In a horrendous week for Martin O’Neill and his Republic of Ireland team, the pressure is now on with some sections of the Irish support calling for a change in management as qualification now depends on the play-off route at best.
Former Ireland goalkeeper and now occasional TV pundit Shay Given feels that failure to qualify for the World Cup next summer will firmly land at the feet of O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane.
Ireland followed up last weekend’s disappointing draw in Georgia with a home defeat to leaders Serbia and now need to win at home to Moldova and away to Wales next month to stand any chance of reaching the play-offs.
Their record to date suggests even that might not be enough as they currently sit outside the qualification zone for the play-offs, with the nine second-placed sides from the European groups fighting for just eight play-off spots.
This time last week things were so positive but seven days later both O’Neill and Keane are feeling the heat despite the FAI seemingly wishing to extend O’Neill’s stay for another campaign.
Speaking at the eir Sport season launch earlier this week, Given has backed Roy Keane to take the reins from O’Neill in what he sees as a natural progression.
“I would say that would be the natural progression [to become first team manager], be it this time if Martin stepped away or in the future.
“I think he’s quite keen and it’s no secret that he wants to get back into management, be it with Ireland, a club back in England or another country.
“He’s not made any secret of that and I think he is a manager in his own right as well and I’m sure that one day he will be back in management.”
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena