Martin O'Neill has labelled speculation linking him with the England manager's role as "unfair" and tipped Steve McClaren and his players to defy the odds and qualify for Euro 2008.
The Aston Villa boss has emerged as a front-runner to succeed McClaren should he be sacked if England fail to reach the finals in Austria and Switzerland.
Villa chairman Randy Lerner said he would not stand in O'Neill's way should he get the call from the Football Association to replace the under-fire manager.
"My chairman has mentioned something. He was trying to answer a question that was being hypothetical about the England situation.
"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."