Charlton keeps future plans to himself

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The Independent Online
Would he stay or would he go? Jack Charlton, true to form, was not in the mood to oblige the media who wanted to know whether the Republic of Ireland's defeat by a manifestly superior Netherlands side would mark the end of a remarkable era.

Contrary to a fault, Charlton initially shared his post-match thoughts with only a handful of the 350 journalists covering the match while the rest of the press pack traipsed across from the other side of Anfield. Persuaded to return, and clutching a pint of bitter, he pronounced himself "disappointed" with both the result and the Republic's performance, but would not elaborate on his future plans.

"I'll say for the last time that I'm going to go away and have a good Christmas and hang around into the new year," he said. "Then I'm going to make my decision as to what I'm going to do. I'm getting sick of repeating myself about this one."

The Republic's highly favourable draw for the World Cup qualifying campaign may have left the 60-year-old Charlton leaning towards continuing his decade-long tenure as manager. If he does stay - and the 20,000 Irish supporters chanted "We want Jack" until he appeared on the pitch 20 minutes after the final whistle - it is clear that he will have his work cut out to rebuild the Irish side.

The second generation of players during his time in charge have proved less pliable - less reliable - than the McCarthys, Morans, Whelans and Sheedys of the Eighties. The Republic have now won just one of their last six matches, and Charlton betrayed signs of exasperation last night with some of the newer faces.

However, it was the substitution of one of the old guard, John Aldridge, by Alan Kernaghan that raised eyebrows even among the most ardent members of the legions who had turned the Kop into a sea of green. "People might say that if you bring a forward off and stick a defender on, that it's a negative formation," Charlton said.

"But the idea was to tighten up the middle and push the full-backs on. We wanted to press the Dutch like we used to - we practically invented the pressing game. I told them what to do, but they didn't do it. I couldn't get through to them what I wanted.

"We've got a lot of work to do. Too many players are coming in and too many going out. We've got a real problem with that." That sounded like a promise - or even a veiled threat - to stay. "I'm not going to answer that," Charlton said tersely.

With characteristic perversity, Charlton said he had been "delighted" to go in at half-time only 1-0 in arrears, and lamented the one that got away from Tony Cascarino. Yet he claimed to have enjoyed the atmosphere. "It was a good friendly occasion. We've had some great days and good nights out with the Dutch. Our lads know that the better team won."

n The bookmakers William Hill last night made Kenny Dalglish 2-1 favourite to succeed Charlton as Ireland manager.

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