independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ray Houghton joins search for new Irish boss

Ray Houghton
Ray Houghton

THE FAI have tasked Ireland legend Ray Houghton and High Performance director Ruud Dokter with the job of identifying a new international manager as it emerged their wish to land Martin O'Neill could hinge on Chris Hughton's survival as Norwich City boss.

Ireland U-21 manager Noel King has been appointed caretaker manager for next month's concluding World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan after the FAI board met yesterday for the first time since Giovanni Trapattoni's departure and decided to take their time in appointing a successor.

Houghton was a member of the three-man recruitment team – Don Givens and Don Howe were the others – that helped identify Trapattoni.

Dokter, a Dutchman, took up his role with the FAI last month after being given the responsibility of overseeing the development of the game at all levels.

An FAI statement said: "After considering the views of people within the game and taking soundings from its constituent members, the board tonight decided that the next steps should include a comprehensive assessment of the market."

O'Neill retains strong support but they are keen to do more homework on the Derry native before making him an offer.

Their waiting game could be complicated by developments at Carrow Road, where the Derry man has emerged as the frontrunner to succeed Hughton if he fails to revive their fortunes.

Despite investing over €30m in new recruits over the summer, Norwich have won just once in five Premier League games.

O'Neill is a former Canaries player and manager and has always had regrets about quitting the hot seat there abruptly in 1995, citing difficulties with former chairman Robert Chase.

The prospect of the FAI making a move for his services has alerted clubs contemplating a change at the helm before Christmas.

Fulham's new owners are thought to be considering him as a possible replacement should they decide to sack Martin Jol.

Ironically, if Hughton leaves Norwich, he could be a contender for the Ireland job.

In the meantime, King will work on finalising a squad for the remaining two games of the failed World Cup campaign.

It is a huge opportunity for the 57-year-old ex-League of Ireland star, who was appointed U-21 supremo in 2010 after a decade in charge of the Irish women's team.

His assistant, Harry McCue, will take charge of the U-21s in his absence.

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