A man who once compared Ashley Young to Diego Maradona knows the value of making his players feel good about themselves. Arguably the only manager so far to coax consistency from James McClean since he left Derry, O’Neill’s reputation as a motivator is well established. As recently as last summer, Simon Mignolet raved about O’Neill’s ability to find those few key words that burnish a player’s belief.
Proven organisational ability to go with the rapport; he should, at least, be able to rewind Ireland to the hard-to-beat side of Trap’s better days.
Perhaps most importantly, given the FAI’s finances; he is available and has previously worked with short contracts. The easy answer.
It’s the easy answer. An appointment that won’t automatically shift the ennui currently infecting Irish football. Results remain paramount, but there is a hunger among supporters for some kind of innovation in Ireland’s play and O’Neill wouldn’t necessarily be tipped to deliver that. Admitted himself that his players were bereft of confidence, late in his Stadium of Light reign. And, in truth, a subdued O’Neill was unrecognisable from the figure that had bounced around dugouts earlier in his career.
Energy through conflict? Some performance experts suggest managed conflict can ignite creativity in a workplace. Keane’s personality; his relationship with John Delaney; and his notoriety with a good portion of the population couldn’t but inject some kind of spark into the gloomy international setup.
Perhaps the only realistic candidate box-office enough to fill the Aviva on his own; at least during a honeymoon spell. And perhaps, with age, he has grown more tolerant of average players.
Saddled with middling players and a modest budget to upgrade them; Keane made a poor fist of improving Ipswich Town in his last management job. By the end at Portman Road, it was even hard to detect much trademark anger; just growing bewilderment at a slide he couldn’t arrest.
Would Roy’s appetite for watching football be any greater than Trapattoni’s? “I do not think he did his homework sufficiently when bringing in new players,” said the late Bobby Robson of Keane’s Sunderland work, pointing out he relied heavily on video showreels.
Ireland’s greatest ever manager? Perhaps, if tournament qualification is the barometer and you dock Jack marks because his players were that good. Might McCarthy still be in the job now but for the circumstances that poisoned the mood around his camp? Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane aside, the current squad has long shed that baggage and Mick’s contract at Ipswich appears to map a convenient escape route.
Should you ever go back? Might it be difficult for McCarthy to wipe a clean slate among factions of a media that treated him quite harshly last time round? Has never dealt with criticism well anyway; the beginning of the Molineux end came when he branded restless fans “mindless idiots”. Showed few signs he can lift struggling players during disastrous freefalls at both Wolves and Sunderland.
The ultimate project manager. Currently resting in France ahead of his next challenge.
Has enjoyed his proudest moments during the more formidable assignments; PSV, South Korea and, perhaps most encouragingly for our circumstances, with the willing but limited Australians, who may call on him again ahead of Brazil. No language barrier, personable, tactically flexible; should be capable of knocking some rough edges off our game, without sacrificing defensive solidity.
Too expensive. Too sought after. Likely to be offered immediate challenges more enticing than shepherding us through meaningless dead rubbers while other nations prepare for next summer. Flopped in Turkey and Russia and Barcelona passed when he was available to replace Tito Vilanova. His big international success with South Korea came with more technical players than we have available.
Thrown the keys to all levels of the Old Trafford training structures by Alex Ferguson, who fought to keep him when Qatar were throwing money about last year.
Meulensteen’s particular forte is skills development, an area where Ireland appears to have some deficiencies. Has been credited with polishing raw youngsters like Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley into England internationals. Respected enough worldwide to pick up the Anzhi Makhachkala job soon after he left Old Trafford.
Now available as his time at Anzhi Makhachkala quickly went sour, he is still based in England so tracking Irish players shouldn’t prove a problem.
The Fergie factor papers over several cracks in his CV. On that basis, shouldn’t Steve McClaren top our hit list? Or Mike Phelan? A poor spell in charge of Brondy in 2006 ended with him scuttling back inside the Old Trafford nest. Is he simply a better coach than manager?
A step down for him, at this stage? And a risk?
Were it not for his Irish connections, would we think the current Leeds boss an option?
The first long ball from Marc Wilson would fill the Aviva with groans.