King tipped for caretaker role as FAI waver over O'Neill
The FAI's interest in Martin O'Neill has cooled significantly in the last week after a series of background checks has suggested the Derry man's candidacy is not as appealing as initially thought.
While O'Neill still remains the likeliest successor to Giovanni Trapattoni, and has spoken privately about his attraction to the post, the FAI's concerns centre on the probable absence of his long-time sidekick, John Robertson, from the coaching ticket.
Robertson – who worked alongside O'Neill at Wycombe, Norwich, Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa – was unable to join him at Sunderland, the one club where the former Northern Ireland international failed to achieve any success. Robertson (60) suffered a heart attack just over a month ago – and while he has been recovering well, it is, at best, unclear if he would be healthy enough to join O'Neill in applying for the post.
All of which has stalled the FAI's advances. Having stayed quiet publicly on the succession race, the Association have asked trusted intermediaries to conduct thorough checks on O'Neill's managerial style and practices.
And the feedback has been mixed. While acknowledged as a brilliant motivator and fine tactician, O'Neill is also regarded as being reliant on his former Nottingham Forest colleague, whose energy and knowledge on the coaching field compensated for O'Neill's weakness in this department.
The upshot is that when the FAI's board finally meet either today or tomorrow, they will not be making a permanent appointment, but an interim one, with Noel King, the Irish U-21 manager (above), favoured to get the job for the remaining two World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan.
The other key issue is whether the board will appoint a sub-committee, as they did in 2007, following Steve Staunton's departure, to interview prospective candidates. If they do then the trio of Don Givens, Don Howe and Ray Houghton may be reunited and the prospects of a quick decision will disappear. see page 21