STOKE CITY manager Michael O'Neill has explained how he managed to keep a hold of striker Tyrese Campbell after fending off interest from Celtic and Rangers.

The former Nothern Ireland boss took charge of the English Championship club in November 2019 and expected Campbell to leave for Scotland with his contract running down.

Having to run the rule over his entire first-team squad, O'Neill admitted that Campbell had "fallen through the cracks" as he set about his revamp at the Brittania Stadium.

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After a bit of advice from his assistant Billy McKinlay, the Stoke boss was convinced to throw his striker back into the starting XI and the decision paid off immediately.

Campbell rediscovered his best form and earned a contract extension - but O'Neill concedes it all could have ended very differently for the forward.

He told the Athletic: "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. 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.

Glasgow Times:

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"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.”