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Aston Villa target Roy Keane as assistant to Paul Lambert

Aston Villa want to bring in Roy Keane as assistant manager in an arrangement that would allow him to stay as Ireland No 2 after the Corkman turned down the chance to manage Celtic.

Keane was expected to be announced as the new manager of the Glasgow club yesterday but instead told Martin O'Neill and FAI CEO John Delaney that he would be staying on.

However, it has emerged that Villa boss Paul Lambert views Keane as a candidate for the key role in his new back-room staff.

The Birmingham club sacked Lambert's former assistants Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa following an internal investigation, with Gordon Cowans and Ireland's Shay Given brought in as a temporary stop-gap until the end of the season. It is believed that Keane was floated as an option before that pair were drafted in.

Lambert, who played under O'Neill at Celtic, is in the process of constructing his plans for next season. Keane would have to weigh up the extent of the workload before committing to a job-share agreement.

The 42-year-old chose to stay as Ireland assistant manager following a change of heart that was partly influenced by the team's performance in Saturday's friendly draw with Italy.

Celtic sources insist that Keane was not formally offered their job after his informal discussions with majority shareholder Dermot Desmond last week but it's understood he was the choice of the Hoops' hierarchy and they were confident that he would affirm his interest in the position.

Keane knew he had to make a quick decision ahead of Ireland's trip to America and decided against leaving the Irish role after just eight months – and before the European Championship campaign that the pair were hired to oversee.

He contacted Celtic to make them aware of his verdict and they have turned their attentions elsewhere with ex-West Brom boss Steve Clarke top of the list. The Scot was sounded out over the weekend as the Hoops monitored the available options in case they required a fall-back plan.

Keane has been a constant source of speculation since O'Neill brought him on board the Irish ticket and the FAI know that further interest is likely.

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Still, after a week where Abbotstown staff were privately admitting that Keane would be on his way, this news comes as a considerable relief.

A number of the Irish players also thought that the former skipper would take the reins at Celtic, but he will be present at Malahide this evening ahead of tomorrow's flight to America for the friendlies with Costa Rica and Portugal.

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