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Saturday 3 December 2016

Betting suspended on Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill to return to Leicester City

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

A leading UK bookies firm have suspended betting on who will be the next permanent Leicester City manager after a major gamble on Ireland boss Martin O’Neill.

O’Neill started the day at 10/1 however, he had been backed all the way in to 1/4 by the time the market was suspended at 11:35 on Friday with some large four figure bets being placed at that price.

“There are some people out there who seem convinced that O’Neill is very close to getting the job if he hasn’t accepted the role already,” said William hill spokesman Joe Crilly.

Should O’Neill move to cut short his stay as Ireland boss, assistant Roy Keane is expected to take charge for the remaining four Euro 2016 qualifiers.

UK betting firm William Hill explained that O’Neill started Friday at 10/1 only for him to be backed all the way into 1/4 by the time the market was suspended at 11:35am.

That policy decision came after some large four figure bets were placed at that price.

Other leading betting companies such as Skybet and Paddy Power have the Ireland boss as clear favourites to fill the vacancy caused by the sacking of Nigel Pearson last month.

“There are some people out there who seem convinced that O’Neill is very close to getting the job if he hasn’t accepted the role already,” said William hill spokesman Joe Crilly.

A betting insider said: "We received many significant four-figure sums on Martin O'Neill to get the Leicester job in the London area. This is very unusual because punters normally place small bets on next manager markets.

"We are also aware that other bookmakers took big bets too.

"To receive one four-figure bet is unusual, to receive several is highly unusual. The last time something like this happened was when David Moyes got the Manchester United job and we were stung then."  

FAI chief executive John Delaney ruled out the prospect of job-sharing last year, claiming no-one could “do both jobs”. That stance lost credibility when O’Neill’s assistant Roy Keane opted to double-job as Aston Villa’s No 2, a position he lasted only five months in before quitting.

So, with just four games left in a campaign that badly needs improvement for ambitions of reaching France next year to be resurrected, could a compromise be reached allowing O’Neill assume both roles?

All of Ireland’s remaining games in September and October will take place during international windows, avoiding any clash with Foxes’ fixtures.

Given the Derryman has never hid his intention of returning to the Premier League carousel, he may feel this is his best opportunity.

A difficult final season at Sunderland, where he was hastily sacked in March 2013, coupled with this underwhelming sole campaign in the Ireland job could combine to dissuade other suitors from offering employment when his contract expires later this year.

O’Neill’s reputation amongst the Leicester fans, however, is bulletproof.

After spearheading their promotion to the top-flight in 1996, he won two League Cups before departing for his dream job at Celtic.

Leicester’s Thai owners Vichai and Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha have big ambitions for a club which battled back to avoid the drop last season. Their chief executive, Susan Whelan, is Irish-born.

The first-team returned to pre-season training with the first of their friendlies due on Tuesday week, July 21, against Lincoln City.

One of the club’s current staff, Kevin Phillips, is familiar with O’Neill having played under him at Aston Villa. Earlier this year, Phillips said he’d heard O’Neill regretted selling the veteran striker to West Brom.

As for Ireland, Keane would seem the logical choice to lead the team on the campaign run-in.

Though the Corkman has vowed to follow any manager he works under out the door, these circumstances are exceptional.

Keane, who has a burning desire to revert to his previous managerial role as ultimate decision-maker, would be encouraged by O’Neill to complete a job they pair began together in November 2013.

The only surprise would be that it's O'Neill, rather than Keane, being the one responsible for ditching the double-act.

The FAI were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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