No comment - O'Neill silent on Stoke speculation

No comment - O'Neill silent on Stoke speculation

However, reports emerging over the past 24 hours indicate that Espanyol coach Quique Sánchez Flores is the preferred man to take over at the Potters, with O'Neill believed to be the club's second choice.

"It's like being engaged - you shouldn't be going out with other people".

The Irish Independent report that former Sunderland manager O'Neill was set to meet with Stoke top brass last night.

Stoke native Coates is a self-made billionaire, restricting his board to just four colleagues, including his son John and Stoke and England legend Gordon Banks, and has opted against following the modern model of appointing a director of football to oversee transfer activity.

The FAI insisted that yesterday was no different to any other day, and that O'Neill would be flying to the UEFA Nations League draw later this month as Irish manager.

Ireland may have only friendlies scheduled until the Uefa Nations Cup kicks off in September, yet the financial risk of losing their Premier League status means the new manager's focus can not be distracted by extra-curricular activities.

The 65-year-old fits the bill because of his experience at top-flight level and the fact he has always been held in high regard by the Stoke hierarchy.

Hughes was sacked last weekend after defeat by Coventry
Hughes was sacked last weekend after defeat by CoventryLINDSEY PARNABY GETTY IMAGES

Later this evening, O'Neill, along with his assistant Roy Keane, are due to attend the Soccer Writers' Awards in Dublin.

'Martin O'Neill has agreed a contract extension and will continue as the Republic of Ireland manager for the EURO 2020 campaign!' - A tweet from the FAI's account read on October 5.

.

Should Keane not leave then Steve Walford, Steve Guppy and Seamus McDonagh are in contention for roles.

Speaking to the News At One on RTÉ Radio 1, Eamon Dunphy said: "It's embarrassing for the FAI".

Those comments were aired in the immediate aftermath of Ireland's hammering at the hands of Denmark in the November World Cup play-off.

RTE pundit Dunphy has been critical of O'Neill in the past but this time has taken aim at the association. While it was thought that Keane might stay with the FAI in a relatively smooth succession deal, the paper reports that Keane is likely to follow O'Neill across the water.

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