Martin O’Neill still sorting out finer details with FAI
New boss conscious of Roy Keane’s short fuse and will steer him clear of association suits
“I think Roy has got some things to learn when it comes to football management,” said Houghton who, it has been reported though not confirmed, did actually speak with Keane as part of the recruitment process. “He’s only been in the game a short time. If he was to go in alongside Martin then I think he’d learn a great deal.”
‘Pressure on manager’
He expects, however, that the pair are going to be under immediate pressure to get the team to the European Championships in France in 2016. “The expectation of everyone is qualification to the Euros the next time around. There are an extra eight spots, which in essence should make it a little bit easier but it will put more pressure on the manager.”
Kevin Kilbane, who played for Ireland with Keane many times, believes the combination will work and that they will live up, even exceed, expectations with the former Everton and Sunderland midfielder even predicting that his former team-mate could take over as manager in the years ahead so that the current recruitment does not need to be repeated for “10 or 15 years”.
“They are two great footballing minds,” he said, “and you are going to get a really motivated team off that.”
If he is right then it will be a huge relief to a debt-ridden association that will see Friday week’s friendly against Latvia as an early opportunity to gauge the financial return on what many have described as a coup.
Fewer than 10,000 paying customers might have been expected on top of existing season ticket holders and the like so the association will view every additional seat sold as another welcome endorsement of their actions.
Whether O’Neill can really inspire a dramatic improvement in a squad he cannot alter by buying in talent remains to be seen, however, as does Keane’s ability to form more positive relationships with players less gifted than himself.
“Keano has to remember that he was a one-off,” said Liam Lawrence after the disintegration of their relationship at Sunderland. “He was a fantastic player, but not everybody is as good as him. He demands that of you, but if you can’t do what he’s asking then you can’t do it and I needed to get away from him.”
There are plenty in this Ireland squad, he will know, who can’t do what he did but still few who can be allowed to get away.