FAI to open talks with O’Neill who admits he is ‘ready to go’
Derry man looks the preferred choice but FAI has not made an offer
John Delaney will be key to the process but he insists the first thing the organisation will do is take stock.
“It’s best that we just reflect over the next four or five days,” he said yesterday. “I’m going to ask my board members to go and speak to the grassroots.
“It’s going to be a mix of everyone’s views but in the next week the FAI board will decide the process of how we will go about the appointment.
“It’s been a traumatic four or five days for Irish football and it’s time to reflect now.”
The consultation period will give the association’s leading officials time to gauge the popularity of the potential appointment.
Strong support for the northerner would encourage board members who are anxious to avoid a repeat of the situation that endured over the last few years, whereby a large number of fans felt alienated to the extent they were reluctant to attend the senior team’s games.
Delaney, though, played down the idea that O’Neill is the association’s preferred choice and that it would not even get to the stage of formally drawing up a shortlist if things go to plan over the coming days.
“We are going to get a new manager,” he said, and that manager’s objectives will be to get us to the European Championship in 2016. Football, as we all know, tends to surprise us but I wouldn’t read anything in to someone being a favourite or not being a favourite.”
Nothing in these circumstances can be taken for granted, of course. O’Neill turned the association down eight years ago as he was taking a period away from the game at the time in order to care for his wife, who was battling cancer.
A year or so later, however, when he was able to return to work, he was considered a strong favourite for the England job but lost out in the end to Steve McClaren, amid suggestions that FA officials felt he had interviewed poorly.
“I think the interview went fine,” said O’Neill later. “I’m not sure that interviews and I get along, particularly first interviews.
“Overall, I didn’t get the job; whether people on the other side of the table were impressed, unimpressed, had their own particular agenda, eventually you can come up with all sorts of reasons. The fact is when the dust settled, I wasn’t the England manager.”
It remains to be seen whether things will go more smoothly this time.