Legendary former Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill claims he salvaged a deal at current club Stoke City for striker Tyrese Campbell amid interest from Rangers.
The ex-Ulster gaffer was speaking about the explosive forward as he revealed Tyrese, 20, was on his way out of the club when he took over at the Britannia in November 2019.
But after giving the striker a chance in his Stoke team and being rewarded with goals early on in O’Neill’s tenure, Campbell would eventually sign a four-and-a-half-year deal with Stoke in January.
O’Neill would later visit Scotland to watch Rangers take on Hearts and joked about a meeting with legendary Ibrox figure John Greig and Rangers’ “high hopes” to sign the forward.
“Tyrese was going out of the club when I came. He’d checked out; six months to go, could sign a pre-contract, go cross-border,” said O’Neill [the Athletic].
“There was interest in him from both Celtic and Rangers.
“We were looking at compensation of £400,000. I had him in, spoke to him, but I didn’t have the time to invest time in Tyrese. I was busy trying to assess the other 28 players we had.
“In the first few weeks, he was not involved that much. Then we brought him in to training and one day they did some finishing work. I said to Billy, ‘What was that like?’
“He said, ‘Tyrese is the best finisher at the club’. I said, ‘Right. OK’.
“We did another finishing drill on Christmas Eve and I put Ty in the squad for Boxing Day. He came on against Sheffield Wednesday and scored the equaliser, then we won the game.
“He then played against Huddersfield on New Year’s Day and scored twice. He was a different boy. Two weeks later he signed a new contract, and he’s not looked back.
“He was a perfect example of a player who’d fallen through the cracks a bit because of the volume of players.
“It was like signing a really good young player. I was at Hearts v Rangers after that.
“I was in the boardroom and [Rangers director] John Greig came over to me and said, ‘You kept your striker, didn’t you?’ I said, ‘Aye’. He was laughing.
“Rangers had high hopes. It would have been easy for Tyrese to leave.”
This season has seen Campbell emerge as a key player for the Potters, with the explosive forward netting seven goals and laying on seven assists in 18 games this campaign.
It’s not the first time that someone close to Campbell has discussed his prospective move to Rangers either – his father Kevin confirmed that the Gers came close earlier in the year.