Martin O’Neill’s seemingly strong grip on being the next Republic of Ireland football manager does not appear as tight as first imagined.
The former Sunderland manager was immediately installed as the favourite to be named the new Irish boss but two weeks on from the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni, no talks have taken place with the Derry man.
The delay in making contact with O’Neill and his advisors not to mention a couple of key decision made in the last 24 hours by the FAI, not to mention the associations has seen the odds drift on his from 1/7 to 5/4.
The first of those decisions was the appointment of Noel King for the final two qualifying games with Germany and Kazakhstan.
While it was always felt that a new manager would not be in place for the clash with the seemingly unstoppable Germans, an easy home qualifier with Kazakhstan would have been the ideal scenario to begin the new rein with a win.
The fact that the FAI are happy to wait until later in the year or even possibly until 2014 before making an appointment signals their intention to ensure that they are not rushed into a decision.
While O’Neill remains the favourite for the post doubts appear to have been raised within the FAI as to his ability to operate without his long-term assistant and trusted right man John Robertson, who suffered a heart attack in August.
It is worth noting that his failed stint at Sunderland was the first time that O’Neill had worked without his former Nottingham forest teammate with the feeling amongst the FAI that the 61 year old, while regarded as a fantastic leader and motivator lacks the tactical expertise that Robertson possesses.
That fact is further backed up by the second decision made by the FAI, to bring in Ray Houghton and pair him with High Performance Director Ruud Dokter to conduct a “comprehensive assessment of the (managerial) market”.
That decision could lead to O’Neill ruling himself out of the running as he may not want to become embroiled in a drawn out affair and he will feel that his qualifications and success makes him a strong candidate.
From an outsiders point of view it would appear that if the FAI were in favour of pursuing a deal with the Northern Ireland man that it would have occurred by now.
The inaction by the FAI to engage with O’Neill has seen former manager Mick McCarthy move into 4/1 for the role with interim boss King is now the third favourite.
The Irish U21 manager will be advised in the caretaker role by Dokter and goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly and while ultimately he will be judged on his results over the two games, it would appear that he has already made good impressions.
The 56-year-old former Limerick manager has traveled to England for talks with some of the players that fell out of favour with Trappatoni, among them Darron Gibson, Anthony Stokes and Stephen Ireland.
The return of those three would provide Ireland with a welcome boost as the rebuilding ahead of the European qualifiers begins.
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