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Delaney: 'If Martin wanted to manage Stoke or other clubs, he could have done so by now'

The FAI chief executive says Ireland’s senior manager will put pen to paper on a new deal early next week.

The FAI boss speaking at the Aviva Stadium today.
The FAI boss speaking at the Aviva Stadium today.
Image: The42

FAI CHIEF EXECUTIVE JOHN Delaney has broken his silence to reveal that Martin O’Neill will finally sign a new two-year contract early next week.

There were major doubts over the Derryman’s future in the job over the past 10 days as Premier League strugglers Stoke City offered him the chance to return to club management.

However, speculation ended on Monday when Paul Lambert was named the new Potters boss and the FAI posted a video on social media last night, in which O’Neill re-affirmed his commitment to the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking at the Aviva Stadium today — where Aviva announced they are extending their naming rights of the ground until 2025 — Delaney revealed that O’Neill had kept him in the loop about Stoke’s interest and called to explain that he wanted to remain in his current position last Sunday.

The 65-year-old met with Delaney and FAI honorary secretary Michael Cody last night to iron out the details of the deal and he is now expected to put pen to paper before travelling to Switzerland for Wednesday’s Nations League draw.

“Martin’s representatives will be in on Monday, they will meet with our legal team and the contract will be signed prior to the Nations League draw on Wednesday,” Delaney said today.

“There was a verbal agreement the last time around and it took a couple of months to get it physically signed. In October, the board agreed to offer Martin a contract and he accepted.

“There’s no doubt that the game in November (play-off defeat to Denmark) was a blow and Martin took some time to consider and reflect on whether he was going to renew his contract for the next two years.”

He added: ”When he rang me on Saturday to say he was meeting Stoke, on balance I have to say that my view was that he would be ringing on Sunday to say he was going to stay with the Republic of Ireland.

He then rang Sunday afternoon to say he had respectfully declined Stoke City’s offer. He has had other offers in the past and he will outline those to you next week.”

Back in October, the FAI announced that both parties had come to a verbal agreement to continue their partnership for the Euro 2020 campaign. However, three months have since passed and Delaney explained that, as Ireland have no fixtures until their friendly game against Turkey on 23 March, O’Neill wanted time to consider his future.

“The November game was a blow, there’s no question about that,” he said. “He (O’Neill) said that to you on the night when we lost at home to Denmark. I’ve said it in interviews before, we’re not playing next weekend — that’s the way Premiership football or Airtricity League games work. We don’t play until the end of March, so he said he wanted to take some time to consider the implications of that night.

“In our view, he’s done a very good job for us. He’s got us to the play-offs twice, qualified us once and onto the last-16 (at Euro 2016) where we were narrowly beaten by France.”

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

Despite the fact that O’Neill looked odds-on to join Stoke, Delaney insists he was never worried about the prospect of losing his man.

“There’s a lot of trust, I’ve said this many times, between the manager and the association,” he added. “I always felt he would stay. I thought the Denmark game was not the way to finish as Ireland manager.

“It gets lost just how well we’ve done in his time — beating Germany at home, Bosnia over two legs, Italy in France, winning in Vienna and winning in Wales. They were all very significant victories that we hadn’t done for a significant period of time. That should be remembered for all that is being discussed here.

“I felt there was still unfinished business in terms of the night against Denmark, I thought that isn’t the way he should finish. He indicated last night that he is going to bring in younger players and he will explain that to you next week.”

Delaney also revealed that he is content to allow O’Neill to speak to other clubs while under contract and claimed that the FAI would have been due compensation had he left for Stoke despite the fact that his current deal has expired.

“It’s not so much as clause as an understanding, and there have been many approaches to Martin since he has joined us as manager,” he said. “We’ve always had a very open and honest relationship so if there are any approaches he will inform us.

If an employee wants to leave an employer, you can’t stop them. It’s like a footballer — if a player wants to leave Liverpool and go to Barcelona or whatever it will be, they will go.

“If Martin O’Neill wanted to manage Stoke City or other clubs, he could have done so by now. But he doesn’t, he wants to manage the Republic of Ireland and he made that clear.”

On the compensation, Delaney said: “It’s ifs and buts and all I’ll say is that I don’t discuss contracts, I just don’t get into it, but the answer is ‘Yes’, if the manager wanted to leave, compensation would be due to the association.

“That’s not something that has happened in this case.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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