One of Martin O'Neill's recent predecessors as Republic of Ireland manager took the job with a "four-year plan" in mind. However, for O'Neill, captain of Northern Ireland as a player and confirmed as Giovanni Trapattoni's successor in November, there is no looking beyond UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.
"I have the two years and I think that is right," said the former Celtic FC manager, who will be assisted in his post by Roy Keane. "If I don't make it, I don't deserve to go on. That is the point – this is my job and this is what I want to do. I said the same to Roy, that if I messed up he goes with me, there is no staying on."
The players, media and public alike have reacted enthusiastically to the move by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to appoint O'Neill and Keane, following a fourth-placed finish in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying section. Indeed the fans have already voted with their feet, 31,000 turning up for the pair's first game in the dugout – a 3-0 Dublin friendly victory against Latvia.
"You have seen the response from the whole nation has been incredible, and that's the lift everybody wanted," said Robbie Keane, Ireland's captain and all-time leading goalscorer. "You don't get two bigger characters than Martin and Roy. Everyone is enthusiastic about this partnership, including the players."
O'Neill has so far made only minor changes to the set-up, adapting the back-room staff and scouting network. One significant shift will involve O'Neill and Keane regularly attending club matches, something Trapattoni, who based himself in Milan, rarely took upon himself. For O'Neill, 61, acclimatising to the role may take some getting used to.
"I have never experienced international football [management] and there is a definite difference," he said, pinpointing the breaks between fixtures as the biggest adjustment. "That's the most difficult part of it, but I knew that when I took the job. There are a lot of games I have been to and you envy the managers who are adversaries on the touch line. They probably think it would be better to be sitting in the stands. At first I found it strange but it will pass."
Keane admits his decision to come on board as O'Neill's assistant was a surprise, but the Republic's former skipper says it was an offer he could not refuse. "People think I'm a little bit crazy but I would have been crazy to turn it down," said the ex-Manchester United FC midfielder. "
There wasn't one bone in my body which said this wasn't for me. As soon as I met Martin, I thought 'yeah'. There was nothing to discuss – go for it."
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