Saturday 26 May 2018

Exclusive - Ex-Martin O'Neill pupil labels FAI 'mad' over contract stand-off

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton believes Football Association of Ireland chiefs would be ‘mad’ to allow the management team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane to walk away from their jobs, as the duo continue their work with the Republic of Ireland side despite failing to sign new contract.

Sutton was a key man in O’Neill’s Celtic team at the start of this century and he cannot understand why FAI bosses have not nailed down their star employees to new deals, despite announcing that agreement was in place for the pair to continue in their roles last June.

Read more: Daniel McDonnell on FAI and life-long supporters: From best fans in the world to a bag search in Belgrade

O’Neill and Keane oversaw Ireland’s first World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade last week, with Premier League side Hull City having been strongly linked with a move to snap up O’Neill in recent days.

Now Sutton has urged the FAI need to resolve the confusion swiftly before it derails Ireland’s World Cup qualifying hopes.

“I played under Martin O’Neill for many years at Celtic and from my experience, he is a manager Ireland are lucky to have,” BT Sport pundit Sutton said.

“Martin is one of those managers that players will go the extra mile for and that is why he has enjoyed such a successful career over so many years.

“You look at Ireland’s performances at Euro 2016 last summer and they were full of everything you expect from an O’Neill team, with the win against Italy one of the great moments of the tournament for me.

“The idea that they would want to change a manager who has already brought success to a team that lacks star names would baffle me.

“Ireland’s don’t have players of the class of Paul McGrath, Andy Townsend, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge any more, but they do have a manager and an assistant in Roy Keane who have helped to put them back on the international football map. I can’t believe they will jeopardise that now.”

Sutton believes O’Neill’s high profile assistant Keane is good for the game, after accusing those who are offended by the Irishman’s brash manner of not wanting to hear the truth.

“I like Roy Keane and we need more people like him in the game,” adds Sutton.

“People who have opinions and say what they think are few and far between in the game and I have been accused of speaking out of turn at times.

“I suspect that is because some people don’t like hearing the truth if it is not a very palatable truth.

“Roy speaks his mind and doesn’t care who he upsets in the process and I applaud him for that.

“He is an interesting assistant manager with Ireland as you would normally associate him being the front man, but Martin O’Neill would have had no worries about putting him into that role.

“Martin looks at who will be the best person for a job and has done so throughout his career.

“He signed Stan Collymore at Leicester, he brought Craig Bellamy to Celtic. Those two came with a reputation for being difficult, but that doesn’t worry Martin.

“He would also not have any worries about Roy being a threat to his job as Ireland manager.

“He can handle big personalities and maybe that is why these two get along so well. Ireland are lucky to have them and I would be amazed if they let them slip away.”


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