Martin O’Neill firmly on course to be next Ireland manager
Roy Keane surprisingly linked with assistant manager position
Martin O’Neill is believed to want Roy Keane (right) as his assistant if he takes the Republic of Ireland job. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Martin O’Neill remained firmly on course last night to be appointed Republic of Ireland manager by the end of next week after he made it clear to the FAI that he is willing to take the job on if the two sides can reach agreement on the usual terms and conditions.
Money is certainly not expected to be an issue but the 61-year-old’s backroom staff just might be if his intention really is to include Roy Keane as his assistant, something he was widely rumoured to be intent on doing yesterday.
The move would be a surprise on all fronts with the Corkman an unlikely number two for all sorts of reasons. He would, on the face of it, seem far too unyielding for the subordinate role and might be expected to consider himself above it even after a couple of disappointing attempts at club management.
His outspoken views on the association hardly make him all that attractive to an outsider looking to have somebody local to smooth things along either.
And then there is the more specific matter of his particularly difficult relationship with John Delaney.
On the face of it, O’Neill might be expected to bring in somebody with more of a reputation for working at close quarters with players on the training ground whereas Keane, like O’Neill in several of the posts he has held, has tended to leave that to others, in the northerner’s case primarily his old Nottingham Forest team-mate John Robertson.
That changed at Sunderland as Robertson apparently didn’t want to move up to the north east and O’Neill took training far more often. The Scot might be more open to the sort of part-time involvement than an international job would involve although it is far from certain that he would be well enough after a heart attack a few months back.
There are other options open to O’Neill, however, including some decent Irish ones. For all that, Keane would undoubtedly bring a certain insight to the table. He and O’Neill know each other quite well through their work for ITV and are said to hold each other in fairly high regard.
There may well be some coolness towards the idea around Abbotstown where Keane would hardly be expected to become a company man on the basis of being paid a wage by the association.
But it seems unlikely that if the former Aston Villa boss really does want the younger man on board that it would be a deal breaker and the additional box office that Keane would represent would certainly be welcome if only the cost is not too high.