Staunton facing up to future without Robson

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The Independent Football

Steve Staunton has saved his own job as manager of the Republic of Ireland following Wednesday night's spirited draw against the Czech Republic - but the tricky process now starts of finding a replacement for Sir Bobby Robson.

The 73-year-old former England manager is expected to step down as international football consultant - Staunton's adviser and right-hand man - due to ill-health. John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, will fly to England to talk to Robson in the next few days.

The FAI says it wants to have a face-to-face meeting and seek medical advice before a final decision is made - but it appears increasingly unlikely that Robson, who signed a two-year deal last February, will be able to remain in his post. But the organisation is also keen for the coaching "structure" to stay in place and would want an experienced, older manager to help tutor Staunton.

Kenny Dalglish, who first signed Staunton for Liverpool, has been mentioned as a possible candidate, and has a strong relationship with the former defender, but it is understood that Delaney is not enthusiastic for him to be approached.

The issue is also a thorny one for Staunton who would certainly have been sacked if Ireland had not produced a vast improvement on their woeful display in Cyprus last weekend. He remains under pressure and if an impressive figure came in to work alongside him the clamour would begin for that person to take the job - just as it was when Robson was first put in place.

Delaney has had almost as difficult a week as Staunton and was forced into a round of impromptu interviews before and after the Czech game following his failure to back the manager on Tuesday and the clear indication that he would be dismissed with another defeat.

Indeed Delaney criticised himself for prevaricating on Staunton's future. "It was a poor performance in Cyprus, and we have to accept that," he said yesterday. "This result was at least helpful in repairing the damage, and we were unlucky not to win."

Delaney has also come in for fierce criticism, with his own future being questioned, not least because he proposed appointing Staunton, despite his lack of experience, and awarding him a four-year contract. "Of course, you are aware of what has been written, but you have to show inner strength. It hurt me, it hurt Steve, it hurt the players."

Nevertheless, and despite the mitigation that 14 players had withdrawn from the squad, Ireland now have just one point from their opening three fixtures in Group D. Their chances of qualifying for the 2008 European Championship appear to have already disappeared.

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