The Football Association of Ireland is expected to offer Martin O’Neill the job as their new manager by the end of the week after sacking Giovanni Trapattoni less than 12 hours after the World Cup dream ended with a 1-0 defeat away to Austria.
Trapattoni was told his services were no longer required and offered a near $1 million settlement for his management team in the VIP lounge of Dublin Airport in the early hours of Wednesday morning last week.
The 74-year-old Italian, already linked with jobs in Libya and China, paid the price after his team’s slim World Cup qualification hopes were ended by a David Alaba goal in Vienna on Tuesday.
No sooner had the Italian been relieved of his post after over five years in the job than O’Neill, out of work since he was sacked as Sunderland boss last March, was installed as the favorite for the position.
The former Northern Ireland World Cup star confirmed on Thursday of last week that he is ready to return to work but has yet to receive any approach from the FAI.
Roy Keane is also in the frame for the job, but Mick McCarthy, Chris Hughton and Brian McDermott have all distanced themselves from speculation, with McCarthy even adamant that O’Neill is a “shoo-in” to succeed Trapattoni.
O’Neill told a BBC show, “I have had no contact whatsoever from anyone at the Irish FA (FAI) at this moment and there’s not much more I can say about it.”
Associates of the 61-year-old from Derry have told various Irish media outlets that O’Neill is open to an approach, however.
And the fact that businessman Denis O’Brien, a close associate of O’Neill’s former Celtic employer Dermot Desmond, is again prepared to bankroll the new management team will also strengthen the Ulsterman’s hand.
A planned FAI press conference for the day after the Austria game was cancelled. Trapattoni had again said in the immediate aftermath of the game in Vienna that he wanted to stay on for another two years but by Wednesday, he and his assistant Marco Tardelli were resigned to their fate before the FAI released a statement saying they had left their jobs “by mutual consent.”
Tardelli did speak to one Irish journalist who happened to be on his flight back to London late on Wednesday and said, “That’s life. We had nearly six years in the job and it was a great time.”
Trapattoni was already back in Italy at that stage and did give one interview to a local radio station in Milan. He insisted, “I leave Ireland but not football. I want to continue managing. Simply, I am no longer the coach of Ireland. We have left consensually and with great fair play.
“I leave this country with great emotion, the Irish fans deserve their international reputation and have our utmost respect.”
FAI chief John Delaney is adamant there is no rush to appoint a new manager, with the association prepared to put goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly in as caretaker boss for the final World Cup games away to Germany and home to Kazakhstan next month.
Delaney said, “In terms of the next manager, all we want is the best man. It doesn’t matter if he’s Irish, English, continental or whatever, as long as we get the best man in to qualify for Euro 2016. That’s what the Irish public want.
“Ideally it would be nice to have a manager in place for the games in October, but that’s not a must because it’s 12 months until we play our first European qualifiers in September.
“It’s important that we get the right man in so we qualify for France 2016.”
Delaney confirmed that the FAI Board of Management will meet this week after their swift decision to sack Trapattoni after the Austrian disappointment.
He added, “This campaign was a disappointment. But we have a good set of young players coming through. The overall context would be that Trapattoni was a success. There were two very good campaigns and one very disappointing one.
“There is plenty of speculation about a successor and there will be plenty of names, like Chris Hughton, Martin O’Neill, Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane and Brian McDermott.
“All those men will be mentioned. What we will do, the FA board will sit down over the next week or so, put together the type of job description that we want, the process and timing towards that.”
Asked about Keane, who berated the FAI after his Saipan bust-up with McCarthy, Delaney said, “It would be an interesting appointment but it’s probably inappropriate for me to comment on individuals because if I start talking about one being ruled in or ruled out that wouldn’t be correct for me.”
The decision to sack Trapattoni has distracted attention from Ireland’s World Cup failure after the defeat in Austria cost more than just the manager his job.
Ireland now have no chance of finishing ahead of Sweden or Austria in the race to fill second spot behind Germany in the Group C table.