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Friday 9 December 2016

O'Neill's New deal is about certainty

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was at the Aviva Stadium to launch the 2016 SportsDirect.com FAI Summer Soccer Schools programme, the FAI’s largest grassroots programme. Camps run from July 6 to August 28 and are priced at €65. Pictured with Martin O’Neill are Sadhbh McKane, Braydon Roche and Benjamin Lynch at the Aviva Stadium. Pic: Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was at the Aviva Stadium to launch the 2016 SportsDirect.com FAI Summer Soccer Schools programme, the FAI’s largest grassroots programme. Camps run from July 6 to August 28 and are priced at €65. Pictured with Martin O’Neill are Sadhbh McKane, Braydon Roche and Benjamin Lynch at the Aviva Stadium. Pic: Sportsfile

This time it didn't take a couple of crowbars and a water-boarding session to drag some information about Martin O'Neill's contract situation out into the light.

There is now a touch more clarity than we had before any one of the now innumerable interrogations he has received on the subject and perhaps we know a bit more about O'Neill.

He told us that the delay in talking about, agreeing and signing a new deal with the FAI is not about money.

"No, that wouldn't be true. It wouldn't be true," said O'Neill when someone plucked up the courage to ask the blunt question everyone has been avoiding up to now and mentioned money.

Taken at face value, there is no issue between O'Neill and the FAI in that area which begs the follow-up question - why the delay?

This now seems to be as much about a lifelong practice of leaving everything to the last minute and beyond if possible, as anything else.

From what he said, he is much more comfortable working with a rolling cloud of uncertainty over his head than he would be if everything was rooted in solidity.

What would be solid is an incontrovertible statement from him saying he will be managing Ireland for the next World Cup qualifying campaign but that he doesn't want to talk about a new deal until after France.

We're not going to get that so perhaps there is no longer any point in asking him. No doubt he has felt like that for months.

Created

But the issue was created in the first place by O'Neill himself when he made what appeared to be contradictory comments about his contract situation on either side of Christmas.

The semi-euphoric, après-Bosnia response from O'Neill to a few simple questions about a new deal which made it seem as if all he had to do was sit down with the FAI and sign the forms was replaced by something a lot more woolly.

Woolly it has remained, so O'Neill's attempt to explain why something which, on the face of it seems simple enough, is taking so long to complete was welcome to that extent.

"I went into a European Cup Final one time with my contract out and it never really wildly bothered me.

"My contract is actually through here until our participation is no longer there. That really wouldn't be a big issue at all (but) the World Cup qualifying games are coming up relatively quickly after that.

"But I think we can only deal with one thing at a time. I'm quite sure deep down that everyone would rather go into the Euros feeling solid.

"I'm sure that's the feeling. John (Delaney), we work very well together. It's just that John comes up against someone who is not solid."

"You could agree this in about 10 or 15 minutes and I think John is pretty relaxed about it."

Clearly, O'Neill will happily wait until after the finals to make a deal and let's be honest, who wouldn't, standing in his shoes?

He holds all the cards and if things go well in France, he will have more than one contract to consider.

That's the reality. He declared everything relevant when asked whether vacancies in the Premier League during the summer are a factor.

"I think everything is relevant. I go with an open mind but I can see the viewpoint of wanting to get something tied down beforehand. I actually see that clearly but I see my side too."

There is more at work here than the simple imperative of keeping his options open. He needs to feel he has earned a new deal before he will sign one.

"Do I feel as if we have earned the right to at least talk about extending here then absolutely. John feels the same which is great," said the Ireland boss.

"You like to go in having an edge. You want to do well, so that going forward here into the next couple of years, you've actually earned the right.

"Seriously, if you're asking me whether you think that, and this is maybe rather big-headed or whatever, but actually I do think that I have earned that right going forward," he added.

"But you don't want to go into the Euros and do really badly and think 'are we back to square one?'

"I just like to feel that if you're going to end up signing something that you feel that you deserve it," he said.

"It has been a privilege managing this side, I've enjoyed it immensely, I've said this to John, and I would like to have a think about it.

"As a player the contracts never really worried me. And they never really worried me through my managerial time. I accept the fact that you think this is definitely an issue, not to me."

"Sometimes you don't want to outstay your welcome. There was a period of time here where, particularly after Scotland in June of last year, where if I had mentioned contracts to you, you would have been turning around and saying, 'What are you talking about?'"

"Thankfully it has turned around at the minute; not turned around enough for me to be saying, 'I told you so'.

"I'm just too long in this game to know that you can't make strong assumptions without the competition being finished."

O'Neill was slightly disturbed to hear that the pitch at Turner's Cross may require some help after heavy recent usage.

"I'm glad you mentioned that. We were going to go down for a look but I'll do that a bit earlier now that I've heard that," he said.

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