Belfast Telegraph

FAI have faith O'Neill will stay with Republic

By Daniel McDonnell

The FAI remain confident that Martin O'Neill will be in charge for September's Euro 2016 qualifiers with Gibraltar and Georgia despite a day of speculation linking the Republic of Ireland boss with the vacant post at Leicester.

Betting was suspended after English-based firms revealed that a number of substantial four-figure wagers were placed on O'Neill taking over from Nigel Pearson.

However, it's understood there has been no approach from the Premier League club to the FAI with regard to the 63-year-old and sources in Abbotstown have insisted there is 'nothing' in the reports claiming their manager will be making a sudden departure.

Leicester are believed to be considering their options, and O'Neill is on their radar meaning they could decide to make an enquiry.

Senior figures at Leicester see O'Neill as the ideal person to take the post.

He is a popular former manager of the club who guided them to League Cup success and made them a force to be reckoned with in the top flight.

Loved by the fans the Ulsterman would be welcomed with open arms by the Leicester faithful. It is a tempting proposition for O'Neill. He's not the only candidate in the equation.

Neil Lennon, who played under his fellow Northern Ireland native at both Leicester and Celtic, is also expected to be part of the discussion.

He is currently the manager of Championship side Bolton.

Both the FAI and Leicester have declined to publicly comment on the story. From the Abbotstown point of view, that is a slight contrast from last year when they publicly dismissed the idea that O'Neill was in line to take over at Nottingham Forest. Nevertheless, they would be surprised if the Republic supremo walked away from the job with four games of the Euro 2016 campaign remaining, even though he has admitted on occasion that he misses the day-to-day aspect of club football.

Earlier this year, O'Neill suggested that he would be open to extending his stay with the Irish beyond his initial deal which ends when Ireland's European Championships campaign draws to a close.

Yet he acknowledged that missing out on France with a whimper could possibly take the decision out of his hands.

His assistant Roy Keane has consistently been mentioned as a successor even though the Corkman has stressed that he would be attracted by a return to the club sphere.

He was non-committal on a second term when the matter was raised at a Q and A in Dublin last month.

Last month's draw with Scotland has left the Republic of Ireland in a difficult position heading into the autumn, requiring favours from elsewhere in order to keep their French ambitions alive.

O'Neill is due to appear in Sligo next week as part of the FAI's Festival of Football leading up to the AGM.

After that, his next official engagement is a trip to Russia where the Republic of Ireland will be fourth seeds for the World Cup 2018 qualifying draw.

The way the balls roll in St Petersburg could impact on the attractiveness of the job.

Belfast Telegraph


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