Martin O'Neill in talks with Stoke City

Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill

MARTIN O'NEILL HAS prompted speculation that he is out of the running for the Stoke City job and will remain as Ireland boss for now by confirming his attendance at the annual Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland banquet in Dublin this evening.

Former Irish worldwide Kevin Kilbane gave his opinion about what may have a bearing on O'Neill's decision to move on.

The Ireland manager had previously identified Keane as his ideal successor, but maintaining their partnership could offer the number two a straightforward route back into the English club game.

While the Stoke board are disposed to widening their search to include the likes of Espanyol boss Quique Sanchez Flores, the team's position in the relegation zone means a swift appointment is desirable.

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Martin O'Neill is Stoke's second-choice for the gig, and a report by Colin Young and Dan McDonnell in today's Irish Independent claims that O'Neill is going to meet the club for talks.

Stoke want a new manager in place for Monday's Premier League clash against Manchester United.

Whether Sánchez Flores ultimately agrees to take over at Stoke remains to be seen, though reports from Spain indicate he is set to accept the offer of a five-year deal from Stoke, while it seems O'Neill is not content to wait around as the club's apparent fallback option.

He is held in high regard at the club, with a further pull factor for Stoke the fact that O'Neill has yet to sign the contract he has verbally agreed with the FAI, meaning the club won't have to pay any compensation.

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He told RTE Radio 1: "It's embarrassing for the FAI".

The Bet365 Stadium hierarchy had initially wanted Gary Rowett only for the Derby County boss to sign a new deal at Pride Park, but there would be no such issues with O'Neill since he has not yet put pen to paper on a new contract with the Football Association of Ireland and his last one has now expired.

Despite O'Neill taking time off for a holiday to reflect, fears of him walking away were allayed by his visit to the FAI headquarters before Christmas to plan for 2018 and attend the association's Christmas party.

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