Martin O’Neill will not be the new Northern Ireland manager. The country’s 1982 World Cup captain has stated that at this time in his life he would prefer to return to club management rather than make a first foray into the international arena as boss.
While there are a list of fine candidates around to replace Nigel Worthington, who is quitting the £450,000 role, O’Neill’s club record with the likes of Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa put him top of the heap.
But the IFA will have to look elsewhere with Jim Magilton, Michael O’Neill and Iain Dowie now the front-runners.
O’Neill spoke to BBC Radio Ulster presenter Karen Patterson last night and while he didn’t wish to conduct an interview for broadcast, he was content for Karen to quote him on today’s early morning programme.
Initially he stated the manager’s job with Northern Ireland would be an interesting proposition, before then ruling himself out of the running declaring that he wanted to return to club management.
Recently he has been linked with Blackburn and Sunderland, where Steve Kean and Steve Bruce are under pressure.
O’Neill added that he may be interested in the Northern Ireland job at some stage in his career, but now was not the time.
It’s a pity because many fans would have loved to have seen Martin as boss.
So too our greatest ever manager Billy Bingham.
Bingham was the last man to guide Northern Ireland to a major finals but his legendary achievements in 1982 and 1986 are a fading memory as the country’s football fans are gripped by depression and anxiety over the future.
Worthington quit his role as Northern Ireland boss this week after his side’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign ended with a whimper.
Bingham was hoping his skipper in the 1982 World Cup finals would take up the challenge.
“Martin never let me down as a player or captain and he would not let anyone down as Northern Ireland manager,” said Bingham.
“He was a great captain for me and he has been a very successful manager.
“I have great respect for him. I made him captain and he responded to the role very well. He’s a bright, intelligent guy and I have no doubt he would have been a wonderful appointment for Northern Ireland.
“Part of the job is having a good understanding of how other teams play and Martin has that knowledge.
“These things come in cycles and there will be a time again when Northern Ireland will be successful. Sometimes you have a group of players that can gel together and I was fortunate to work with some great ones, including Martin.”
O'Neill skippered Northern Ireland at the 1982 World Cup in Spain where Bingham’s side stunned the hosts 1-0 and progressed to the quarter-finals.
He also won the British Home Championship twice as a player, in 1980 and 1984.
He has often been linked with the England and Republic of Ireland posts as well as Premier League clubs.
Bingham hopes now whoever gets the job is from Northern Ireland.
“I feel you have to know the mentality of the people,” he said.
“There are plenty of foreign managers who would do a great job but would they understand what makes the Northern Ireland player or the supporter tick? No one could understand that better than one of our own.
“They know what to say and what not to say. Some people struggle with criticism as well but the most important attitude was to play as a team as we aren’t one of the great football nations. My defenders attacked and my attackers defended.”
Bingham was saddened to learn of Worthington’s departure as the 80-year-old shares a longing to see Northern Ireland hit the big time again.
“I’m interested in the job if they’ll have me,” joked the former Glentoran player. “Maybe I’ll put my cv in. I’m available.
“Nigel was one of the best left-backs who played for me so it’s disappointing to learn of his departure but sometimes you are fortunate to have a great group of players like I had.”
You can still hear the passion in Bingham’s voice when he talks about the art of football management — unfortunately for Northern Ireland, there will only ever be one Billy Bingham.