Martin O’Neill has revealed he headed for the Euro 2016 finals with his contract extension as Republic of Ireland manager only verbally agreed.
The Football Association of Ireland announced on Tuesday evening that the 64-year-old, assistant Roy Keane and coaches Steve Guppy, Seamus McDonagh and Steve Walford had all agreed to remain in post for the World Cup qualifying campaign which gets under way in September.
However, asked about his new deal for the first time by the media after putting his players through their paces at an open training session at the Stade de Montbauron in Versailles on Thursday, O’Neill admitted it is yet to be physically signed.
He said: “I’ve shaken hands with [chief executive] John [Delaney], that’s all that’s necessary. John felt that going into the Euros it might be a decent thing to do, so fine. I’m happy with it.
“John and I had a conversation, I’ve shaken hands with him and I have implicit trust in him.”
News of the contracts came as a boost as the squad prepared to fly out to France, although O’Neill is not convinced it made too much difference to the players he has guided to the finals over the last two and a half years.
He said: “I’ve always said this: the players play and want to play regardless of who is in charge. We’ve had a good run the last two years and we want to continue.”
If media attention was on O’Neill as he briefed journalists at the side of the pitch after a training session watched by hundreds of local schoolchildren in bright sunshine, his focus was very much on Monday evening’s opening fixture against Sweden.
Four years ago, Ireland’s campaign in Poland was effectively doomed from the off as they lost 3-1 to Croatia in their first game, and a repeat this time around could prove equally costly.
The manager’s preparations have been hampered to an extent by injuries, but with Robbie Keane, Robbie Brady and James McCarthy all now back in training, striker Jonathan Walters is the only real doubt as he battles a calf problem.
Walters warmed up with his team-mates on Thursday morning, but then worked separately with physio Dan Horan.
Asked about his readiness for Monday’s game, O’Neill replied: “He has a few days yet and he’s improving.”
Walters has become a key figure in the Ireland team under the current manager, playing more often than not in an auxiliary wide midfield position to help add a little muscle and resilience to the team.
Should he not make it, O’Neill would have to shuffle his pack, perhaps with Brady moving into midfield and Stephen Ward coming into the back four.
However, the manager insisted he would not have to opt for wholesale changes should the Stoke man miss out.
He said: “We don’t have to re-think everything, but we have a squad of 23 players out here and everyone is keen to play.
“People want to make a mark on the competition and if Jon’s not fit to play, somebody will step in and with their attitude, should do fine.
“I’ve a decent idea of the side but the players are very keen to start the game and a lot of them feel that they have got a chance of playing, which is good.”