Martin O’Neill has achieved much but has much left to prove
Managerial successes there for all to see but Sunderland failure raises doubts
Martin O’Neill’s public image is that of a nice guy and his management style has been built on inspiring his players. Photograph: Graham Stuart/AFP/Getty Images
Given he is both interested and available, Martin O’Neill need only convince the FAI he is the man for the job when they come calling about the vacant Ireland manager’s position.
There is little doubt he will see himself as the man for the job as he is not one to doubt his own abilities.
“Not only am I the best man for this job,” he observed not long before his then employers at Sunderland decided otherwise, “but I’m actually the only man for the job”.
“I once really doubted myself before I sat my 11-plus, honestly. I didn’t know whether I was going to pass or not. But then I was only seven at the time. I did pass.”
‘Smart and funny’
The Derry man, born 61 years ago in Kilrea into a family steeped in the GAA, is smart and funny and actually does a nice line in self-deprecation, as when he was asked, upon taking over at Celtic, about the abuse he would receive from Rangers fans:
“I’m not even liked in my own household,” he replied, “so I’ll be fine.”
O’Neill’s public image, though, is that of a nice guy and his management style has been built on inspiring his players, especially in the early days when, with his energy and enthusiasm, he worked wonders, often with decidedly ordinary individuals and teams.
His approach appears to have been, in part, a reaction to the negative way he felt he had been handled as a player.
He spent the bulk of his own playing days at Nottingham Forest, many of them playing for Brian Clough, with whom he never enjoyed a good rapport.
‘Bit of a smart-arse’
Clough said later he had always regarded O’Neill as “a bit of a smart-arse,” while O’Neill claimed Clough had “scared the life out of me”, although it never seems to have stopped him answering back.
He regretted Clough and his assistants had not provided more encouragement, observing they could have got another “20 per cent” out of him.
“In fact,” he remarked, “I played my best football at Norwich after leaving Forest.”
As a manager, though, he seems to be just as obsessed with having things done his way as his former boss was.
“Martin O’Neill is a dictatorial manager,” says Stan Collymore, who played for him at Leicester, “in the style of an Alex Ferguson or a David Moyes – in other words he deals with everything. He knows the cost of everything, he wants total control of everything.”