Martin O’Neill is edging closer to accepting the job of Republic of Ireland manager – and could yet bring Roy Keane with him.
Suggestions that Keane could join the Northern Irishman as his number two have been circulating for several days – something of a dream team for many fans, which could become a reality if O’Neill cements his interest in the post by giving the Football Association of Ireland the answer they want.
Sources close to the 61-year-old have indicated he is close to making his decision and that it will be positive, and the FAI Board is due to meet next week in the hope of rubber-stamping an appointment.
However, the time-frame is uncertain with both O’Neill and Keane scheduled to head for Spain in their roles as ITV pundits for the Champions League clash Real Sociedad and Manchester United.
Ireland face Latvia and Poland in friendlies later this month and the squad, which is yet to be announced, will meet up in Portmarnock a week on Monday.
The FAI will hope to have the new manager in charge by then to start the process of preparing for the Euro 2016 qualification campaign, which gets under way in September next year.
O’Neill has been out of football since being shown the door by Sunderland in March, while Keane parted company with Ipswich in January 2011.
The former Black Cats boss has been the FAI’s preferred candidate all along, although Ray Houghton and high performance director Ruud Dokter were despatched to carry out an assessment of the available options.
Mick McCarthy and Keane in his own right have also been heavily linked with the post, although the latter’s infamous bust-up with the former in Saipan has tended to colour his candidacy.
However, FAI chief executive John Delaney has been careful not to rule out the former Manchester United and Ireland captain publicly, and it appears that the association is at least prepared to countenance employing him as O’Neill’s assistant should he take the job.
There is little doubt that that particular scenario would excite the Irish public, who had grown weary of Giovanni Trapattoni’s pragmatism, and whatever else the pair offered, life would certainly not be dull.