League table

Never an option to leave immediately

Leaving before these two games was not an option.

“That would not have been the right thing to do and I was clear with Stoke about that from the start.”

While taking the NI side for the Dutch and German games was always O’Neill’s intention, he revealed it was the Irish FA that requested he remains in charge for any potential playoff matches in March.

During the negotiations it then became clear that there was a possibility of me taking the playoff – I think the IFA requested that,” continued O’Neill, who won his first game in charge of Stoke against Barnsley last week.

The reality of the situation is that I will have five months of club football behind me before I take that game. The playoff will be a quick turnaround – it’s a Thursday game which will mean three days of preparation.

I have proved that I am quite adept at doing that, and it would have been very difficult for a new manager to go straight into a playoff scenario.

Hopefully if that situation does arrive, and we don’t qualify through these next two games, then we will be in a healthy position and ready to give it our best in March to qualify.”

Could O’Neill be in charge of Northern Ireland in 5 months time?

Michael O’Neill on the prospect of being in charge of Northern Ireland for the play off games in March.

O’Neill speaking to Talksport

“There have been discussions between Stoke and the Irish FA regarding that,

Obviously the Stoke situation just arose last week so I wasn’t in a position not to take these two games or indeed I wouldn’t have done that.

Stoke obviously wanted me in for the Barnsley game last weekend which I managed to go in and take with just one day’s preparation. It was a challenging game to take but obviously a good result for us.

Then these two games will take care of themselves.

The play-off game is five months away and people have talked about whether it’s feasible to do it.

The reality of the situation is that, five months from now we will turn up on a Sunday and play on a Thursday and we either go forward to a play-off final or we’ll be knocked out.

The actual time frame involved is not as hectic or as gruelling as people imagine.

And as a Northern Ireland manager you’re not watching 100 players to pick 25, you’re kind of watching 26 to pick 25. I do think it’s feasible for me to do the play-off anyway.

Harry Souttar is on fire

Harry Souttar’s senior international career could not have started any better

Harry Souttar – who made his Socceroos debut on Thursday against Nepal – made it four goals in two games to round off an unbelievable start to his international career.

Graham Arnold’s side sit top of Group B in the Asia World Cup Qualification Group with nine points from three games, scoring 15 goals in the process.

Harry Souttar has nothing to prove to anyone

Harry Souttar proved his choice to play for Australia was justified

Souttar spoke to the Blackpool Gazette after his dream debut for the Australian senior side

“I don’t think I’ve got to prove to anyone that it’s the right choice for me. I know it’s the right choice for me.

“I know I’ve got the backing of my family. With my brother playing for Scotland (Heart of Midlothian centre-back John), it’s nice we can chat about it and chat about different things

“I know I’ve made my mum proud and that’s all I wanted to do.

“A friendly or something would be good for the family but there’s a long road ahead.”

“The culture is similar to here, that’s why it’s helped me settle in,” he said.

“Everyone is down to earth, everyone is great and working towards the same goal.

It’s just about hard work really and that’s similar to here. Everyone is buying into the same ethos.

“When the opportunity was there I had to take it. It’s a chance to play with world- class players.”

Reports Etebo pulls out of Nigeria side due to injury.

Has Etebo withdrew from Nigeria national side due to an injury

Stoke City fans will be worried over reports emanating from a section of the Nigerian press suggesting that Oghenekaro Etebo withdrew from the Super Eagles squad to face Brazil on account of injury.

All Nigeria soccer exclusively reported that the former Warri Wolves star pulled out of the squad due to personal reasons.

He flew into Lagos on Monday hoping to round off the activities that brought him to Nigeria latest Wednesday before joining up with his international teammates, but that wasn’t the case and he had no choice than to withdraw from the squad after consultations with the Super Eagles technical crew.

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