O'Neill: I'm the boss

O'Neill: I'm the boss

Martin O’Neill has left no room for doubt over who will be calling the shots in his Republic of Ireland partnership with Roy Keane.

The 61-year-old Ulsterman is delighted to have recruited the former Ireland and Manchester United skipper as his number two, but while he is confident Keane has much to offer, he insists it will be he and he alone who makes the decisions.

O’Neill said: “I don’t really want to change Roy Keane. I don’t think that was the intention, otherwise it loses its impetus.

“Of course there are things we want to adjust and look at, but I have had an assistant manager in John Robertson for years and years at all the clubs I have been involved in, or most of them, and John was very, very good.

“John was more than a sounding board, more than that. I listened to his opinion – he had a very good opinion about football, he was a good judge of a player as well.

“But ultimately, he always left the decisions to me and that was the main thing. That’s something that I have been used to now for 20 years and I wouldn’t be expecting anybody to be over-ruling me.

“That’s not the big ’I am’, far from it. I have got great respect for Roy Keane, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked him to do the job.”

The pair will begin work with their players on Tuesday after the squad gets together for the first time under their charge the previous evening.

However, Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark and Hull midfielder Robbie Brady will not be among them after withdrawing from the 27-man party with foot tendon and groin injuries respectively.

It will be a welcome return to the game for the pair with Keane having been out of football since losing his job at Ipswich in January 2011 and O’Neill since March this year, when he was relieved of his duties at Sunderland.

Black Cats owner Ellis Short’s decision to dispense with his services and appoint Paolo Di Canio still rankles, and the former Northern Ireland international remains convinced he would have kept the club in the Barclays Premier League, and might still be there now.

He said: “I was disappointed, of course, at Sunderland, disappointed not to have completed the season.

“I think, really, if I look at it, although nothing is certain in football, that given 20 years of reasonable success in the game, I would have accumulated the five points necessary from the last seven games to have stayed up.

“So yes, I was disappointed because it was a club that I grew up supporting as a boy – not that that makes a great deal of difference in this managerial game - but for the opportunity not to be afforded to us to see the job through...

“I’m quite sure if that had been the case that I may well have been managing the team right now.”

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