As a deluge of bets on Martin O’Neill over the last 24 hours has seen him re-installed as the clear favourite for the job of Ireland manager, and amid mounting speculation that an appointment of the successor to Giovanni Trapattoni is imminent, Noel King has been tasked with selecting an extended provisional panel of players for Ireland’s forthcoming friendlies against Latvia and Poland.
In the absence of a permanent manager, King — who took on the caretaker role for the World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan — is calling up 40 players, with their respective clubs due to be notified today.
The unusually large panel allows for the possibility of the appointment of a new manager who would then be in a position to whittle down the squad before the friendlies take place against the Latvians at the Aviva Stadium on November 15 and away to Poland in Poznan four days later.
The FAI headhunters Ray Houghton and Ruud Dokter are due to report to the FAI board next week, with the outcome of that meeting set to dictate whether it’s the new man or King who is in the dugout for the games.
Yesterday, another contender, Mick McCarthy, was playing it alternately cryptic and comic when questioned yet again about the Irish job at his weekly Ipswich Town press conference.
On Wednesday night, Ipswich’s joint-managing director Ian Milne had told the Supporters’ Club AGM that they had had no contact from the FAI but when asked yesterday if he was surprised he hadn’t beenapproached, McCarthy replied: “How do you know I haven’t been approached yet?” So had he? “I can’t tell you,” said McCarthy, who is second favourite behind O’Neill to succeed Trapattoni.
McCarthy, who celebrates a year at Portman Road with a home game against his hometown club Barnsley tonight, humorously berated the media yesterday for repeatedly asking him about the Ireland vacancy.
“You’re all bonkers, by the way,” he said. “You’re all bonkers, the lot of you!”
The FAI have announced that tickets for the game against Latvia are now available through www.fai.ie starting at €20 for adults, €10 for children and €50 for a family ticket (two children and two adults). Latvian supporters living in Ireland can also book Latvian section supporter tickets directly through www.fai.ie, following the instructions in Latvian.
Meanwhile, Uefa have declined to confirm a report they are set to rule out the possibility of Celtic hosting a Champions League game in Dublin next season.
Because Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, Celtic will need to move any Champions League qualifier from Celtic Park next July, but yesterday the BBC reported that Uefa are expected to tell the club that the only exemption for playing such a game outside Scotland would be for safety reasons or as a disciplinary issue.
Celtic had revealed they were considering the possibility of playing the match at the Aviva Stadium or Croke Park and, while the greater likelihood is that it will go ahead at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Uefa rules regarding the unavailability of home grounds would seem to suggest the Dublin option can remain on the agenda.
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