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'I think the players would be delighted that I'm staying on' - Martin O'Neill comes out fighting

 

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has dismissed the notion that his flirtation with Stoke could have any impact on his standing with Ireland's players.

And he believes they will be happy that he has turned them down and instead opted to stick around to lead the Irish attempt to make Euro 2020.

O'Neill feels it should be taken as a compliment that a Premier League club wanted his services and, as he broke his silence on the saga over his future, the Irish boss mounted a strong defence of his tenure.

He said the interest from Stoke and other clubs was a reflection of the good work he has done since taking over in 2013.

The Derryman disputes the idea that the Irish dressing-room will have been unsettled by the speculation.

"A manager's tenure at club level is very short and gets shorter as the time goes on," says O'Neill.

"The players get used to that type of thing but the main thing about the players here, the players want to play for the Republic of Ireland, that's the number one.

"It doesn't matter who the coach or manager would be.

"I think the players would be delighted that I'm staying on.

"I think that the fact that people do actually want your services, I think it might be a compliment to the particular job that I've done with the Republic of Ireland."

O'Neill stressed that he 'wasn't breaking any rules' by holding talks with Stoke because of his understanding with the FAI.

He did confirm that the terms and conditions still had to be ironed out when the FAI announced in October that a verbal agreement had been reached on his future.

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In the aftermath of the heavy defeat to Denmark a month later, he took time to mull over his future and indicated that walking away was an option.

"But I think as John (Delaney) mentioned, I'm not one that is liable to take myself off at a moment's notice," he said.

"I've been here for four years as well and I wouldn't take things too lightly. I'm here and delighted to be here.

"I've an excellent relationship with John and the board, really good and I think that those things are very, very important – a good relationship with my employers.

"Some things get forgotten, great, great moments that we've had – beating the world champions, qualifying for the Euros, being in the last 16 of the Euros, and not getting beaten away from home in the qualification for Russia and actually finishing two places above where we should have. I think I have to take all of those things into consideration and I did do. After reflection, I'm delighted to be here."

O'Neill has signed a two-year contract extension with Ireland along with his backroom staff and batted away a slightly optimistic question about whether he would even be interested in sticking around beyond that.

"Listen, obviously, there are lots of things that could happen," he said.

"I couldn't foresee Friday morning, never mind anything else."

Irish Independent

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