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Sunday 22 October 2017

O'Neill won't quit FAI for Foxes

Martin rules out double-jobbing as Bale focuses on Ireland tie

Martin O'Neill is happy with his job as Republic of Ireland manager
Martin O'Neill is happy with his job as Republic of Ireland manager

Martin O'Neill will not be ensnared in the Foxes' lair at the expense of Ireland's World Cup hopes as the current boss of the national team has ruled out a return to club management with his old side Leicester City.

After a fallow period in which he has been scouting at a lot of games, doing TV work and attending a string of black tie dinners, it's almost time for O'Neill to get back to the work he enjoys - and that work will not involve a sideline as boss of Leicester City in their relegation battle, he has confirmed.

He names his squad in 14 days' time for the World Cup tie with Wales, a game which is now even more important for the Welsh as they try to reduce the a four-point between themselves and table-toppers Ireland.

Each week brings better news from the Welsh camp in terms of Gareth Bale's fitness, his club manager Zinedine Zidane stating over the weekend that Bale was now "100 percent fit" since his return to the side following surgery.

And Bale, who was just a young Southampton player when he lined out for the Welsh in a 1-0 loss to Ireland at Croke Park 10 years ago, is already putting his mind to the qualifier.

Position

"We are still in a good position to qualify at the moment, we are not too far off the leaders and we have to play them next, it's still all to play for, very exciting times and hopefully we can produce the same run as we did in the qualifiers for the Euros," Bale told the BBC over the weekend, keen for his national side to keep up their qualification run.

"We always said we didn't want to get to just one tournament, we want to, now, build a squad and a legacy that we can keep continuing to qualify for major tournaments. We know it's going to be very difficult but we have set the standard high and we need to continue to strive to push it higher," Bale added.

Bale has some club duties with Real to deal with first, but as far as O'Neill is concerned, there is no chance of him leaving the FAI to go back to Leicester.

Though popular with the fans there, a move for O'Neill at this stage was not really on the cards and a case of double-jobbing was not at all realistic, given the seriousness of Leicester's plight.

But O'Neill has, at least, killed off speculation. "I wouldn't be going," O'Neill told the BBC when asked how he'd react if the Foxes did make an approach. "I'm enjoying the job here [with the Republic] at this moment and we have some big games ahead."

Roy Keane had worked as coach with Aston Villa while on the FAI payroll, as O'Neill's sidekick, and that move didn't work out too well in the end so O'Neill would have already identified the issues with managing Leicester while trying to keep Ireland's World Cup bid on track.

"I hadn't even thought about it," he said of the job-share idea.

"And if that were the case - not talking about myself, but in general if someone were taking time to do two jobs at the same time - I think there would be problems if you didn't get the results on both sides."

Nigel Pearson, who Ranieri replaced in the summer of 2015, has been linked with a shock return to the post, while Roberto Mancini and Guus Hiddink have also been mentioned.

O'Neill believes Ranieri's title success had earned him the "right" to keep his job to the end of the season at least.

"With the exploits there last year under him, he had the right in my opinion to see it through this season," he said.

"It is not as if there are three games left and they are adrift - a couple of wins will take them out of trouble. So I think it was a really sad day. Leicester won the Premier League last year by quite a number of points, a phenomenal achievement that will not be done again in Premier League history.

"The players took an awful lot of credit for that and in many aspects, Ranieri dropped into the background.

"It is only two months ago that I voted for him for the FIFA manager of the year."

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