ONSIDE: Bad cop and the worse cop will certainly generate interest

Alan Foley


Alan Foley

ONSIDE: Bad cop and the worse cop will certainly generate interest
At this early juncture, all we’ve really learned is which one will be the bad cop and which one will be even worse .

At this early juncture, all we’ve really learned is which one will be the bad cop and which one will be even worse .

The Republic of Ireland’s new management team was confirmed on Tuesday and Martin O’Neill explained the dynamics of the partnership with Roy Keane as the pair worked for ITV that evening from San Sebastian in Spain.

Presenter Adrian Chiles began the broadcast asking former Celtic boss O’Neill why he chose to work with Keane.

“I’ve asked myself that manys a time in the last 48 hours but he’s coming with me,” said O’Neill. “Personally speaking I think he’ll be great for me but more importantly he’ll be great for the Republic of Ireland.”

Only seven days ago, it seemed like an unlikely alliance but a week, as they say, is a long time in football.

O’Neill’s was the name highest on the bookmakers’ blackboards in the wake of Giovanni Trapattoni’s parting company with the FAI after Ireland’s 1-0 loss to Austria in Vienna in September.

However, it was claimed the Derryman’s interest had dwindled and last week O’Neill was at Selhurst Park in south-east London being interviewed for the position of Crystal Palace manager.

O’Neill, though, was also having a series of meetings with FAI CEO John Delaney and legal director, Sarah O’Shea.

Over 40 years have passed since the favourite for the Ireland manager’s job - then Liam Tuohy - has actually got the role.

And when the FAI entrusted former midfielder Ray Houghton and high performance director Ruud Dockter with a manhunt, O’Neill’s favouritism seemed to slip.

Last Friday, though, the news broke that O’Neill was the recommended choice and there would be an interesting assistant.

Whatever your opinion on Keane, everyone is infatuated by him. Those who bankrupted the country have received less criticism from some. Men who walked on the moon haven’t got as much praise from others.

Keane and the FAI have been at loggerheads since long before Saipan but Delaney remarked on how taken aback he was with the former Manchester United captain when they discussed the new regime last week.

“I was very impressed by him, very taken by him,” Delaney said. “It was Martin’s choice and when he said he wanted to bring him in I had no problem with that, none whatsoever.

“For the good of Irish football and to make Irish football great, we said Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane, John Delaney or whoever will work together to make that happen. No one is bigger than Irish football.”

In some ways, Keane joining the ticket has somewhat overshadowed O’Neill’s part.

But although he was sacked earlier this year at Sunderland and opinions are divided over his success at Aston Villa, it must be remembered that O’Neill was once touted as a future England manager and also as a possible replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Eight years ago, in 2005, the FAI initially approached O’Neill, who had just concluded a five-year term with Celtic to look after his wife Geraldine, who was suffering from cancer at the time.

O’Neill’s time at Celtic Park, where he helped the Glasgow club to a treble in 2001 and went onto win two more Scottish Premier League championships and two Scottish Cups, is said to be the highlight in his managerial career.

Celtic, prior to O’Neill’s arrival, had won just one league championship in 12 seasons, with Rangers the dominant force north of the border.

O’Neill changed the whole landscape of the Old Firm, winning his first derby 6-2 at Parkhead and making Celtic a force Europe for the first time in a generation.

Celtic reached the 2003 Uefa Cup final in Seville, losing 3-2 after extra-time to FC Porto, who, managed by Jose Mourinho, won the Champions’ League 12 months later.

Celtic won 2-0 at Anfield in the second leg of the 2003 quarter-final and Liverpool would succeed Porto as European champions in 2005.

Previously, though, O’Neill had taken the unfashionable Leicester City to two League Cup triumphs in England.

He inherited a side swimming around the middle of the second flight and took them to three top-1o finishes in the Premier League.

It’s that galvanising effect that Ireland require now. O’Neill has the ability to be articulate and make his teams play to their strengths, without restriction and with passion - all polar opposites to how Ireland were perceived to be under Trapattoni.

Another thing Ireland failed to do under the Italian was punch above their weight and that’s another attribute O’Neill certainly has.

Delaney can be accused of plenty of things during his tenure but there’s no doubting the intelligence of the man.

Since 2010, the FAI made a total of €8.4m in repayments on its Aviva Stadium loans, but still owes €59m plus interest and €4m on an overdraft.

Delaney has always said the FAI will be debt free by 2020. But with interest in the national team dwindling under Trapattoni - the stadium was only sold out for the second leg of the Euro 2012 play-off against Estonia - that assumption seemed optimistic.

Ireland will not be at the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer and don’t have a competitive fixture, in all likelihood, until next September.

Before the appointment of O’Neill and Keane, the FAI announced a friendly international would take place on Friday week against Latvia.

The attendance wasn’t expected to reach 10,000 but that estimate will soar with O’Neill and Keane taking charge for the first time.

“I’m the bad cop and I think he’s the bad, bad cop,” O’Neill joked of the partnership. It’ll be interesting to see how, or where, it goes.