Gary Rowett’s decision yesterday to extend his contract at Derby County until 2021 removed O’Neill’s biggest rival from the frame for the vacancy and the Potters are poised to hold talks with the Derryman ahead of their next game on Monday.
Chairman Peter Coates wants a steady hand at the controls following the sacking of Mark Hughes on Saturday and O’Neill’s combination of experience and character appeals.
His stance is believed not be wholly shared by his fellow directors.
The five-man board includes his son, John Coates, and legendary former goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Rowett led the list of younger candidates to 65-year-old O’Neill along with long shot Slaven Bilic.
As the Ireland manager hasn’t rubberstamped the verbal agreement he made with FAI chief executive John Delaney to remain in charge for the Uefa Nations League later this year and Euro 2020 qualifiers in 2019, technically Stoke do not require the association’s permission to approach their target.
There remains the prospect of O’Neill double-jobbing, taking up the Stoke position until the summer in a bid to to allay their relegation fears, but Delaney is on the record publicly as stating the Ireland manager couldn’t share his duties with a club post.