Boost for Irish as Hiddink to exit Russia

IT SEEMS to be no longer a question of if but when Guus Hiddink leaves his position as manager of Ireland’s European Championship Group B top seeds Russia.

Having recently held unproductive talks with the new President of the Russian Football Association, Sergei Fursenko, Hiddink – whose current contract expires in July – has already been linked with the vacant Nigerian and Turkish posts, while new reports in Holland say that under-performing Eredivisie side Herenveen are interested in luring him back to his homeland.

Further signs of a breakdown with the Russians emerged in Moscow yesterday, when the country’s Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, expressed the belief that a native manager would be best for the national team.

The former Russia football federation president, Mutko will also have alarmed Fifa by claiming that Hiddink’s replacement should be appointed by the Russian government. Fifa expressly forbid government interference in the running of national federations and have clamped down on such moves in recent years.

Mutko, though, has insisted that he play a role in the appointment of Hiddink’s successor. “The state puts enough resources in the development of all kinds of sports in the country to have the chance to influence selection of their head coaches,” he said.

“We should not presume in any kind of sports, whether it’s the Olympic games or the world championships, that if we lose or we don’t win a medal, that the federation should automatically keep that coach in charge. Someone should look closely into the appointments of these coaches, and the state should approve them.”

Mutko went on to say that he wanted a Russian boss to replace Hiddink. “I am in favour of Russian-born coaches, people who understand our way of thinking,” he said.

“We should somehow develop from within. To develop a coach in any type of sport means leaving a legacy.

“ A foreign trainer is only interested in the national team and will not share his experience with the whole country.”

The current favourites for the post are former Russia boss Valery Gazzayev, with Yuri Semin of Lokomotic Moscow and CSKA’s Leonid Slutsky also in contention to take over before the European Championship qualifiers kick off in September.

Meanwhile, speculation is growing that Irish exile Stephen Ireland could be another man on the move.

The Cobh midfielder was consigned to the bench for Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Bolton on Tuesday, when he was replaced by Middlesbrough signing Adam Johnson who turned in a man-of-the-match performance.

And with Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong and Patrick Vieira already in the midfield mix, Ireland is said to be worried about his future at the club under manager Roberto Mancini.

Spurs, Aston Villa and even Man United have been touted as possible destinations for the highly-rated player who has never been entirely ruled out of Giovanni Trapattoni’s thinking despite repeated declarations that he would not go back on his exile.

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