LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Michael O’Neill joined Stoke City as manager on a three-and-a-half year contract on Friday while also remaining in charge of Northern Ireland for upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers and a potential playoff in March next year.
The Championship (second tier) side sacked Nathan Jones last week and 50-year-old O’Neill, who has been with Northern Ireland for eight years, is their fifth manager in two years since relegation from the Premier League.
O’Neill attended training on Friday and will take charge of Stoke, who are languishing at the bottom of the standings after losing 11 of 15 games, at Barnsley on Saturday.
“I would say to the supporters to stick with the team,” O’Neill told the stokecityfc.com. “I know it has been difficult for them, particularly this last couple of years having come out of the Premier League.
“Our ambition is certainly in the short term to climb up the Championship but to build a team which is capable of challenging to go back to the Premier League.”
Northern Ireland are third in Group C but face an uphill battle to qualify in the top two with a game against leaders Netherlands at Windsor Park on Nov. 16 and then second placed Germany the following Tuesday.
O’Neill led Northern Ireland to a surprise last-16 berth at Euro 2016 and they reached the playoffs for last year’s World Cup.
“Naturally, we are extremely disappointed that Michael is leaving us,” Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said in a statement.
“However we are delighted all parties have agreed Michael will be in charge of the Northern Ireland team for the games against Netherlands and Germany and potential Euro 2020 playoff matches next March.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)