Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill back in England frame

Villa boss will be asked to take over from McClaren

By Stuart McKinley

Martin O'Neill today re-emerged as the Football Association's top candidate to succeed sacked England manager Steve McClaren.

And there have been suggestions that the top brass at Soho Square won't take 'no' for an answer from the Kilrea-man.

O'Neill was swiftly installed as favourite for the job when McClaren was relieved of his duties last month, within hours of England's failure to qualify for the finals of next summer's European Championships, and after being interviewed the last time he is still highly thought of by members of the FA team who will choose the next boss.

Another man strongly linked with the job, former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, appears to have ruled himself out of the running over the weekend, just a matter of hours after indicating that he would be willing to talk to the FA about being the next England manager.

Instead he has been strongly linked with taking over at AC Milan, with rumours also suggesting that he will replace Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona, where he was previously a coach.

That has opened the door for O'Neill and if he shows even the slightest signs of being interested the FA will pounce.

The former Northern Ireland captain has, however, distanced himself from the post since it became vacant.

The 55-year-old pointed out that when Sven-Goran Eriksson left the job in the summer of 2006 and McClaren took over he was unemployed. He was appointed as manager of Aston Villa just a couple of months later and has stated publicly that he is in the process of building things at Aston Villa and wants to see that through.

O'Neill's prospects have been strengthened, however, by FA director of communications Adrian Bevington, who has claimed that they will not be deterred from contacting any managerial targets, even those who have publicly ruled themselves out.

"You only find out if someone is prepared to say no once you actually put it to them," said Bevington.

"You cannot work on the basis of what is said in the media. People often have a different opinion when they speak in public than they have in private.

"The only way to find out where someone is on the England job, if you believe they are someone you want to speak to, is when you actually ask them a direct question.

" We should not rule anyone out. Why would we until we have an appointment? It would be very naive of us to do so. We have an open mind."

Belfast Telegraph


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