Wednesday 18 September 2019

Robbie Keane: It would be silly if Martin O'Neill didn't get a new contract

Ireland's Robbie Keane during squad training
Ireland's Robbie Keane during squad training

Martin O'Neill has admitted he would be open to extending his contract as Republic of Ireland manager.

The 63-year-old is understood to have been offered an extension to the two-year deal he signed in November 2013 regardless of whether he steers the nation to the Euro 2016 finals via a play-off double-header against Bosnia-Herzegovina over the next few days.

O'Neill confirmed the Football Association of Ireland wanted him to stay, and that he was happy to talk to chief executive John Delaney about it.

He said: "Absolutely, I am open to it. We had a conversation after Scotland and John was very supportive, felt as if this is the way we want to go forward, and that was very pleasing to hear.

"We haven't really talked about it since, but I haven't been pressing because there are actually very important things to deal with.

"If we could qualify, that would be great and we would go on to France - I would be delighted to do that if that's the case. But if we didn't qualify, we John and myself will sit down and see where we go.

"I think John and the board would want it to continue and I have enjoyed it immensely. Sometime in the new year - probably the earlier, the better, maybe get Christmas out of the way - John and I would sit and have a discussion about it."

Skipper Robbie Keane insisted it would be "silly" for O'Neill's services not to be retained, with he and assistant Roy Keane having overseen a campaign which could yet pay tangible dividends for the efforts over the last two years.

The LA Galaxy striker said: "From the very, very start of the campaign, certainly as a group we have grown into it a lot more. It would be silly if the manager didn't get a new contract - he has obviously done a great job.

"But we certainly want to finish this campaign off now with qualification for France, because we started the campaign off having that goal in our minds and it would certainly be disappointing if we didn't do it."

The Republic face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica on Friday evening and then again in Dublin three days later. Having rekindled their qualification hopes with a shock victory over world champions Germany last month, defeat in Poland saw an automatic berth snatched from their grasp.

O'Neill believes progress has been made, but knows there is still work to be done with senior men Shay Given, John O'Shea and front man Keane approaching the end of their international careers.

He said: "There is a set of players here well into their thirties who need replacing - they will not mind me saying that - but we want to replace them with really top-quality younger players coming through who can take their place at international level almost immediately. That's important.

"In terms of progress, if we qualify, regardless of what people would say, that very obviously would be progression. But we will see."

O'Neill is still awaiting definitive news on Southampton striker Shane Long's foot problem and is yet to rule him out of the first leg, but Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot will not travel as he continues to nurse a thigh problem and Sunderland defender O'Shea, who is suspended for Friday night's game, is making progress.

Keane is available for what might could yet prove to be his final two matches as an Ireland player, and he admits a coaching role with his country is something he might like to explore once his playing career has drawn to a close.

He said: "Listen, I'd love to, of course. Certainly if something came up in the future to be involved somewhere, assistant manager or manager maybe longer down the road, it's certainly something that I'd be very, very interested in. But certainly not at the moment."

PA Media

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