Monday 16 July 2018

Lack of O'Neill clarity worries Kilbane

Former Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane at AVIVA’s Junior Cup Community Day ahead of the FAI Junior Cup Final (Limerick’s Pike Rovers v Dublin’s Shefiff YC, May 14) at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Former Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane at AVIVA’s Junior Cup Community Day ahead of the FAI Junior Cup Final (Limerick’s Pike Rovers v Dublin’s Shefiff YC, May 14) at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

There seems to be some weight to all of this. After weeks and months of fog about a new contract for Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane, a picture is emerging of two men in high demand.

If the bookies are right, they'll be managing Everton and Celtic soon.

O'Neill is now the favourite to replace the as yet unmoved Roberto Martinez after 24 hours of intense betting and there has, so far, been a deafening silence from Goodison Park since Everton were dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United.

Intensive and well-sourced gossip in Glasgow says that the deal is done and an announcement will come before the end of the season naming Keane as the new boss.

All of this must be making the FAI squirm in their seats and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.

Kevin Kilbane has watched the dance between the FAI and O'Neill and is on the record expressing concern about the delay.

In Dublin as an FAI Junior Cup ambassador to spread the word about the upcoming final between Sheriff YC and Pike Rovers at the Aviva on May 12, he believes that both O'Neill and Keane might just walk away from the Ireland job.

"Everton first of all: it's surprising that nothing's been said since that FA Cup semi defeat, nobody's come out in support of Martinez so, reading between the lines, it looks like something might be on the horizon," said Kilbane.

"But we'll see. Would it suit Martin? I think it's a club that he could manage well. I think it would suit him the way he is and the way Everton are and the way it's gone over the last few years.

"He has that way about him. He's enigmatic, he captivates you when he speaks to you. He is probably appealing to a number of clubs.

"I'm surprised that nothing's been sorted with regards his contract anyway. There are obviously issues, there are obviously reasons for that.

"But it's quite surprising that we're on the cusp of the Euros and he could have three more competitive games as manager without anyone knowing where his future is going to lie.

"He's well within his rights to do that. But I suppose it's up to others to maybe turn his head and make the decision for him. Put everything on the table for him. I think then it makes it easier for everybody.

"You know what it's like: the players will come in and they'll get asked about it in the lead-up to the Euros. What will it be like if Martin stays or goes? They're questions that they can't answer and it's a difficult position for them to be in. So I'd prefer it was done and dusted now.

"If I look back to previous managerial reigns, whenever we've got to his position it's been done and dusted, so we've never been in this position before. So that tells me something is wrong. That's my gut instinct.

"I don't think it will impact on performances, I just think it will make awkwardness for the players. The players then might be constantly trying to watch what they are saying and they would feel awkward about actually saying how they feel. If the manager is there they are telling the truth in saying they want to impress the manager ahead of the next campaign."

For Roy Keane, the landscape is completely different and Kilbane believes that Celtic would be a huge draw for him.


"It's a difficult job to turn down in the first place I'd feel. If I was involved in coaching or management it would be one of the jobs I'd think you'd want. If he wants to get back into club management, he's got a chance.

"It would definitely be a good step for him. He'd be managing in the Champions League. Is he going to get a club to manage in the Champions League in England? Realistically, that's probably not the case.

"Further down the line he'd be looking at probably a Championship club or a lower Premier League club so it would seem like the right fit for him."

Kilbane also makes a case for Keane as the next Ireland manager should O'Neill leave.

"It seemed to me when he first took the role he would be the natural long-term successor to Martin. I don't know on that one, it's a tricky one."

Either way, O'Neill and Keane have fashioned a very strong position for themselves and are in the driving seat.

"They are. That's maybe where they've angled a situation for themselves which kind of suits everyone.

"If it doesn't go right, they've had the success of getting us to a tournament as it is and that puts their stock quite high," said the former Ireland international

Looking forward to France, Kilbane is optimistic and points to the form of key men like Shane Long as a weather vane.

"The form of some of our players has been great. Shane Long is in the best form of his career. He'll cause problems for Italy. He'll cause problems for Belgium and Sweden too.

"Jon Walters played at the weekend and he's back to fitness which is a massive plus.

"Weso had not a bad season. Robbie Brady the same. I saw Stephen Ward for Burnley on Monday and he played well. He's had a great end to the season.

"Prior to Martin taking over, under Trap, there was a little bit of fear there, negativity around the team that we were reading and hearing constantly.

"I think there is a better feeling now and that is down to Martin and Roy," he concluded.

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