Pay-off the final act of Staunton's troubled tenure

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The Independent Football

Steve Staunton's tenure as manager of the Republic of Ireland was approaching its official end in Dublin last night after Staunton was summoned to a meeting with the senior decision-makers of the Football Association of Ireland. The Republic can no longer qualify for the European Championship and with one game left they could finish as low as fifth in the group headed by Germany.

Staunton had been awarded a four-year contract when he agreed to replace Brian Kerr in January 2006. It is believed solicitor Michael Kennedy was yesterday arranging a severance pay-off for the manager, which will be considerable. Staunton's contract was signed on the understanding that he would be given time, enough to mount an attempt to reach the 2010 World Cup, and a year ago the FAI's chief executive John Delaney said he could envisage "no situation" whereby Staunton would not fulfil his contract.

But Delaney was notably unsupportive of Staunton when, seven days ago, Ireland required a 90th-minute equaliser to share a point with Cyprus at Croke Park. Although Staunton's public credibility had been shattered by the 5-2 defeat in Cyprus the previous October, this latest underwhelming performance led Delaney and his colleagues to move to match the public mood.

There is one game remaining in qualification, away to Wales on 17 November. A caretaker may lead the Irish there – though suggestions it will be Packie Bonner are unrealistic – and then the process of recruiting the next full-time manager would begin.

There is no outstanding candidate, with many people's favourite, Paul Jewell, already ruling himself out. Terry Venables and David O'Leary lead the bookies' field – but almost by default.

Martin O'Neill had been the principal target post-Kerr but he refused any offer and he will do so again. Despite O'Neill's negative response Delaney continued to promise a "top-class manager"; so there was astonishment when Staunton, who was a player-coach at Walsall, was appointed. Sir Bobby Robson was brought in to mentor the then 37-year-old from Dundalk, who had won 102 caps as a player but who had minimal coaching and managerial experience.

Staunton was maintaining silence until last night's meeting had ended, but he received some support from Mick McCarthy. "He was given a four-year contract and they knew it was a developing squad, I don't think they expected to qualify," the former Ireland manager said.

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