STEVE Staunton is not giving up on the idea of a career in football management and the former Ireland boss is eager to get another job in the game.
That's the view of Wexford-born midfielder Gary Dempsey, one of a large batch of Irish players signed by Staunton in Darlington FC's doomed bid to stave off relegation to the Conference.
The Darlington players have been treading water for the last few days of the season. Saturday's season finale at home to Dagenham & Redbridge will be a meaningless game for Darlo as their relegation from League Two was confirmed weeks ago, the club currently 14 points adrift of their closest rivals in the league table.
It's a nervous time for the players as only a handful have agreed new contracts with Darlington ahead of their Conference campaign next season. And especially for the Irish contingent of Gary Dempsey, Tadhg Purcell and Simon Madden (Dubliner Richie Byrne has already been released). Some informal contract talks were on the menu at an end-of-season dinner at the club last night.
This is also a quiet time for Staunton, who has been out of work since being sacked seven weeks ago, but Dempsey says that the ex-Ireland manager has not lost his appetite for the game despite a series of disappointments with Ireland, Leeds United and Darlington.
"I'm in touch with Steve Staunton regularly. I'd speak to him once a week and he's keen to get back into the game," said Dempsey.
"He's hopeful of getting another job in management and he's kept in touch, as the first thing he'd do if he gets a job is bring myself and Tadhg Purcell with him. He was happy with how we did for the team, even though results didn't go our way and we were relegated.
"Steve has had a bit of stick since he came to the club but I really feel for him as he had a hard job at Darlington from the start," added Dempsey.
"He came in mid-season so he hadn't done a pre-season with the players. The players hadn't been signed by him, he was unhappy with a lot of things, like fitness at the club, and he tried to change it.
"But he was up against it from the start. He tried to get players to leave so he could bring in his own men but they were on such good contracts they wouldn't go. Results didn't get to the level we needed, fans turned against him and the club got rid of him but I believe he will be back and I think he'll do a good job," said Dempsey, who joined Darlington from St Pats midway through the English league season.
Dempsey's form in midfield was one of the positives from the dismal second half of the season, which saw the club formally relegated with weeks of the season left, and another major plus was the scoring record of Irish striker Purcell.
The 25-year-old, who previously played for Kilkenny City and Shamrock Rovers, bagged an impressive nine goals in 22 games and is in demand from a number of League One and League Two clubs, but Dempsey's own future is in the balance.
"I just have to sit tight and wait and see what happens," said Dempsey. "I am out of contract. I had been offered a new contract by the chairman the same week that Steve Staunton was sacked but I decided to hang on and see who the new manager would be.
"There has been a bit of talk about clubs in League Two and maybe League One being interested, and going to Europe is also an option. I had an offer to go to a club in Finland when I was at Pats and that's something that might come up again.
"I don't see myself going back to the League of Ireland at this stage. I'm not ruling it out but I will wait and see what offers are on the table," added Dempsey, who previously played for Everton, Bray Wanderers, Waterford United, Dunfermline, Aberdeen and Yeovil Town.