Sunday 22 April 2018

'I don't feel like Ireland is my last job' - Martin O'Neill retains Premier League ambitions

'O'Neill has stressed that he still has ambitions in the Premier League.' Photo: Sportsfile
'O'Neill has stressed that he still has ambitions in the Premier League.' Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has dropped a hint that he would be interested in a return to club management if an attractive job came on the market as he waits on the outcome of Euro 2016 before deciding his future.

The FAI would like the 64-year-old to stay on for the World Cup campaign and he will talk to the association about the prospect when Ireland's interest in France draws to a close.

However, O'Neill has stressed that he still has ambitions in the Premier League and does not view the Ireland role as his last major position in football.

He pointed to the belated success of Leicester manager of Claudio Ranieri as an example of what can be achieved if a manager has the right backing. Ironically, he was initially targeted by the Premier League champions for the post. O'Neill's last top-flight job was at Sunderland who sacked him in March 2013.

"Now that we've got to this stage, let's wait and see," said O'Neill, who has previously stated that he is conscious of how a bad Euro 2012 left Giovanni Trapattoni on the ropes when he was already committed to a deal.

"I'm not winding down. I've never felt like that. I don't feel like this is my last job - I feel very, very young.

"Look at Claudio Ranieri. Look at Sir Alex Ferguson. I bet even now he sometimes thinks, 'Should I have packed in?'. Would I back myself if I have a chance of competing? Absolutely. At Aston Villa, when I went there, I felt I had a chance of competing."

At the moment, O'Neill is immersed in the business of preparing Ireland for their tournament opener against Sweden on this day week.

He was in Stockholm yesterday to watch Erik Hamren's charges sign off their friendly preparations with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Wales.

Emil Forsberg put the hosts ahead before the break with Mikael Lustig doubling the advantage before the hour mark and John Guidetti adding the icing on the cake in the final minutes. Wales only introduced star man Gareth Bale as a second-half substitute.

Group E favourites Belgium finished off their warm-up with an entertaining 3-2 win over Norway in Brussels.

Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring inside three minutes, but the mood was dampened by an equaliser from Bournemouth's Joshua King.

Boos were audible after the restart when Valon Berisha slashed through the static Belgian rearguard to stun Thibaut Courtois.

But the good vibes returned courtesy of a pair of headed goals inside the final 20 minutes with Eden Hazard levelling from a Kevin de Bruyne cross before sub Laurent Ciman nodded the winner. Italy take on Finland in Verona tonight.

Ireland's players return to training in Abbotstown this afternoon after receiving some time off over the weekend to catch up with family. O'Neill will be looking for positive signs with Jon Walters, who missed the tail end of the training camp in Fota Island.

The FAI briefed the media that Walters was suffering with a calf complaint, but the player told the association's TV channel that he was struggling with an Achilles problem.

Irish Independent

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