Sunday 15 December 2019

John Giles: Ireland will be stronger in France thanks to Martin O'Neill's new contract

Read John Giles' exclusive column every Wednesday in The Herald

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

John Giles

MARTIN O’Neill’s decision to sign a new two-year deal is good for Ireland’s Euro 2016 finals hopes because it brings some stability which I think was missing.

It was something which was hanging over the whole squad preparation and I’m glad it has been put to bed.

For those who need an example of how uncertainty about a manager among players can have very serious consequences, they need only refer back to José Mourinho at Chelsea nine months ago when his empire came crashing down around him and the players stopped playing for him.

Take a look at Old Trafford or the Etihad where two managers were undermined from outside and again, the players stopped playing.

Players, as I have always said, like to think that everything will go on for ever and anything which casts a doubt on that delusion can be a problem.

Let’s be honest here, even if nobody seemed to want to talk about the matter in a serious way, it was still a big issue in my mind in terms of the coming games in France.

Now, O’Neill and Roy Keane have settled the matter, late and all as this is to do it and I think Ireland will be stronger in France for it.

As for the bigger question about whether O’Neill and Keane are the right men to take Ireland forward, well that’s a different thing altogether.

I’m certain we will have a much better idea about that in three weeks time and if Ireland are still in the tournament at that point, all debate will cease.

What I would say is that O’Neill and Keane have lessons to learn, particularly from the last few weeks when they walked themselves into a publicity minefield which was totally unnecessary.

Keane’s comments after the Belarus game impacted on the squad and on the overall preparation and I think that must be addressed by O’Neill.

The freedom Keane has to speak is at odds with football norms. Assistant managers, by nature, should be in the background helping the manager. Not front and centre.

Of course, the most important thing of all is the football and how Ireland play in the coming years.

The evidence I’ve seen so far points to a manager who makes erratic team selections and hat would be a concern to me but as I said, next week will fill in a lot of gaps for everyone.

He is still the manager who won qualification and that cannot be forgotten.

There is one fundamental which will help O’Neill a great deal something. Irish players still desperaetly want to play for their country and I don’t see that changing.

I can see that clearly in this group as I’ve seen it in every group back to my own day.

It’s a great bonus for any manager to know that he will be working with willing footballers who want to play for their country and do well.

Ask any manager. When you have that, you will always have a chance.

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