I couldn't help but feel that the Republic of Ireland job was merely a hitching post for Martin O’Neill at the time of his appointment and his demeanour in recent press engagements has seemed to hint at a longing for something else.
At Monday night’s Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards he was, as ever, compelling for people watchers. While presenting an award alongside Michael O’Neill he veered between relaxed, laconic, focussed and blasé, all the while maintaining the air of someone who is mildly surprised by everything around him.
In a recent interview, he talked about having to go back to Ireland for what he termed, “certain events,” and it might have been just a momentary relaxing of his tone, but it sounded slightly vexed.
One might hold the not all that unreasonable view that O’Neill could grow bored with the tedium of having to turn up at an endless round of supporter’s club dinners, standing there for selfies, listening to drunk people forcing their opinions on him, suffering through what Charlie Haughey labelled the ‘chicken-in-a-basket’ circuit.
However, O’Neill is a man who has impeccable manners, so he puts up with something that must feel a million miles away from the nitty-gritty of day-to-day management of a football club.
It has often been said of Brian Clough that he was the best English manager never to manage his country, but Clough would never have been able to stomach the subtle politics of International management, playing the statesman as much as manager.
O’Neill is different. He knows how to play this game and he has buckets of charm and charisma.
The question we must wonder, is for