Premier League - O'Neill: "Unfair" speculation

Eurosport - Fri, 19 Oct 17:46:00 2007

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has labelled reports linking him with the England job as "unfair".

FOOTBALL Martin O'Neill 2007 - 0

Wednesday's 2-1 defeat by Russia has provoked furious speculation that Steve McClaren is on the verge of losing his position as national team coach, with O'Neill emerging as favourite to replace him.

Earlier on Friday, Villa chairman Randy Lerner had opened the door for O'Neill to leave his current job, saying he would not stand in the way should the Football Association wish to make an approach.

But the Irishman insists he is in no position to comment on the possibility of taking the England post - and believes a further twist could yet see McClaren keep his job and render all this week's speculation entirely academic.

O'Neill said: "I will say my piece. I am very uncomfortable trying to answer a question here about England.

"My chairman has mentioned something. He was trying to answer a question that was being hypothetical about the England situation."

He added: "More importantly, I think England were really unlucky against Russia. They have been playing great in the matches and my own view, for what it is worth, is that they will still qualify.

"I think that Russia will not find the game in Israel easy. I should not be saying any more. All of this is wildly unfair.

"It is unfair to talk about this with people having already made their minds up about the group - and it is not over.

"Steve McClaren is absolutely right in that the group is decided over 12 games and if England qualify, which I still think they have a great chance of doing, will they not deserve to qualify? Yes, I think they will.

"I think it is unfair to ask me the question and I am going to take a real stance. That is the end of my answer."

England's defeat means they have to beat Croatia at Wembley in their final Group E game next month if they are to reach next summer's Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland - and hope Russia slip up against either Israel or Andorra.

O'Neill will now turn his focus to the visit of champions Manchester United to Villa Park this weekend.