Thursday 19 July 2018

John Aldridge: I can't understand the nonsense written about Martin O'Neill over the last week

Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

John Aldridge

MARTIN O’NEILL has come under fire following his decision to take to Stoke over their managerial vacancy, but I can’t understand the nonsense that has been written about him in recent days.

This is a highly-experienced manager who has been approached about a job in the richest league in world football at a time when he has not signed a new contract to continue as Ireland boss.

Can anyone explain to me what is wrong with him talking with Stoke and seeing what is on offer as he weighs up what may be the final chapter of his management career?

Maybe he thought he could do the Stoke job until the end of the season, steady their ship and then they would appoint someone else in the summer.

If that was the case, O’Neill’s position as Ireland boss would not have been affected, but we probably need to know the full story here before we start criticising a manager who has done a good job with Ireland during his reign as our manager.

If I was in his position and a Premier League club came calling, I’d go along and see what they had to say and to be honest, the FAI are in a weak position as they do not have their man signed to a new deal.

Let’s be honest here, the Ireland job is not one of the most prestigious in world football at this moment in time, however much we would like to believe it is.

We don’t have a Gareth Bale to carry us through games and we don’t even have a player of Robbie Keane’s quality any more, so a spoonful of reality needs to be applied here after the media and everyone waded into O’Neill with venomous criticism following the play-off defeat against Denmark a few weeks back.

We all like to believe the Ireland manager should be loyal to the cause and never want to leave, but there is a big football world out there now and O’Neill had every right to look at what was on offer.

Martin and his assistant Roy Keane have been punching above their weight since they took over the Ireland team, getting us to the Euro 2016 finals and into the play-offs for the World Cup.

They were fine achievements given the quality of players we are operating with at this moment, so let’s keep some perspective before we start piling into O’Neill for daring to talk to a potential employer.

Who could Ireland get that is better than Martin and Roy if they were to leave their positions right now? I hear Mick McCarthy’s name being mentioned, but everyone was desperate to run him out of the job when things started to turn sour after the 2002 World Cup.

Then would we really want to go down the route of appointing a foreign manager again after the experiences under Giovanni Trapattoni? I don’t think we do.

What O’Neill needs to do now is get himself in front of a camera, explain what has happened over the last few days and confirm once and for all that he is ready to continue as Ireland boss. He should outline his vision for the Euro qualifiers later this year and when the dust settles on this affair and we get our minds back on what really matters, everyone will probably realise that O’Neill is the best man for the job.

I am backing Martin and Roy to continue to do the best they can in a challenging environment and for everyone getting a little hot under the collar about his decision to talk to Stoke, get off your high horse and simmer down.

Herald Sport

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