Search icon


27th Mar 2024

FAI address Roberto Di Matteo appearance at Aviva Stadium as manager odds slashed

Patrick McCarry

Roberto Di Matteo

Took a fair bit of attention away from John O’Shea, and another match in which Ireland struggled in front of goal.

On the night John O’Shea hoped to get a win over Switzerland to further press his claims to stay involved with the Ireland team, FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill and board member Packie Bonner were up in the stands with former Chelsea and Aston Villa boss, Roberto Di Matteo.

The association has been involved in a drawn-out process to appoint a new manager, and coaching staff, since opting not to offer Stephen Kenny a new deal. Lee Carsley was the long-time frontrunner but that one looks stalled. Gus Poyet may be in the mix, especially after his Greece side fell at the final qualification hurdle for Euro 2024, on Tuesday – losing on penalties to Georgia.

Following Ireland’s 1-0 defeat to Switzerland, interim manager O’Shea was clearly itching for a longer run at the gig. “My instinct would be that I’m more than ready and capable to be a manager,” he stated.

Capped 118 times for Ireland and with coaching experience with the Ireland U21s, senior side and at English clubs Reading, Stoke and Birmingham, O’Shea is just missing one key element that would see him over the top. His two games as interim boss were the first time he had the lead role of managing a team. On Tuesday night, at Aviva Stadium, reporters sought to track his next moves with the FAI. The Waterford native said:

“I think that’s something that we will obviously discuss later on. For me, the full focus was on the two games, enjoy the moment, learn from it and really understand it, learn about myself in terms of how I cope with the situation, with the games, and learn do I want to do it more.”

Brian Kerr told Virgin Media the FAI do have ‘somebody else in mind’ for the top job, though. That leads us back to Roberto Di Matteo, but the association sought to clarify his attendance at the friendly encounter.

Roberto Di Matteo
FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill, left, and former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo before the international friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

FAI clarify Roberto Di Matteo visit to Lansdowne Road

While he played 34 times for Italy, has Italian parents and played three seasons with Lazio in Serie A, Roberto Di Matteo and Switzerland go back a long way.

He was born and raised in the Swiss town of Schaffhausen and went on to play for their local football team, as a teenager, before having stints with two other clubs in that country. Lazio came calling when he was 23. He moved to Chelsea in 1996 and won five major trophies there until he retired at the age of 32. He was already taking his coaching badges during his playing career.

His first jobs as manager were at MK Dons and West Brom before he got the chance to return to Chelsea, as assistant to Andre Villas-Boas, in 2011. In March 2012, Chelsea let Villas-Boas go and Di Matteo took over as care-taker manager. Impressively, he led the Blues to an FA Cup win and their first ever Champions League triumph.

That was not enough to save him, though, as they started the next season poorly. In November of that same year, he was moved on and Rafa Benitez came in as interim manager. He competed for four trophies in his 262 days as Chelsea boss, won seven of his first eight games of the 2012/13 and was replaced with Chelsea third in the league.

Di Matteo had one season at Schalke, in the Bundesliga, and helped them qualify for the Europa League after taking over when they were in 11th. There was mutual disappointment, though, when the club only won two of their final 10 games of the season to miss out on the Champions League places. Di Matteo resigned and his last managerial job was brief – four months at Aston Villa in the Championship.

When photos began circulating of Roberto Di Matteo at Aviva Stadium, on Tuesday night, the FAI let it be known to media members in attendance at the game that his being there was a coincidence abd not related to their ongoing search for a manager.

That distancing from the FAI was not enough for the Di Matteo speculation to ramp up, and for his odds of taking the Ireland job dropping from 80/1 to 20/1. There is a possibility that someone of Di Matteo’s experience, as a player, manager and technical advisor (a role he held in South Korea, last year), could see him take up a role above even that of national team manager.

On Virgin Media, ahead of the game, former Ireland player Damien Delaney spoke of John O’Shea working as a head coach under a more senior figure, like a Gus Poyet. Perhaps we could see a similar arrangement between O’Shea and Di Matteo.

There is an FAI board meeting taking place today (Wednesday), so more may soon become clearer.


*Join SportsJOE’s WhatsApp community for first access to news, sports updates, and quizzes. Click on this link to receive news and the latest sports headlines directly to your phone.  You can leave the group at any time.

Related links:

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?