Former Portsmouth, West Ham and Norwich midfielder tipped for top Liverpool job as Jurgen Klopp successor is sought

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Gary O'Neil made 30 Pompey appearances during the Blues' 2002-03 First Division title-winning season

Former Pompey favourite Gary O’Neil has been backed as a surprise contender to replace Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager.

And it’s another Fratton Park medal-winner who believes the current Wolves manager has what it takes to step into the Anfield role - Glen Johnson.

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Liverpool are in the process of working on a successor to Klopp, who announced in January that he would be leaving the Reds at the end of the season. That has seen them linked with the likes of former midfielder Xabi Alonso - who is currently boss of German Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen - and Sporting CP manager Rúben Amorim.

The Premier League leaders are also actively pursuing one-time Blues analyst Michael Edwards to shape the post-Klopp era at Liverpool, following a previous successful stint at Anfield. Meanwhile, ex-Pompey midfielder Richard Hughes, who is currently the technical director at Bournemouth, has been linked with the vacant sporting director job at the Reds.

A Fratton Park old-boys club could therefore be in the offing at Anfield in the near future. And Johnson, who joined Liverpool from Pompey for £18m in 2009, believes O’Neil also has the capabilities to become part of the new-look Reds. When recently asked which current English manager deserves a mention in the Klopp successor discussion, the FA Cup winner with the Blues had no hesitation in tipping O’Neil following his impact at Wolves this season.

Johnson told Squawka: ‘Right now, I think there’s no doubt it has to be Gary O’Neil.

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Gary O'Neil is the current Wolves managerGary O'Neil is the current Wolves manager
Gary O'Neil is the current Wolves manager | Getty Images

‘He’s doing a great job at Wolves, from where he took over. They were really struggling, and now, they’re not winning games by a fluke, they’re dominating games and looking like a real side. And obviously they don’t have the players that the top six have.

‘So someone like that can get players firing and motivated. Then if you do the same with better players, then of course you’re to kick on. So right now it has to be Gary O’Neil.’

O’Neil, who made more than 190 appearances for Pompey and helped the Blues win promotion to the Premier League in 2003, has Wolves sitting 10th in the Premier League table. He took over at Molineux on the eve of the 2023-24 season following the shock departure of Julen Lopetegui. 

The timing, plus financial issues at Molineux, made the Black Country outfit among the favourites to go down this season. However, Wolves’ place in the top flight is almost already secure, while O’Neil has also guided the club to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they will face Coventry.

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O’Neil - who acted as Liverpool U23s assistant manager for six months in 2020 - signed a three-year-deal at Wolves in August. Reports have emerged that the club are already drawing up plans to reward the 40-year-old with a new deal to ward off any potential interest.

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