5 Possible Managers to Replace Giovanni Trapattoni for Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland have parted company with their manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, after two defeats in four days condemned them to almost certainly miss out on the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The BBC report that the decision was by "mutual consent" following the 1-0 loss to Austria on Tuesday, which leaves Ireland in fourth place in Group C for the qualifiers, six points off second place with two matches to play.
While initial calls centre around Martin O'Neill being the early favourite, the Irish FA must look elsewhere if they are to progress the team and make the most of the younger players pushing for inclusion in the next bout of qualifiers, for Euro 2016.
Although the Ulsterman remains respected in the game, his tired and uninspiring demeanour saw him cast aside as having failed entirely in his two years at Sunderland. At 61 years of age his time anywhere near the top tier of management has passed by, and it's important for Ireland to look for a more enthusiastic and capable man to lead the side from here on.
Here we take a look at five suitable candidates for the job, based in turn on their achievements, suitability and competency.
The first and most obvious candidate is also likely one who will split opinion.
Roy Keane is everything Martin O'Neill is not: a young manager with a lot to prove, outspoken and demanding where O'Neill only appeared introvert and questioning, and—still in the eyes of many—one of the relatively few genuine Irish legends.
Putting aside his playing career misdeeds with the national team, Keane enjoyed limited success as a head coach with Sunderland before struggling in his last role at Ipswich Town and, after two years without a club, would likely jump at the chance to lead Ireland.
There can be little question that Keane would get the players fighting and playing for him or else have them removed from the squad, and he's a big enough personality that he would have no trouble removing some of the established names from the side if he felt they no longer contributed enough.
Keane's next role could be a defining one for his managerial career, so he will be desperate to get it right, whoever takes him on.
There was some surprise around the footballing world when, as part of David Moyes' backroom shuffle at Manchester United, Rene Meulensteen was allowed to leave.
The Dutch coach spent five years as part of Alex Ferguson's first-team coaching staff and was widely recognised as an important part of the group which helped many players evolve significantly in both technical and tactical elements of their game.
A disastrous two weeks in charge of Anzhi Makhachkala quickly ended as the Russian club imploded earlier this summer, and Meulensteen will be looking for a new role to hone his managerial talents.
Despite not having a significant CV just yet in a leadership capacity, Meulensteen's talents are undisputed throughout the game, and having the opportunity to bring together a new squad of his choosing could be great timing on both his and Ireland's part.
Neil Lennon is a former Northern Ireland international, but with Martin O'Neill being one of the other favourites for the job, that shouldn't be an issue in this instance either.
The Celtic manager has quickly proven himself resourceful, determined and astute to get terrific results from what is, with all due respect, a relatively mediocre playing squad in the grand scheme of things.
His team's performance in last season's Champions League has seen Lennon's stock rise considerably as he guided Celtic to victory over Barcelona and progression through a tough group stage, and many of the attributes he showed as manager would be required for leading Ireland.
Getting the best out of a consistent and adaptable group of players is arguably the most important skill that the new Irish manager must have, and Lennon has shown exactly that over the past couple of seasons.
Add into the argument the fact that there is, realistically, very little left for Lennon to achieve at Celtic and no great domestic competitor on the horizon, and this could be just the right move for him at this point.
Bert Van Marwijk
Moving further afield, Ireland showed with their appointment of Trapattoni that they weren't afraid to look beyond the borders of their own country to find the right man, and that should be the case again this time.
Bert van Marwijk has managed success at club level with Feyenoord, in two separate spells, and also has international experience to call upon after leading Holland into the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships of 2012, where Ireland also competed.
It was a heady mix of the almost great and the disastrous during that period, as the Dutch went right to the wire in the World Cup final, eventually losing in extra time against Spain, while at Euro 2012 the Netherlands' tournament was awful as they exited without winning a point.
That sealed van Marwijk's exit, but he has already shown he can do the job over a long-term competition such as international qualification for a major tournament.
Experience, tactical discipline, a chance to perhaps correct past mistakes and a reputation for doing things his own way are all facets of van Marwijk's character which Ireland might benefit from at this time. He might be a bit of a wild-card option, but it's better to go with someone entirely new with different ideas than to be left stagnating with safety.
Talking of new and different ideas, how about Ireland going for broke?
Marcelo Bielsa would be a quite amazing coup for the Irish FA, if he were even to be considered, but if you don't aim high, you'll never know quite how well you could have done.
Bielsa is currently unattached to a club, making him an attractive option to start immediately, and is renowned for being—while quite a fiery and entertaining character at times—one of the best football minds on the entire planet.
Few can plan, detail and execute a tactical plan like Marcelo Bielsa, and he would use the strengths of the players available to him in a way which would boost Ireland's chances of winning any given match. He has experience of international management after leading Argentina and Chile into World Cups, and the additional time to prepare for each game of international football sits well with his preference for analysis and observation, before and after games.
It would be a long shot, perhaps, to even approach him, and it might take a few months and games before he is at ease with a new culture, a new nation, a new language.
But landing Marcelo Bielsa would mark a new point in the history of Irish football and, given the nature of the team at the present time and Bielsa's availability, it's simply too good an opportunity to pass by without even trying.