, and will potentially be involved in play-offs next March.

O'Neill, 50, took charge for Stoke's 4-2 win over fellow Championship strugglers Barnsley last Saturday before reporting for international duty at the start of the week.

"Michael spoke to us today and he explained that if there's a play-off spot that comes up, if that's the route that we have to go down, he'll be in charge of the team then," continued Evans.

"If we qualify for the tournament I think there's the possibility that he'll be with us there also."

Evans enjoying Leicester momentum

Defeat by the Netherlands on Saturday would end Northern Ireland's hopes of automatic qualification if Germany beat Belarus in Monchengladbach on the same day.

However it would not completely end Northern Irish ambition of reaching a second consecutive European Championship with a play-off berth still up for grabs.

leicester Arsenal
Evans helped Leicester to a 2-0 win over Arsenal last Saturday

Centre-back Evans, 31, is vital to his country's qualification ambitions and has enjoyed an excellent season so far with Leicester City.

The former Manchester United and West Brom defender has been a regular at the heart of the Foxes' back four, helping Brendan Rodgers' side reach second place in the Premiership by November's international break.

"It's going well at the moment and it's been a great couple of weeks for us," reflected Evans.

"When the team is performing well, it allows players within that to shine."

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