John Giles has blasted Ireland manager Martin O’Neill for the lack of respect he has shown to both the nation and its supporters in recent weeks.
Writing in the Irish Independent, Giles took aim at the former Aston Villa manager’s decision to speak to Stoke City over their vacant managerial post, despite having already agreed verbally to remain on as Ireland boss for the Euro 2020 campaign.
The 77-year-old acknowledged that O’Neill’s decision to reignite his war of words with RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue following the Nations League draw – rather than assure fans of his commitment to the cause – speaks volumes about the priorities of the Derryman.
“It is astonishing to me that the biggest issue which has arisen around Martin O’Neill is his relationship with RTÉ man Tony O’Donoghue. There are more important problems for the Ireland manager to be dealing with.
“There were so many things wrong with that interview in Lausanne that I don’t know where to start. It was petty, pointless and focused on all the wrong things.”
Giles outlined that what O’Neill should be doing is re-enforcing the encouraging signs from the future generation of Irish players, with Declan Rice coming through the ranks excellently at West Ham and having made his Premier League debut with Southampton last weekend.
Instead, his chosen course of action has left his relationship with Irish supporters fractured, and the famous pundit believes that O’Neill’s interaction with Stoke was inexcusable.
“If there is anyone out there who doesn’t think that this is hugely significant, try reversing the details of the Stoke story and imagine for a moment that O’Neill was the manager at the Bet365 Stadium and the FAI came in with a big offer for him to jump.
“How would Stoke fans respond if he sat down with the FAI for talks, the negotiations didn’t work out and he decided to stay on? Would they be happy? No chance.
“It’s one thing looking over the fence at a more tempting offer. It’s another thing altogether when you have one leg over it.”
While the uncertainty surrounding the future of the national team has been lifted and O’Neill’s future now resolved there is no denying that the next few months will be tense as trust must be rebuilt and results must improve on the pitch to keep the fans appeased.
Giles is of the opinion that rather than igniting rows with reporters and ignoring the obvious issues O’Neill should instead be focusing on the future and sending a message of both unity and commitment.
The Stoke fiasco has damaged Ireland and many will share Giles’ views on the matter as well as his hopes the future offer an alternatively positive situation.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena