Ireland take long view as Fergie says no to Kerr job

An Irish Stuart Pearce might suit the bill as search begins

The document, which is being put together by John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland and two other high-ranking officials, Michael Cody and David Blood, will deal in hard facts. It will point out that Kerr has presided over two failed qualification campaigns - with the mitigation that he took over part-way through the attempt to reach Euro 2004 - and that Ireland's ranking in world football has dropped from 12th to 21st. Damagingly, Ireland are now 24th in the table of Uefa seedings and in the "fourth pot", along with Latvia, Scotland and Slovenia, when it comes to qualifying for Euro 2008.

Kerr has also had three-quarters of the squad that reached the last World Cup at his disposal, it will be stated, but has failed to motivate the players, and failed properly to blood others, and presided over a worsening relationship with the media. That should not be dismissed, especially as many would find it hard to stomach Kerr staying.

Importantly, Kerr's dealings with figures within the FAI have also deteriorated, and he is now regarded as a difficult, broody character. Even his shoddy public castigation of the FAI press officer, Pat Costello, in Cyprus two weeks ago did not go unnoticed. All of this has taken place despite Kerr receiving greater resources and back-up than any previous Ireland manager. That included having scouts at five World Cup qualification games last week.

Despite the emotive issues involved, the FAI are determined to make a clear, clinical decision. That is why, rightly or wrongly, they refused to make any public statements about Kerr's future until the qualification campaign was over. His contract expired at the final whistle of the disappointing goalless draw with Switzerland. Technically, in fact, Ireland are now without a manager.

Kerr is desperate to carry on, but not only does his record not stand up to scrutiny, it is also felt that there may be too many bridges for him to mend. Nevertheless, the 10-strong FAI board will take the matter to a vote when they meet either on Tuesday or Wednesday. There is little appetite to keep the 52-year-old, who will bow out after just 33 months in charge and who will probably take up a post with Uefa, where he has allies.

The search will then begin in earnest for a replacement. The FAI's wish-list is ambitious - headed, as it is, by a dream team of Sir Alex Ferguson working with Roy Keane, who announced his international playing retirement on Friday, as his assistant. Delaney, a fervent Manchester United supporter, believes he has a chance of getting his man, however far-fetched it sounds, and is willing to wait until next summer to see if Ferguson leaves Old Trafford. However, Ferguson has already given that idea short shrift by saying: "When I am finished here I am finished. There won't be another club. You don't leave Man United and go anywhere else."

There is certainly no rush to appoint a new man, as Ireland may not play again until March. In any case they could install a caretaker, with the Under-21 manager, Don Givens, the most likely candidate.

If Ferguson cannot be persuaded, another target, Martin O'Neill, appears equally unlikely, while there is little desire, it seems, to approach either Sir Bobby Robson, who is too old, or David O'Leary, who would not be particularly popular. Instead the FAI are likely to try to identify a tracksuited manager who can motivate and squeeze the best out of their limited playing pool. With their share of the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road to be found, Ireland cannot afford, literally, to fail to qualify for tournaments.

An Irish Stuart Pearce would fit the bill exactly. The nearest to that may well be Keane, but he has already told the FAI he has no intention of taking the job at present. That could change if Ferguson can be persuaded.

Comments