Following reports that Martin O’Neill has yet to sign a contract extension, there are fresh doubts that the Derry man will lead Ireland into 2018 should they fail to overcome Denmark in the World Cup play-offs.
There were mixed feeling following the initial reports that the former Celtic boss had signed a contract. Many fans felt the deal came too prematurely, almost déjà vu of Giovanni Trapattoni’s deal before a disastrous Euro 2012 showing.
Given O’Neill’s clear tactical flaws during the World Cup qualifiers, these fears were certainly valid. However, Ireland’s unlikely victory over Wales showed his brilliance in getting the best out of what is one of Ireland’s most limited squads ever.
This seemed to swing the pendulum in the way of support for the Irish boss and his assistant Roy Keane but Sunday’s reports have now cast a doubt over what seemed a dead cert.
With this in mind, we look at some of the potential replacements for O’Neill should he unexpectedly step away.
The Likely Candidates
Ireland’s current assistant and, like O’Neill, he is seemingly still holding out on extending his contract. A mixed managerial career but seems to be a popular influence around the squad. The Corkman will be familiar with the structure of international management and may ensure the most fluid transition should O’Neill step away.
Seemed to have come second to O’Neill in the running for the Ireland job in 2013. One of Ireland’s most highly-regarded domestic coaches following long-term spells with Wolves and now Ipswich where he has worked with limited funds. Would adapt a similar playing and man management style to O’Neill and may be a popular choice.
Linked with the post in 2006 following Brian Kerr’s dismissal and did after all begin his managerial career in Ireland with Limerick. Another with a similar playing style to O’Neill and is interested in an international job following his controversial England exit. Could be a perfect fit in the event the job becomes available.
Kenny signed up with Dundalk after a season in which they flirted with relegation and has since brought them to the Europa League and won three league titles. Michael O’Neill showed the potential League of Ireland managers have with international sides and Kenny’s attractive style and knowledge of Irish players could make him a frontrunner whenever O’Neill does leave.
The Brighton manager is probably Ireland fans’ number one choice as the next potential boss, whenever that may be. However, he is thriving with the Seagulls and may find it hard to step away from the post. An ex-Ireland assistant under Brian Kerr and has encouraged a stylish brand of football with limited players throughout his managerial career.
An expert of international football who got the best out of South Korea, Russia and Australia. Did struggle with Turkey and in his second spell with Holland but has a track record of maximising the underdog. Last managed Chelsea as interim boss in 2016 and it is unclear if the 70-year-old wishes to retire as of yet. Could be an ambitious appointment.
Another who may be reluctant to be coaxed away from a Premier League job but the Englishman has history with Ireland. The 45-year-old completed his coaching badges through the FAI and was an assistant under former Ireland under-21 manager Don Givens. Forged a name for himself as assistant to Carlo Anchelotti and has done a solid job with struggling Swansea.
The Outside Bets
Seemed destined for the England job in 2012 but Roy Hodgson pipped him to it. Has international experience with Jordan but may not be a popular choice with Ireland fans given his recent struggles with QPR and Birmingham. Like O’Neill, he is a fantastic man-manager but may not be the fit for Ireland.
Certainly an outside option, but Carsley is already highly-rated as a coach. He has worked with Coventry City, Sheffield United, Brentford, Manchester City, England Under-21s and now Birmingham City. Was ironically overseeing an FA program stemming the flow of English players to other national teams, something that could impact Ireland. Might not be an option for another few years but certainly one to watch.
The son of Irish parents, McDermott was responsible for bringing a number of Irishmen to Reading. He’s stated in the past that he would consider managing Ireland and could be another outside contender should O’Neill decide against remaining in the job. Struggled with Leeds and during his last spell with Reading but still manages to be linked with Championship jobs when a vacancy opens up.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena