FAI faces criticism for ending Kerr reign

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The Independent Football

A three-man sub-committee within the FAI - the chief executive, John Delaney, the president, David Blood, and the secretary, Michael Cody - have started their search for a replacement for Kerr.

The 52-year-old was informed last night that his contract would not be renewed, along with that of his back-room team which comprised Chris Hughton, Pat Bonner and Noel O'Reilly, thus bringing to an end his 33-month reign.

The FAI have decided to take their time in making what is seen as a critical appointment, but the question is, just who do they turn to?

Two of the most high-profile candidates - the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Aston Villa's David O'Leary - have made it clear in the last week that they do not want the job, although in the latter's case that might change in a few years' time.

The former Celtic manager Martin O'Neill, the 2-1 favourite and understood to be the FAI's first-choice, continues to tend to his wife, Geraldine, who has cancer, and may not be willing to take on the job at present. Beyond this trio, other possible candidates areSir Bobby Robson, John Aldridge, Kenny Dalglish and Phillippe Troussier.

The former Republic defender Mark Lawrenson is worried by the situation. "My feeling is unless they've somebody lined up and they are convinced he is going to be better than Brian, I think their decision has been made in haste," said Lawrenson, who won 39 caps. "My real worry is they've no one lined up and this smacks of a knee-jerk reaction, and it wouldn't be the first time. It's a baby and bathwater scenario for me.

"I'm not the biggest of Brian Kerr fans, but I think he has done a decent job, and if this is a knee-jerk reaction then he should have been left in the job.

"If you are going to let him go, why don't you have somebody in place? It's not like they've sacked him and gone behind his back and started speaking to other managers."

Lawrenson believes that O'Neill is the outstanding candidate, and a man to take the Republic forward as Delaney wants, but his personal situation makes it unlikely that he would be willing to take on the job.

"In international football you need a cup-tie manager. It's almost a part-time job for me," added Lawrenson. "The structure is set up well, so you just need someone to come in and get the players ready, and you equate that with Martin O'Neill.

"But he has other massive problems, so I don't think we are going to get him, and then it's the usual suspects.

"I just hope we don't go down the road of someone like Philippe Troussier and those kind of people. I don't think that's us. It won't work.

"I think you need an Irish or a UK-based manager. You need someone to identify with the players straight away.

"We start qualifying for the next European Championships in August or September, and the amount of friendlies you are going to have to play before then is minimal.

"You are going to have to go into those qualifiers knowing all the players, and if you are a new manager appointed in February or March, I don't think you will know all the players by then."

Ronnie Whelan, another legendary Republic player who won 53 caps between 1981 and 1995, also feels that O'Neill is the man to rekindle the good times.

"They [the FAI] have to look far and wide now to get the right man in this time," said Whelan.

"People said when Brian took over it was a bit of a risk because he hadn't managed at that level before, and now the FAI obviously feel he hasn't done the job well enough.

"But who is out there? There's Martin O'Neill, but will he take it because his wife is ill?

"If there was one you would pick then it would be Martin. He has managed Celtic, and he would have a good rapport with the Republic fans because of that, so he would be the one at the top of my list.

"After that, you don't know because David O'Leary and Bryan Robson are in a job, while Alex Ferguson has said he doesn't need it."