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Thursday 21 September 2017

O'Neill wants Roy Keane to be his number two in Ireland job

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane
Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane
Roy Keane shakes hands with Martin O'Neill.

THE FAI are edging closer to the appointment of a box office double act, with Martin O'Neill preparing to accept the post of Ireland manager and Roy Keane primed to make a sensational comeback as his assistant.

O'Neill is in advanced discussions with the FAI after meeting with chief executive John Delaney in London this week and indicating that he was ready to commit to international management and take over from Giovanni Trapattoni. The association's preferred candidate had previously conducted talks through an intermediary.

The 61-year-old duly sprung a surprise by suggesting that he wanted to bring in Keane as his No 2.

Keane, who remains a polarising figure, did have his supporters in the race to replace Trapattoni, but it was thought his chequered history with the FAI hierarchy would count against him.

However, the Irish Independent understands that the association are happy to go along with O'Neill's wishes. The Derry native has spoken at length with Keane about the proposal and it's believed they have reached a broad agreement that the former Irish skipper will come on board if O'Neill is appointed.

That process sped up yesterday and should be wrapped up in the coming days. The FAI have not formally offered O'Neill a contract, but terms have been discussed and no problems in that department are envisaged.

The FAI's Board of Management are scheduled to meet at the beginning of next week to rubberstamp an appointment, although a possible delay could materialise as O'Neill is in Spain working for ITV in their coverage of the Champions League meeting between Real Sociedad and Manchester United.

Ironically enough, Keane is also due to be part of that panel, and a trip away could give the duo further time to speak about their plans for the future of Irish football. Keane, who has been out of the game since January 2011, is a huge admirer of O'Neill and felt from the outset that he was the right man to succeed Trapattoni.

The former Celtic and Sunderland boss has spent the last month mulling over the possibility of switching to the international sphere.

He was monitoring potential options in the club sphere and spoke with Crystal Palace out of courtesy but had no interest in that position.

Now, he is willing to turn his mind to the task of rebuilding the fortunes of the Irish team in tandem with a high-profile sidekick.

Barring a last-minute hitch, the new team will be in place for the Dublin friendly with Latvia (November 15) and the trip to Poznan to take on Poland (November 19).

The attractive combination should succeed in filling the Aviva Stadium.

Daniel McDonnell

Irish Independent

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