The growing belief Martin O’Neill is tempted by the lure of a return to club football is reflected in the latest comments on the Irish managerial succession stakes by three well-known personalities in the game.
John Giles and Eamon Dunphy were on hand in Dublin yesterday to support a new approach to developing young players which is being driven by former Arsenal and Ireland full-back John Devine. All three pointed to the opportunity to work again in the Premier League as the reason why O’Neill, while still not out of the running, is no longer regarded as the raging hot favourite to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni.
Devine knows O’Neill well from when they were together at Norwich in the mid-80s — indeed, he revealed he lived in the Derryman’s house for the first three weeks at Carrow Road. But, while hailing him as an excellent man-manager and organiser with all the credentials to “do a very good job for Ireland”, Devine suggested O’Neill’s attachment to club football would remain strong.
“I think one of the key areas there is that Martin is a very passionate person and he loves the day-to-day workings of a team,” he said. “In international football you can be a month away from activity and I think that’s the only thing that could possibly have swayed him towards waiting to see what’s available in the Premier League. Otherwise, I think he’s a great candidate.”
Giles, while not inclined to rule O’Neill out, broadly agreed.
“Martin was the obvious choice,” he said. “He was available and it appears to be Martin’s decision to wait. That is his prerogative. Everybody would like to have seen him in place for the two matches but it seems as if he is waiting to see if some club jobs will come up. I don’t think he is ruled out but the FAI are in a position where if they hang on for Martin, and Martin is not in a position to say yes, then they have wasted four or five weeks. So you have to go through the process and see who is available.”
As usual, Dunphy didn’t mince his words on the question of O’Neill’s possible candidacy.
“If he’s acting the maggot and he doesn’t really want the job, ultimately we have to go elsewhere,” he said.
Both Dunphy and Giles said they regard Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy as a viable alternative.
“He knows the scene, he’d be committed, he plays the game the right way,” Dunphy said. “I don’t know who the runners are but I feel we should have learned a lesson from the Trapattoni experience. We need someone who understands Irish soccer, who knows our players, who will work at the job, and who won’t discriminate against players because of their style of play. All of those boxes, Mick McCarthy ticks.”
* Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney has been added to interim manager Noel King’s provisional Ireland squad for the upcoming doubleheader against Germany and Kazakhstan. King’s squad now stands at 26 players and a final 23-man squad will be finalised after Saturday’s games.
Giles and Dunphy were at South Dublin Football League headquarters in Lucan to endorse SDFL Coaching Director John Devine’s player development programme which emphasises the fun aspect of small-sided games for children aged from six to 11.
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