Martin O’Neill turns down Stoke to remain with Ireland
Republic of Ireland manager turns down reported offer of substantial pay rise
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill during the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Association of Ireland Awards at The Conrad Hotel in Dublin. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Martin O’Neill’s future has been resolved with the 65 year-old set to stay in the Ireland job after having failed to agree terms with Stoke City to succeed Mark Hughes as the club’s manager.
It remains unclear whether the Irishman was actually offered the job or simply held further talks with representatives of Stoke over the weekend that ultimately went nowhere but it is reported in the Daily Telegraph that he turned the post down and that he is “genuinely excited about building a new, younger Irish team over the next 12 months”.
The news will come as a relief to the FAI which has been left to look on, helpless, as the man they pay €2 million to each year, and who they believed they had an agreement with for the next two years, explored his options with an alternative employer. He is due in Dublin later in the week when he will address the situation.
The incident is bound to generate ongoing questions about the commitment of a man who has previously sued media outlets that suggested he might break contracts at clubs in order to switch jobs. Clearly there was no contract here and the terms of the deal he had agreed “in principle” with John Delaney are unknown but he himself revealed the existence of that agreement back in October when the clear impression was given that his future had been resolved.
“It is like being engaged,” observed Eamon Dunphy dryly last week when asked about reports that the northerner had been in talks with Stoke, “you shouldn’t be going out with other people.”
He had a point although there are plenty of reasons, good or bad, why people on the wrong end of such situations choose to maintain the relationship; money being one of them. In this instance the FAI will probably accept looking a little foolish on the basis that O’Neill’s record suggests there is a good chance he will get Ireland to the next European Championships; something that will mean millions in much needed revenue to the association.
For Delaney, though, it is still pretty embarrassing with the events of the last few days severely undermining the impression he likes to give that there is something a little special about his relationship with the northerner.
Rather more importantly, it will be hard to shake the notion that deep down, O’Neill still has one eye on the club situation in England. One former international, Richard Sadlier, suggested in this paper on Saturday, that the FAI should be looking for a new manager.
That seems unlikely but it remains to be seen how the many loose ends of the situation resolve themselves. The association will surely have to get him to put pen to paper on the contract he was supposed to be on the verge of signing more than two months ago and it will be interesting to discover, in time, whether the interest of a Premier League club with the capacity to significantly improve the money O’Neill is on has enabled him to further improve his terms with his current employers.
It is possible that one of the terms offered to Quique Sanchez Flores late last week had ultimately proven unacceptable to O’Neill too. Stoke, who apparently offered the Spaniard a €3.375 million salary, were reported to have stipulated that, while they would not sack him, they would cut that money severely in the event that the team was relegated.
Whatever the reason, it seems he is not going, for now, and the association has been spared the task of finding a replacement.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that both parties have been left damaged by the entire episode. Although it could be worse . . . at the rate they are going Stoke might soon be trying to hire Hughes back.