McIlroy linked with vacant manager’s job at Stockport

NORTHERN IRELAND manager Sammy McIlroy has been given permission to talk to Second Division Stockport County about taking over the vacant manager’s position at Edgeley Park.

eports from the North suggested McIlroy was poised to quit but the IFA would not confirm his departure last night. The struggling side dismissed Carlton Palmer on September 19 with John Hollins taking over on a caretaker basis.

McIlroy’s side endured a miserable Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, failing to score a single goal in their eight matches, part of a 1,242-minute barren run.

They were beaten 1-0 in Greece in their final qualifying match last Saturday. Former Manchester United player McIlroy took charge of Northern Ireland following the departure of Brian Hamilton in 1999.

He made his name as a manager by steering Macclesfield from the Conference to the Second Division but his Northern Ireland side won just five of his 29 games in charge.

Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr has offered to help Welsh boss Mark Hughes and the Welsh FA as they prepare for the European Championship play-off games against Russia next month.

“I will be happy to help Mark in every way I can by giving him a dossier on the Russian players and videos of their games in the group ten qualifying campaign,” said Kerr.

“It would be great if Wales could reach the Euro finals in Portugal next summer as I know that the last time they reached a major finals was back at the World Cup in Sweden in 1958. Mark did very well to lead his team to the runners-up position behind Italy in their group.

“It won’t be easy against Russia who are a well-established football nation who regularly qualify for the World Cup and European Championships.

They have an excellent home record, having scored 15 goals in the four matches against Ireland, Albania, Switzerland and Georgia”

Mick McCarthy was the Irish boss when Ireland went down 4-2 to the Russians in the opening group ten qualifier at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow on September 7 last year.

Since then the Russians have had home wins over Albania (4-1), Switzerland (4-1) and Georgia (3-1). But their away form is not so great when losing 1-0 to Georgia in Tbilisi, 3-1 to Albania in Tirana and then drawing 2-2 with Switzerland in Basel and 1-1 with Ireland at Lansdowne Road on September 6 last.

But that was still good enough to finish as runners-up to automatic qualifiers Switzerland. The Swiss topped the group by defeating Ireland 2-0 in Basel on Saturday.

“Russia are very strong at home, But if Wales can get a decent result in the first leg in Moscow, then they have every chance of reaching the finals playing in front of 70,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium in the second leg. I hope it comes true for the Welsh and if asked, we will do our best to help them,” added Kerr.

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