Thursday 27 October 2016

FAI should be offering Martin O'Neill a new contract regardless of playoff result - Chris Hughton

Published 26/10/2015 | 15:23

Martin O’Neill
Martin O’Neill

Chris Hughton has told that the Football Association of Ireland should to hand Martin O’Neill a new contract to continue as Republic of Ireland manager, regardless of the result the Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Brighton manager Hughton believes O’Neill’s success in guiding his team to a third place finish in Euro 2016 qualifying confirms that he is the right man to lead the Ireland for another two years.

FAI chiefs are reportedly preparing to offer O’Neill an extension to his current contract, which is due to expire after the upcoming Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Hughton convinced the 63-year-old should be allowed to continue.

“Martin has done a great job in a difficult qualifying group and he is without doubt the right man to continue through to the next World Cup,” says Hughton, who was assistant coach to Brian Kerr during his tenure as Ireland boss.

“To get 18 points out of a group that included Germany, Poland and Scotland was a very good effort and now we have a chance to get one of the final places in Euro 2016, which would be a great effort.

“It always looked like Germany and Poland would be nailed on for those top two positions in the group and it was between ourselves and Scotland for that third position.

“There were stages in the qualifying process when it seemed as if Scotland had the upper hand over us, but the result against Germany confirmed that we fully deserved the chance in this play-off against Bosnia and Martin should take a lot of the credit for that.

“I’m sure the FAI will be sitting down with Martin and making sure he is part of the set-up moving forward because he is a great football man and is getting the best out of the squad he has at his disposal.”

Hughton believes O’Neill will face a tough task to engineer a win against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Euro 2016 play-off, as he accepts that this era of Irish soccer heroes lack some sparkle.

“It is a different time for Ireland now because we don’t have the star names that

we were used to seeing during my time as a player and also when I worked with Brian Kerr in the Ireland set-up,” states Hughton.

“Robbie Keane has been our shining star for so long, but he is reaching the back end of his career and it is getting more and more difficult for Irish players to get a chance to break into top Premier League clubs.

“What we have shown, as we always do, is that we care capable of pulling off some surprise results, with the fantastic win against Germany a couple of weeks back a real reminder of what a great night at Lansdowne Road can be all about. It was great to see.”

The highly respected Hughton would be a contender to replace O'Neill when his time as Ireland boss comes to an end, with his stock on the rise once again after leading his Brighton side to a storming unbeaten start to the Championship season.

The Seagulls are surprise early pace-setters in the race to secure a £100m promotion jackpot in next season’s Premier League, with Hughton admitting they have exceeded his own expectations so far.

“When I arrived at the club at the start of this year, the ambition was to stay in the Championship and build a platform for the future,” adds former Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich boss Hughton.

“We are probably ahead of schedule to find ourselves in the position we are in now and I am doing my best to try and keep feet on the ground and remind everyone that we are still at the start of this season.

“The Championship is a tough division and there are a lot of teams who will be looking up at us and thinking we wont be able to last the pace.

“Hull and Burnley have just come down from the Premier League and they have the resources to get straight back and you look at a team like Derby spending £10m in the final hours of the transfer deadline and it shows what we are up against.

“We signed nine players last summer for a quarter of the fee Derby spent on two players, so we have done well to be in the position we are in.

“Good fortune has gone our way at times and there will be moments in the season when we are unlucky with injuries or decisions go against us, but we have to try and enjoy the success we are having at the moment.”

“It is all about trying to find consistency in the Championship as every club can beat each other and that is partly due to the fact that games come so quickly.

“We are not getting carried away by our start and I have worked in this division for long enough to know that you have to continue to work hard every day to have any chance of success.”

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