Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Gerry: I snubbed Republic job offer

Northern Ireland World Cup hero Gerry Armstrong last night revealed he once turned down the chance to work with the Republic of Ireland.

Armstrong, a legend North of the border after his winning goal against Spain in the 1982 World Cup, was approached about taking the Republic job alongside former Northern Ireland boss Bryan Hamilton.

The revelation comes just a day after another ex-Northern Ireland manager, Lawrie Sanchez, was handed an interview by the FAI for the vacant Republic of Ireland job.

Armstrong has backed Sanchez to land the job but insists it will be a huge decision for the ex-Fulham boss to run the risk of angering the fans who hero-worshipped him with Northern Ireland.

" I was surprised when I heard Lawrie's name mentioned for the Republic job but I'm not at all surprised they are considering him," said Armstrong, who was Northern Ireland's assistant manager under Sanchez for two years.

"The fact that he used to manage Northern Ireland doesn't come in to it as far as the FAI are concerned.

"After Bryan Hamilton was sacked by the IFA in 1998, we were both approached about taking the Republic job before Mick McCarthy got it.

"That's the way football is; it doesn't matter what your previous job is.

"The FAI wanted Bryan to take over back then and when he was considering it he asked me to go with him.

"But on that occasion it wasn't right for either of us as it would have meant moving to Dublin and he had to say no."

Armstrong has also urged the Northern Ireland fans not to turn on Sanchez if he does impress during his interview and land the post.

Sanchez was an iconic figure with the Green and White Army during his three years in charge but Armstrong is all too aware there could be ill-feeling towards Sanchez.

He added: "Some fans will be annoyed, especially if he gets the job, but what he did for Northern Ireland can never be taken away.

"I'm sure there is a part of Lawrie that wishes he never left the Northern Ireland job for Fulham but the fact is that he did and we must all move on.

"When Bryan and I were approached I did think about how Northern Ireland fans would react but football is football.

"Lawrie is out of work at the moment and the Republic job is a big job for somebody.

"A lot of names have been mentioned but Lawrie has proved himself at that level and I can understand why he would fancy the job.

"It would be an incredible occasion, too, if he was the Republic manager when the Celtic Cup kicks off and the two countries meet."

Sanchez's hand could be further strengthened thanks to his association with former Charlton Athletic manager, Les Reed.

Reed, who was on Sanchez's back-room staff at Fulham, and was involved in Northern Ireland's historic win over England at Windsor Park, has worked as a consultant for the FAI.

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