Belfast Telegraph

Staunton set for exit as fans run out of patience

By Jason Burt

Steve Staunton is set to be sacked as the manager of the Republic of Ireland and may not survive until the the end of their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign on 17 November. The Football Association of Ireland is preparing to call an emergency board meeting which would end Staunton's ill-fated regime less than half-way through a four-year contract which runs until 2010.

The organisation is scheduled to meet four days before the match against Wales in Cardiff. But such is the build-up of pressure and criticism that its chief executive, John Delaney, suggested yesterday that the meeting might be brought forward. "In the past, board meetings have been brought forward earlier to deal with major issues and we'll see over the coming couple of days what our board members want to do," Delaney said.

Despite his pivotal role in appointing the 38-year-old, Delaney was at pains yesterday to distance himself from the decision, saying it had been taken by the FAI and not just himself. It was a clear indication that he was preparing for the inevitable sacking which will follow a dismal campaign. The FAI is committed to carrying out a "review", but it appears that it has already decided that it cannot defend Staunton any further. Delaney has previously attempted to back the former Liverpool and Aston Villa defender, who holds the record number of appearances for the Republic, but, according to sources, cut a dispirited figure on Wednesday evening following the appalling 1-1 draw at home to lowly Cyprus.

Staunton, who has insisted he will not quit, was booed throughout the game, although the FAI will be even more alarmed by the thousands of empty seats at Croke Park.

The manager only narrowly held on to his job last year after securing a goalless draw in Dublin against the Czech Republic which followed the harrowing 5-2 defeat by Cyprus in Nicosia. His relations with the media have not helped his cause – he has often been unnecessarily hostile and uncommunicative – while his tactics and team selection have constantly been called into question, especially as he appeared overpromoted when he succeeded Brian Kerr.

The Republic's players admitted there were no excuses following Wednesday's match, which could have been even worse had Steve Finnan not scored an injury-time equaliser.

Group D

Remaining fixtures: 17 Nov: Czech Republic v Slovakia; Germany v Cyprus; Wales v Rep of Ireland. 21 Nov: Cyprus v Czech Republic; Germany v Wales; San Marino v Slovakia.

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