Stoke City manager

Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has paved the way for Northern Ireland to intensify their pursuit of Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson, Football Insider understands.

O’Neill has permanently left the role after eight years in charge with March’s postponed Euros qualifier with Bosnia-Herzegovina set to be rescheduled for the autumn.

A source at the Northern Ireland FA has told Football Insider that they are preparing to make an approach for Robinson.

He is the number one target to replace O’Neill are the governing body are ready to activate the £150,000 release clause in his ‘Well contract.

The 45-year-old has been among the front runners for the position ever since O’Neill decided to join Stoke.

Robinson, who is in his third season in charge of Motherwell, is highly regarded in coaching circles for the impressive job he has done so far at Fir Park.

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He has transformed the club’s fortunes since taking over in March 2017, taking them to two cup finals in his first season in charge.

The Fir Park outfit sit third in this season’s suspended Scottish Premiership, behind only Celtic and Rangers.

Motherwell are reluctant to lose Robinson, but they have long been braced for an official approach from the IFA.

O’Neill was appointed Northern Ireland manager in December 2011 and guided his country to the Euro 2016 finals in France.

His success in the international set-up led to his appointment at Stoke in November.

However, O’Neill was set to see the current qualification campaign through to its conclusion before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

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