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Kilbane: O'Neill a good fit for Everton, but new Ireland deal should be done by now

The ex-Toffees utility man doesn’t understand why the Ireland boss hasn’t been tied down beyond this summer.

O'Neill has yet to agree a new contract.
O'Neill has yet to agree a new contract.
Image: Niall Carson

FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Kevin Kilbane has expressed his surprise that Martin O’Neill has yet to sign a new deal with the FAI.

The Boys in Green are weeks away from competing at the Euro 2016 finals in France but the future of the current manager remains in doubt as his contract expires this summer.

The Derryman insisted that he is remaining “relaxed” about discussions last week but there has been speculation that he could be set to leave his position after the European championships.

Reports yesterday suggested Everton may be interested in the 64-year-old after he became the bookies’ favourite to replace Roberto Martinez.

Kilbane, a former Toffees player who now works as a pundit, believes O’Neill would be a good fit for the club if they were to part ways with their Spanish boss.

“It’s surprising that nothing’s been said (by Everton) since that FA Cup semi-final defeat (to Manchester United),” Kilbane said during the Aviva Junior Cup day yesterday.

“Nobody has come out in support of Martinez so, reading between the lines, it looks like something might be on the horizon. But we’ll see.

“Would it suit Martin? I think it’s a club that he could manage well. I think it would suit him the way he is and the way Everton are, with the backroom staff continuity the way it’s gone over the last few years.

“I’m surprised that nothing has been sorted with regards his contract anyway. There are obviously issues, there are obviously reasons for that.

“But it’s quite surprising that we’re on the cusp of the Euros and he could have three more competitive games as manager without anyone knowing where his future going to lie.”

Kilbane Junior Cup final pic Kilbane with Pike Rovers supporters during AVIVA's Junior Cup Community Day ahead of the FAI Junior Cup Final on the 14 May. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

Kilbane says it’s the duty of the FAI to persuade O’Neill to stick with Ireland for the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign as the uncertainty can’t be good for the players.

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“He’s well within his rights to do that,” he responded, when asked if O’Neill is keeping his options open. “But I suppose it’s up to others to maybe turn his head and make the decision for him.

Put everything on the table for him. I think then it makes it easier for everybody because you know what it’s like — the players will come in and they’ll get asked about it in the lead-up to the Euros.

“What will it be like if Martin stays or goes? They are questions that they can’t answer and it’s a difficult position for them to be in. So I’d prefer if it was done and dusted now.”

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Scotland v Republic of Ireland - Celtic Park Keane. Source: Lynne Cameron

O’Neill’s number two Roy Keane has also hinted on several occasions that he intends to return to club manager in the future, with his name again linked to the Celtic job that becomes vacant when Ronny Deila steps down at the end of the season.

And the draw of Champions League football could attract Keane, according to Kilbane.

“Reading between the lines, it looks as though he turned down the Celtic job once before,” he said. “I think we’ve probably all got some sort of affinity towards Celtic.

“Roy himself has said he wanted to play there, he was desperate to play for them. It’s a difficult job to turn down in the first place I’d feel. If I was involved in coaching or management it would be one of the jobs I’d think you’d want.

If he wants to get back into club management, he’s got a chance.

“The only reason why is he’d be hopefully managing in the Champions League, that’s the level Celtic are at. Is he going to get a club to manage in the Champions League in England? Realistically, that’s probably not the case.

“Further down the line he’d be looking at probably a Championship club or a lower Premier League club. It would seem like the right fit for him.”

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