Saturday 16 December 2017

'He's in it for the long haul' - Martin O’Neill tips Roy Keane to succeed him

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane

Luke Edwards

Martin O’Neill has tipped Roy Keane to eventually replace him as Republic of Ireland manager after they both agreed to remain in charge of the national team for another two years.

O’Neill has been hugely impressed with Keane’s work as his assistant and insisted they were “more than happy with the terms” offered by the Football Association of Ireland to extend their contracts until the end of the World Cup qualifying campaign in 2018.

Although O’Neill admitted neither he nor Keane had signed their new deal, he insisted they would remain in charge, regardless of what happened at the European Championship in France. He said: “It’s a done deal and hopefully we’ll still be here in another two years.”

There were fears raised in the media from Ireland’s training camp in Versailles that O’Neill could still quit if Ireland lost all three of their group games against Sweden, Belgium and Italy because he had not actually signed the contract. However, O’Neill has subsequently stressed that the only reason the new contracts have not been signed is because there was not time to do so before Ireland flew to France.

Given Keane’s chequered history with the Ireland team, after he walked out of the squad just days before the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea following a row with then manager Mick McCarthy, the prospect of him succeeding O’Neill is a fascinating one.

Keane has rebuilt his reputation under O’Neill but still retains an interest in returning to club management.

Asked whether he thought Keane was a future Ireland manager, O’Neill replied: “He has indicated he is in it for the long haul. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t follow me as manager. Genuinely, I don’t see why that would be a problem for him.”

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