Jason McAteer thinks that the lure of a return to club football means there’s “a big possibility” of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane departing as the Ireland management team after next month’s European Championships.
“I don’t think any international manager wants to be an international manager forever, unless they are at the end of their career,” says McAteer.
“The will to get on the training field every day is something they miss. It is alright to have the lads for a week, or two weeks or even longer if they go to a tournament. But to then let them go for six weeks must drive them mad. They want to be on the training field. They want to be on the grass. They want to have the lads in front of them. You don’t get that with international football.
“I don’t think Roy will be around at the end of the tournament. He will want to venture out into club football again and give it another go. There are two things Martin will look at. The first is has he taken it as far as he can? That is only a question he can answer. His job description was getting them to a tournament and he has done that, so he has been a success, he can go out on a high.
“The other one is if the right club became available, Everton being the name being thrown around at the minute. If Rafa goes from Newcastle, then that could be the club for Martin. So it is whether he feels if the right club is there, the right chairman. He could opt out. It is a big possibility that the two of them could go.”
Having had a famously spiky relationship with his former international colleague during their playing days, the now retired McAteer — who yesterday attended the Spar/FAI Primary School5s National Finals at the Aviva Stadium — pondered what it would be like to have Keane as his gaffer.
“Would I want to play for Roy Keane? At the beginning? No. Would I want to play for Roy Keane now, five or six years in? I probably would, yeah. I think he is the type to learn from experience and after this campaign it wouldn’t surprise me to see him go into a management job and do really well. I think he will have a better temperament.”
He's still got it! Jason McAteer was at the AVIVA Stadium to watch the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s National Finals! pic.twitter.com/Z0pHnJYGkk— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) May 11, 2016
Should McAteer’s prediction come to pass and a vacancy arises in the Ireland management role in just a few weeks’ time, he knows who the FAI should turn to — for a second time.
“Mick [McCarthy] has taken Ipswich as far as he can with the limitations he has got underneath him,” he says. “If he came back, I think he would do a great job. International management, I always think, is where a strong man-manager is needed.”
Recalling that he was actually out of the Blackburn Rovers side when he scored his famous goal for Ireland against the Netherlands at Lansdowne Road in 2001, McAteer says: “From my own experiences, I went through tough times at club level, and he was always there for me, he’d always pick me in the squad.
“You loved him for being that manager who put an arm around your shoulder, who told you that you were the best thing since sliced bread. All you wanted to do was give 110% for him. That is what man-management skills do. That is what Jack (Charlton) had. You felt it was a personal slur if you got beat playing for Jack. You felt like you were letting him down and you didn’t want to do that. Mick was a bit like that.
“I think it is a massive thing, man-management. Alex Ferguson had it. You talk about Shankly, Stein, Paisley — they all had it.”
And the ones Jason McAteer worked under who, in his own opinion, didn’t? “Graeme Souness, Gerard Houllier. They were just dictators,” he says.
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