Martin O’Neill last night confirmed he has agreed a new contract to stay on as manager of Ireland.
O’Neill — who had been so heavily linked with the Stoke hot-seat, which was this week filled by Paul Lambert — did not give any detail of the terms of the contract, in a video interview released by the FAI last night.
Regarding his future, O’Neill said: “That’s been resolved. John and I have agreed terms, and it’s just a matter of the lawyers looking over some sort of detail and getting it signed up.”
Referring to next week’s European Nations League draw, O’Neill said: The European Nations draw is an interesting one... not everyone is au fait with the ruling about it but suffice to say these games are important.”
The Derry man also said he plans to try out some new faces in his squad this year.
“We’ve a couple of friendly games coming up and that might be the time to introduce some young players who are pretty hungry and let’s see how that goes, certainly for the first game in March.”
O’Neill made no reference in his statement to reports which had linked him with the Stoke post.
Earlier yesterday Keith Andrews had called for “transparency” from O’Neill about his commitment to the Ireland job but insisted he wanted to see the manager stay on, and has faith in his ability to lead the team to Euro 2020.
The former international said yesterday that if he was still playing for his country he would be disappointed by O’Neill’s involvement in the Stoke managerial hunt.
“I’m thinking if I’m a player in that squad and we’re getting over the disappointment of losing to Denmark, I’d like my manager to be fully committed and fully focused on us, as a nation, and bringing us forward,” he said.
“There’s certainly been alot of uncertainty in the last week so, if I’m a player, I’m thinking ‘I’m not too happy about that’.”
Working for Sky Sports on the night, Andrews slammed O’Neill and Ireland as “tactically clueless” in the 5-1 play-off defeat to Denmark but he insists he has always felt the bigger picture for the Irish team under the manager was much more positive.
“I’m a fan, the only games I get emotional about are the Ireland games and I was very emotional that night,” he said.
“I certainly don’t regret what I said. Even that night, I made the point that Martin has done a very good job. That particular performance, I was very disappointed in.
“Afterwards I was thinking if I was in his shoes, what would I have done if I was coaching that team? He gambled at half-time and the gamble backfired. I probably would have been critical if he didn’t try to do something to rescue the situation. So in many ways, he was in a lose-lose situation.
“So I think Martin should be the manager of Ireland. I’ll make that clear. We are certainly going through a transition. We need clarity. We need Martin to be here for next two, four years.”
Asked what he thought O’Neill could do now to offer reassurance after the events of the past week as well as reports previously linking him to another Premier League job, the Dubliner replied: “Obviously the contract wasn’t signed, but I think he needs to address it. It’s not one that can just be brushed over and nothing said, we get into the Turkey game and we can all roll on. I think it would be nice if there was a little bit of transparency.”
Assessing O’Neill’s overall record with Ireland, Andrews said: “I think he’s done very, very well. He’s got us to a Euros and very nearly got us to a World Cup. I’ve said this at the time: We’ve no divine right to be qualifying for World Cups.
“The Euros are very achievable for us now with the extra teams. The style gets criticised sometimes but he’s very much his own man.
“I know I was critical of that performance against Denmark but in terms of his reign, I’ll stand by it, I think it’s been a success. We do criticise the style sometimes and we have this picture of someone else coming in and playing a better style of football.
“But I keep going back to it — Martin’s reign has been very, very good. So with this pool of players and what’s coming behind it, I have faith that he will get us to the next European Championships.”
Although Andrews regards the senior team as being in a period of transition, he believes it’s of paramount importance that the management and players do everything in their power to qualify for the Euro 2020 finals, not least because the prize would include games at the Aviva Stadium.
Indeed, he doesn’t take issue with the notion this could make the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign the most important in Irish history.
“What an achievement that would be (to play in the Aviva) and what a moment that would be for the players and management team. I do think that has maybe played a little part in the back of Martin’s mind as well.”
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