Staunton free to take Ireland job

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The Independent Football

The final obstacle towards Steve Staunton becoming the new Republic of Ireland manager was cleared yesterday. The Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney met Walsall officials at the Bescot Stadium to secure Staunton's release from his playing contract with the Coca-Cola League One side.

The FAI is understood to have paid Walsall a compensation figure of about £60,000 for Staunton, leaving the 36-year-old free to take up the Republic reins on a four-year deal.

His club manager, Paul Merson, has urged the Republic of Ireland fans to be patient. "The Republic have lost a lot of experienced players to retirement but they have got some good, fresh ones coming through, so Steve needs people to be patient - he needs six years really," Merson said. Staunton has no managerial experience but his 102 international appearances make him the Republic's most-capped player.

The Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes - whose first managerial role was the Wales job - says Staunton will get a "real education" from the role.

"I would wish him all the very best because it is a very difficult job, one that can be very rewarding and very frustrating in equal measure," Hughes said. "But it was a fantastic experience for myself, a real education, and I would recommend it to anybody."