ROY Keane remains on course to be named the new manager of Celtic within the next 48 hours as the Scottish champions close in on an agreement with him.
Talks between Celtic and the Republic of Ireland assistant manager are understood to be at an advanced stage with all indications suggesting he will accept the opportunity to succeed Neil Lennon in the role.
Keane, who was formally approached by Celtic’s biggest shareholder Dermot Desmond last week, is expected to make a decision before the Irish squad fly to the USA on Wednesday for two challenge matches against Costa Rica and Portugal.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, speaking after he and Keane oversaw a 0-0 draw with Italy at Craven Cottage on Saturday, said: “I haven’t spoken to him on this matter because we were focused on the game.
“But I’m pretty comfortable about it. It’s not a case of what I want to happen, but I think it will be resolved by Wednesday.
“My assumption is that Celtic are looking at potential candidates. They have [Champions League] games coming up and they will want to make a decision fairly soon.”
Former Celtic manager O’Neill, who recruited Keane as his assistant last November, paid tribute to his efforts in the role.
“We would all be very disappointed if he left,” O’Neill added. “My own view is that he has settled in very well indeed. The players have really taken to him, something I knew would be the case.
“He has been terrific. I think he is really enjoying this experience so it will be a disappointment if he left. The players would love him to stay. But I reiterate that this situation will be resolved before we travel to the United States.”
Celtic hope to confirm Keane’s appointment as soon as possible in order to maximise his preparation time for the new season. The Celtic first team squad are due to return to training in just three weeks’ time, ahead of their first Champions League qualifying tie on 15 or 16 July.
It is understood that Keane has already identified potential candidates to join his backroom staff at the club. Former Celtic striker Brian McClair, who played alongside Keane at Manchester United and is currently head of the Old Trafford club’s youth academy, may be among those considered for the assistant manager’s position.
Keane has been a short-priced, odds-on favourite to become Celtic manager since last week. But Henrik Larsson, who was initially installed as bookies’ favourite when Lennon quit the job ten days ago, remains at the centre of speculation in Sweden linking him with the job.
Now manager of top-flight club Falkenbergs, the former Celtic striker faced weekend questions from reporters over a local report which claimed he had held talks with Parkhead officials who flew into Angelholm Airport, near Helsingborg, on a private jet.
Larsson responded: “Who told you that? I do not know anything either. You can interpret that any way you want.”
The ex-Manchester United and Barcelona player, however, went on to express his enthusiasm at the prospect of becoming Celtic manager and insisting he could be a success in the job.
“It is a fantastic club where I became the player I was,” added Larsson.
“When I got into the coaching profession, I knew the manager’s job would always be associated with me.
“After signing for Celtic, I didn’t know how much the club meant to the people there. I’ve seen managers going to Celtic who thought that it was just another club.
“But it’s more than that. I think I understand what it means to be the manager there and what is expected of you. And I definitely think I’m capable.”