On top of assessing more than 20 expressions of interest in the vacancy already received by the FAI, Houghton and Dokter have been tasked with spreading the net in a bid to find the right man. While a definite cooling of interest on the part of Martin O’ Neill has seen Mick McCarthy overtake him, at least for now, as a front-runner, international interest in the job has already thrown up names like former Valencia and Inter coach Hector Cuper, former Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga and ex-Rangers boss Dick Advocaat.
However, the Irish Examiner understands that in perusing the international option, the FAI will only settle for an authentically blue-chip, marquee name appointment – which suggests that, for all their varying qualities, none of the above mentioned are likely to be left standing at the end of the race.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s arrival five years ago fitted the bill then but the disappointing manner in which the Italian’s tenure ended means the FAI will not want to risk any sense of anti-climax with their next appointment.
For that reason too, Serbian great Dragan Stojkovic – whose credentials are believed to have come under scrutiny – is not considered a live contender, despite the high regard in which Arsene Wenger, among many others, is known to hold the 48 year old Nagoya Grampus manager.
Probably the most high-profile and highly-rated international manager currently available for work is Guus Hiddink who, in his latest column for a Dutch newspaper, has indicated that he is open-minded about his next move.
The well-travelled 66 year old, who most recently managed Russian side Anzi Makhachkala, said: “I’m in an unusual position in that I have an empty agenda and that is a luxury. It’s nice to have a breather. But even now I am keeping my options open.
However, there are two factors which would appear to militate against the possibility of Hiddink being lured to Ireland.
One is a line from sources close to the manager that he would be particularly taken with the idea of coaching a side at next year’s World Cup in Brazil, something which could yet see him reunited with the Australia team he managed at the 2006 finals in Germany.
Secondly, even with the financial muscle of Denis O’ Brien behind them, Hiddink might well be out of the FAI’s price range.
Meanwhile, interim manager Noel King is continuing his scouting work in England ahead of next month’s games against Germany and Kazakhstan. Today, he’ll be watching Hull City against West Ham and tomorrow is due to attend the Stoke City-Norwich match before returning naming the senior squad on Monday.
The extensive panel will definitely see Everton’s Darron Gibson return to international duty for the first time since making himself unavailable to Giovanni Trapattoni following Euro 2012, while there could also be recalls for Wolves’ Kevin Doyle and Celtic’s Anthony Stokes. When he was asked about Irish football’s most famous exile, Stephen Ireland, King said that he intended working “with a clean slate”.
Asked last night about the daunting prospect of his first game in charge being away to a German team which beat Ireland 1-6 in Dublin, King said: “I wasn’t involved in the last game so it’s not a blow for me but obviously it’s a blow for the team and for the campaign. They need a point to achieve their target and qualify. But it’s a great challenge. I’ve spoken to a lot of the players and I think everybody is looking forward to it and trying to redeem themselves.”