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Martin O'Neill sets deadline for Roy Keane's Aston Villa decision

By Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has given Roy Keane a July 31 deadline to decide if he wants to accept Aston Villa's offer to become Paul Lambert's assistant manager.

Having confirmed that Lambert and Keane have already met to discuss the possibility of the Republic of Ireland assistant manager moving to the Premier League club, O'Neill expressed his openness to the idea of a job-sharing arrangement being struck.

However, he is not prepared to wait endlessly for the drama to unfold, insisting the last day of July will be his cut-off point, by which stage Keane will have to prove to O'Neill and the FAI chief executive John Delaney that his Villa commitments will not impinge on his role as Ireland No 2.

"I want to be careful about jumping the gun because we had him signed, sealed and delivered to Celtic and that did not materialise," said O'Neill. "I don't really know if this (becoming assistant manager at Aston Villa) is something that he is going to have a serious look at.

"But if he is then I will definitely speak (again) to Paul Lambert – and see if that kind of role can be combined.

"One thing I want to establish is what sort of in-depth conversations have gone on. I have spoken to Paul Lambert. Paul has spoken to Roy about the possibility of it happening.

"Nothing definitive has happened and I don't really know what sort of commitment (the Villa position) would entail. If he is actually a full-blooded assistant then that is something to consider."

Yet while O'Neill is open to the possibility of Keane moonlighting, he emphasised yesterday that he would like the issue to be resolved before the end of July.

"I don't mind it (speculation) going on for a week or two. Celtic wanted something in place as soon as possible as they have games coming up in Europe quite soon," he said.

"And I assume Aston Villa will want to get something in place by the time they their start pre-season training. I don't want it to be continued right through until August time as we build for the European qualifiers."

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