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By ESPN Staff
Jan 12, 2006

Stauanton released by Walsall

The worst-kept secret in Irish football is expected to be officially made public tomorrow, with Steve Staunton confirmed as the new Republic of Ireland manager.

The final hurdle to Staunton's appointment was today cleared when Walsall released Staunton from his playing contract, allowing him to sign a four-year deal.

The 36-year-old will be joined in the new Ireland set-up by former England manager Sir Bobby Robson, who it is believed has agreed a two-year contract to act as advisor to Staunton.

Joining the former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Coventry defender will be Kevin MacDonald as coach, taking up a part-time role in order to retain his position as Aston Villa reserve-team manager.

Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney met with officials from both Walsall and Villa today to discuss securing the services of Staunton and MacDonald.

And former Sheffield United and Blackburn number one Alan Kelly will also be part of the backroom team as goalkeeping coach.

Walsall chief executive Roy Whalley conceded their were no hitches in the negotiations with Delaney.

He said: 'I met John at the Bescot Stadium this morning and we had a very amicable discussion. We are pleased with the way the FAI conducted their business.

'We have reached an agreement with the FAI, a settlement that was satisfactory to both sides, that will enable them to pursue their interest in Steve.

'As far as we are concerned we have now cleared the way for them to appoint Steve.

'The door is open and we wish Steve every success for his first venture in management, and the same message of goodwill goes to the FAI.

'When he has played, it was very easy to see he has played at the top level.

'He has also been involved on the coaching side, so hopefully his time with Walsall has been very useful in introducing him to that side of the business and it will help him in the future.

'When I met him yesterday I said to him 'exciting times lie ahead', and he agreed with me.

'After making over 100 caps for your country, to then become manager I would think is a dream come true for him.

'He obviously made a great contribution to the Republic of Ireland team as a player, and I'm sure he will do the same as manager.'

Mark Hughes, meanwhile, believes Staunton should have no fears in taking on the Republic job, despite his inexperience.

Like Staunton, Hughes' first managerial role was internationally as he spent five years in charge of Wales before eventually moving into club management with Blackburn in September 2004.

Staunton is due to officially be unveiled on Monday alongside Robson.

Hughes, though, has warned hard work lies ahead because the Welshman needed time to rebuild a Wales squad that had long been in the doldrums.

'I would wish him all the very best because it is a very difficult job, one that can be very rewarding and very frustrating in equal measure,' said Hughes.

'But it was a fantastic experience for myself, a real education, and from my point of view I would recommend it to anybody.

'If Steve had come to me prior to the appointment and asked me whether it would be a good decision to take up the post, I would have said 'yes'.

'The key is trying to pre-empt and work out what may happen. That makes you a better organiser and as a result you can better affect the outcome on things that may happen.'

Hughes believes the bonus for Staunton is he will be working with former England manager Robson, even if at face value the two men would appear to represent something of an odd couple.

'He'll be a great help,' said Hughes on Robson.

'I didn't have somebody as high profile as Sir Bobby working with me.

'But I had Eric Harrison (assistant manager at Wales) who I had a great deal of respect for.

'He was my youth team coach at Manchester United. He had many years of experience and he was a great help to me.

'For Steve, it's a really good appointment. Sir Bobby will be able to oversee what Steve is doing and maybe have an input when and if he feels it is necessary.'

When asked as to what pitfalls Staunton is likely to face, Hughes joked: 'Players not turning up!'

He then added: 'Being an international manager can be a difficult job and a thankless task.

'But when you get the opportunity to manage your country, it's an opportunity you should always take.'

Villa operations director Steve Stride tonight confirmed MacDonald's role with Ireland, although he will remain at Villa.

Stride said: 'Kevin will continue as reserve team coach. The two roles can be combined.'