Sunday 18 February 2018

Villa role will make Keane better – O'Neill

Martin O'Neill says he doesnt believe Roy Keane's role at Aston Villa will interfere with his job with the Ireland squad. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Martin O'Neill says he doesnt believe Roy Keane's role at Aston Villa will interfere with his job with the Ireland squad. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MARTIN O'NEILL has insisted that he is fine with Roy Keane's decision to accept the role as Aston Villa No 2 and believes it will be a positive experience for his assistant manager.

The Ireland boss spoke with Paul Lambert to receive assurances that Keane's new responsibility would have no impact on his availability in the preparation for autumn's Euro 2016 qualifiers.

O'Neill added that the FAI were satisfied when Villa made clear that the Corkman could still fulfil off-the-field commitments that come with his Irish brief in tandem with the Premier League workload.

"My view is if it doesn't impinge on the job here with Ireland then in actual fact it will end up being good for him," said O'Neill, speaking in Rio de Janeiro where he was working as a pundit for ITV.

"I know that if we couldn't have made it work, he wouldn't have taken the job in the first place. If his commitments to us – both on the commercial side and certainly from my viewpoint in terms of the time working with players – is not impinged at all then I'm happy for it to go ahead, genuinely happy.

"Villa have agreed to give him all that time with us and therefore I don't really have a problem with it. I spoke with Paul to see how he felt it was going to work.

"He said that he gives the players, the senior players who are not involved at international level, a lot of time off anyway during that time (international breaks) and even if they did come back for a day or two, they could cope with that."

O'Neill asserted that developments with Keane will not result in a situation where either Steve Guppy or Steve Walford, who joined his staff for the recent summer tour, assume extra responsibility and laughed off any suggestion that the fact Walford stood next to him for the games had any significance.

"That was round about the time of the Celtic job I think," he said. "Seriously, I think Roy doesn't want to sit beside me all the time. I'm not always sure that John Robertson, my really trusted lieutenant, sat beside me.

"And sometimes when you're sitting down, you're not really sure who has sat down beside you. That's no problem whatsoever. The two lads, their role would not have changed anyway.

"I wanted them to come in and feel part of it in our three-week trip. They'll certainly go to matches for me which is great, absolutely. Steve Guppy was covering that, Steve Walford couldn't do it for a little while, certainly not officially.

"He was covering some matches for me in an unofficial capacity. But in terms of Roy's role, absolutely not (in terms of replacing him). Roy's role is absolutely crucial to it."

O'Neill added that Keane's presence at Villa could also be a benefit with a view to providing an update on the progress of rising teenage star Jack Grealish, who broke into Lambert's plans at the end of the season.

"He'll be able to tell me everything that's happening there so he'll know him intimately now," he said.

Elsewhere, Celtic Park was yesterday confirmed as the venue for the Republic of Ireland's European Championship qualifier against Scotland this November.

With Hampden Park unavailable, and the Scottish FA toying with the idea of scheduling the match at Ibrox, a decision was finally taken yesterday to play the game at Celtic's home stadium.

From an Irish fan's perspective, the news is doubly welcome, firstly as Celtic Park's larger capacity will allow for a more sizeable allocation for away fans and secondly as its location in the east end of Glasgow is certain to be more welcoming than a trip to Rangers' home on the south side of the city.

The November 14 international will be the fourth in Ireland's qualification campaign and completes a tough opening series of games for Martin O'Neill's team. First, they travel to Tbilisi to play Georgia on September 7 before hosting Gibraltar in Dublin on October 11.

Three days later, however, O'Neill takes his side to meet the newly crowned world champions, Germany, in Gelsenkirchen before the Celtic Park date on November 14.

Irish Independent

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