Michael O’Neill never missed an opportunity to bring a smile to the faces of Stoke City fans during last night’s Forum in the Waddington Suite… particularly where food and drink was concerned.
The Stoke boss cut a relaxed figure throughout the evening alongside fellow panellists, vice chairman John Coates and chief executive Tony Scholes, and an audience of around 200 appeared to warm to his humour.
When asked why he chose Stoke City, he grinned: “I was warned about this question and I think I was meant to say something regarding… is it oatcakes?
“I haven’t tried them. I was told to say the opposite, but I’ll tell the truth… I haven’t tried oatcakes yet. Once we are safe.”
On recruitment, he stated: “With Northern Ireland, recruitment was just about finding somebody with a blood line to Northern Ireland, and if we couldn’t find that we tried to create it.
On managers being disciplined, he chuckled: “In international football, if you say anything to the fourth official, they give you one warning and that’s it. So on that basis, Paul Cook would be in jail now as he’s onto the fourth official from minute one to minute 90.”
On whether he prefers British or overseas players, he recalled: “The most exotic player I brought to Northern Ireland is Connor Washington from Peterborough!”
And finally, on whether he does actually drink Guinness and whiskey, as the song by Stoke fans suggests, he laughed: “I’d hoped they would be singing about my tactical genius or motivational skills.
“They are stereotyping Irishmen there! I’ve never drank whiskey in my life and only drink Guinness in Belfast.
“I’d much rather they sing about the team, to be honest, but it seems to have caught on, and hopefully it will die out!
“I have noticed that the song tends to die out when we are behind – maybe that’s the secret – I didn’t hear it at Derby for instance.”