Next Northern Ireland Manager Odds: Two Joint-Favourites in the Betting
Northern Ireland are on the lookout for a new manager and UK betting sites believe there are three leading contenders for the role.
The Irish FA parted company with Ian Baraclough last month. Formerly the country’s Under-21 manager, he was handed the top position when Michael O’Neill vacated it in the summer of 2020. But there was little to cheer during Baraclough’s two-year tenure.
Northern Ireland were relegated to League C of the UEFA Nations League after finishing bottom of their group in 2020/21.
Meanwhile, they missed out on the European Championship after losing, albeit narrowly, to Slovakia in the play-off final.
Northern Ireland then finished third in their World Cup qualification group - about par for the course - but were disappointing in the most recent edition of the Nations League, winning only one of their six matches against Greece, Kosovo and Cyprus.
The focus now will be on Euro 2024 qualifying, which begins in March. Northern Ireland have been drawn alongside Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and San Marino - a kinder group on paper than some of the alternatives.
Who will be in charge of the national team at that point? Let’s take a look at the top contenders for the job.
O’Neill Return Mooted After Spell In Club Game
Michael O’Neill’s eight-and-a-half-year spell in charge of Northern Ireland between 2011 and 2020 was largely successful.
After some impressive results in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Northern Ireland booked their place at Euro 2016 by finishing top of their group ahead of Romania, Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands and Greece.
The European Championship was expanded that year, but Northern Ireland would have qualified for any previous edition as group winners.
O’Neill’s side did not just make up the numbers in France: a 2-0 victory over Ukraine saw them advance to the knockout phase as one of the best third-place finishers.
Their journey came to an end with defeat by Wales in the round of 16, but Northern Ireland fans have fond memories of that summer.
O’Neill has been out of work since he was sacked by Stoke in August. The 11/8 joint-favourite on football betting sites may soon have a big decision to make on whether to return for a second spell at the helm of his country.
Robinson Backed In To Joint-Favourtism
St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson has been heavily linked with the Northern Ireland vacancy as the Scottish side are in impressive form this season, currently sitting just one point shy of third place in the Premiership.
Having been capped just seven times by Northern Ireland during a playing career largely spent at Bournemouth and Luton, Robinson is making more of a name for himself as a promising young coach in Scottish football.
In a previous role he guided Motherwell to the Scottish League Cup final and the Scottish Cup final in the same season, only to be thwarted by Celtic on both occasions.
He has also managed Oldham and Morecambe in England’s lower leagues, but has excelled in Scotland’s top flight with St Mirren seemingly in contention for European qualification should they sustain their bright start to the season.
Lisburn native Robinson has been backed in from 16/1 to 11/8 joint-favourite.
Lennon Out Of Work Following Stint In Cyprus
Neil Lennon won 40 caps during his playing days and has plenty of managerial experience, having been handed the reins at Celtic in 2010.
He won five Scottish Premiership titles, four Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup across two spells at Parkhead, while he also led his team into European competition on several occasions.
Lennon’s most recent job was short-lived: appointed as the head coach of the Cypriot outfit Omonia Nicosia in March, he was sacked recently after a home defeat by promoted side Nea Salamis Famagusta.
Lennon’s team did at least provide Manchester United a challenge home and away in the Europa League last month.
Lennon can be backed at 12/1 with betting apps to replace Baraclough.
Could Healy Be Prised Away From Linfield?
David Healy is, by some distance, Northern Ireland’s highest all-time scorer with 36 goals.
Described by Michael O’Neill as an “iconic player” when he announced his international retirement in 2013, the former Preston North End, Leeds United and Fulham striker is priced at 8/1 by BetVictor to be the next Northern Ireland manager.
Healy has been in charge of Northern Irish club side Linfield since 2015, during which time he has five NIFL Premiership titles, two Irish Cups and a League Cup.
Linfield have made a poor start to the current campaign though, and that could harm Healy’s chances of succeeding Baraclough.
Moreover, the man himself cast doubt on whether he would be chosen by the Irish FA - although he stopped short of ruling himself out.
“Further down the line I’d imagine there’s a job there you’d want to take,” he said. “At the minute, with the calibre of coaches and managers who will be linked to it, I’d imagine there will be quite a few more in demand who want the job.”
Wright Among Outsiders For Job
There is a big drop in the market to the next candidates, with Tommy Wright and Kenny Shiels available at 16/1 and 20/1 respectively.
Wright is best known for his seven-year spell with Scottish side St Johnstone, whom he led to three consecutive top-four finishes in the Premiership and Scottish Cup glory for the first time in the club’s history.
Wright has been out of work since a stint with Kilmarnock last year while Shiels guided the Northern Ireland women's team to the Euros and is highly thought-of by the IFA.
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