The intrigue over Martin O’Neill’s contract extension deepened last night after the Ireland manager admitted he’s unsure whether a new deal will be brokered before the Euros.
Speaking on TV3 during his punditry duties for the Uefa Champions League semi-final, the saga which has raged since qualification for the finals was secured in November was touched upon by the Derryman.
O’Neill had indicated a successor to his current two-year contract which expires in the summer would be finalised in January. Now, it appears Roy Keane and himself could head to France in June without signing off on new terms.
Amid the uncertainty, both O’Neill and his his assistant Keane have been linked with managerial vacancies in the UK.
A return to Nottingham Forest has broached by O’Neill’s longtime friend John Robertson while Celtic chairman Dermot Desmond may come calling a second time for Keane after the Corkman backed out at the 11th hour before they appointed Ronny Deila.
“I can’t speak for Roy and possibly can’t even speak for myself either,” said O’Neill about the ongoing speculation.
“I’m in this job at the moment and am enjoying it immensely. All my concentration is on what’s ahead in the next couple of weeks. I think like everything else there’s always going to be a bit of speculation around everybody. Probably because I played for Forest for a number of years is the reason, and Roy had some interest from Celtic the last time around before the manager got the job.”
Asked was a certainty a deal would be concluded before Ireland trek to the Euros, O’Neill was lukewarm.
“Well I don’t know,” he admitted. “I’m speaking to (FAI CEO) John Delaney very shortly and I think John’s pretty relaxed about it, as I am myself.”
O’Neill is finding it hard to be relaxed about the glut of injury problems afflicting his players.
“The Euros is getting frighteningly close, just six weeks away. Seamus Coleman’s injury will hopefully clear up in time and I think Jon Walters will be okay.
“Shay Given made his way back again and then suddenly he picked up another groin strain. Hopefully this won’t last too long. Robbie Keane is back to full training, which is good news and will play in the next couple of weeks.”
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