The former Ireland manager reflects on past and present in Belfast, the city of his parents

The new manager and backroom  team at Middlesbrough  of  Robbie Keane, Jonathan Woodgate, Leo Percovich and Danny Coyne. Photograph: Tom Banks/MFC/PA Wire

‘Can you imagine the young players at this football club learning from Robbie?’

 Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris celebrates saving Sergio Aguero’s penalty in the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City. Photograph: Matthew Ashton  – AMA/Getty Images

Spurs goalkeeper can lift trophy at end of up-and-down season

There was a photograph of Grant Leadbitter on his knees on the final whistle against Portsmouth. It screamed. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Grant Leadbitter hopes to lead boyhood club to victory at Wembley after emotional return

 United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer   and Paul Pogba  after the final whistle   of the Premier League match against Cardiff at Old Trafford on May  12th. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Release of joy Solskjaer sparked from December to March has protected Glazers and Woodward

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola respect each other despite a deepening rivalry. Photograph: Reuters

Could we be on verge of City-Liverpool era as there was once with Man United and Arsenal?

Rafael Benitez: the former Liverpool manager could be overseeing his last home game for Newcastle when Klopp’s side continue their title pursuit on Tyneside on Saturday night. Photograph:  Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Peril for Liverpool 2019 is that on Tyneside they see their reflection in Newcastle 1996

Pat Jennings: He [Pochettino] has a great team around him and with the chairman they’ve done an unbelievable job. Hopefully we can push on – win the Champions League, get top four.”  Photograph:  Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Still coaching at Spurs, the legendary goalkeeper is thrilled with the club’s progress

Neil Warnock celebrates following Cardiff City’s crucial away Premier League win over Brighton which gives them a chance of avoiding relegation.  Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Irascible manager not to everybody’s taste but has proven his worth over the years

The public conversation Niall Quinn has been driving began following an invitation before Christmas to the PFAI awards night in Dublin. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Former international trying to build pathway for Irish players through the domestic game

Daniel Farke: Norwich City manager has oversen a dramatic upturn in the club’s fortunes since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team.   Photograph: Richard Sellers

Promotion looking likely for the German manager and the club’s astute sporting director Webber

Niall McGinn celebrates scoring against Estonia at Windsor Park in the Uefa 2020 qualifier. Photograph: Inpho/Presseye/Jonathan Porter

What does the Northern Ireland team mean to Protestant community?

Gerd Muller (hidden) is surrounded by his team-mates after scoring the winning goal for West Germany against the Netherlands during the 1974  World Cup final at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Photograph:  Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Memories of former clashes, including the 1974 final, will ensure a tense Euro 2020 qualifier

Birmingham City  fan Paul Mitchell invades the pitch and attacks Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish from behind  during Birmingham derby at St Andrew’s. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

As Jack Grealish discovered, so-called grown men are capable of odious behaviour

John Reynolds, Aston Villa, circa 1896, Reynolds is the only player to have  represented both Ireland and England at international level. Photograph:  Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images

In an unmarked grave in Sheffield lies the Blackburn-born midfielder John Reynolds

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers lifting the Scottish Cup  at Hampden Park, Glasgow, last May. As he  monitored Claude Puel’s downturn at Leicester City, he will have focused not just on Leicester’s wealth and potential, but also on English football’s broader appeal.  Photograph:  Graham Stuart/PA Wire

Winning 10 titles in a row could be seen as a Scottish weakness not a Celtic strength

United’s Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool  during a  league match at Anfield on October 15th, 2011. Photograph:  Getty Images

Klopp’s challenge has credibility lacking in the past – Sunday should be a special renewal

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is in so many ways United’s dream candidate. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Spurs manager has something Manchester United’s caretaker boss does not yet possess

Derry City manager Declan Devine: “From the first day in the door I thought we had to get local-based players.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The idea of a border reappearing due to Brexit is a future nobody at the club wants to see

City’s Kevin De Bruyne walks toward manager Pep Guardiola during his substitution at  St James’ Park, Newcastle. Photograph: Reuters/Lee Smith

After City’s defeat to Newcastle, one wondered if one substitution could possibly have changed a season

The Premier League is aware a Neil Warnock Little Englander image can be damaging. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Premier League is an international success story that could be changing

Martin O’Neill, the new Nottingham Forest manager,  poses with a shirt after a press conference at the City Ground, Nottingham. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

There’s lots of potential for a proven manager back at the club where he made his name as a player in the 1970s

 Marko Arnautovic of West Ham arguing with manager Manuel Pellegrini  when substituted during  an FA Cup  match against Birmingham City at the London Stadium on January 5th. Photograph:  Alex Morton/Getty Images

Michael Walker: blend of consistency ability and experience make him a wanted man

Owen Oyston (pictured at the back with the hat) was jailed for rape in 1996 and is currently bringing the club through a court battle. Photograph: Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Devoted fans to mount familiar protest outside ground during FA cup clash with Arsenal

Leicester City had just scored a second, late goal against Manchester City. At Anfield, the news was embraced like a lost medal. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

In the past five seasons, 81-82 points is the average required - Liverpool have 51 already

Cold front: José Mourinho. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

‘Palpable discord’ followed José Mourinho out the door at Old Trafford

Howard Gayle  of Liverpool (right) moves past Wolfgang Dremmler of Bayern Munich during the European Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, 22nd April 1981. Photograph: Keith Hailey/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Man City star confrontis the racism which blighted the career of players like Howard Gayle

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Matt Doherty (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring their late winner during Premier League win over Newcastle United. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images

Irishman headed in a winner in the dying seconds against 10-man home side

Shay Given: “You know what I’m like, I love the craic, the buzz around the lads. When you’re a coach, it’s tough if you lose, it is quite draining. But when you win, it’s mad, it’s magnified.” Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Former Ireland goalkeeper relishing his coaching role alongside manager Frank Lampard

Declan Rice: “Obviously the England-Ireland situation is a lot to take on. To be honest, I’m just focused on playing for West Ham.” Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters .

Exciting West Ham prospect expecting to meet the new Republic boss soon

New Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Stephen Kenny has earned his chance at an international job. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Throughout his career, the Dubliner has made the most of initially meagre resources

Northern Ireland fans. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Michael Walker: There were boos in the game of two Irelands, but humour too

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper  Darren Randolph saves a shot from Northern Ireland’s  Gavin Whyte during the friendly international at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper pulls off a number of quality saves to deny Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Tommy Wright is beaten by Alan McLoughlin’s shot  during the World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park on Wednesday, November 17th 1993. Photograph:   Joe St Leger

Alan McLoughlin’s goal secured a World Cup spot for Ireland on a tense night in Belfast

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich: “He knew the game inside out,” says the club’s former manager Carlo Ancelotti. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

Abramovich unable to witness in the flesh the side’s stylish progress under Sarri

 The Turf pub sign in Burnley  depicts an image of ex-player, Northern Ireland’s James McIlroy, who was instrumental to the club’s league title success in 1960. Photograph:  Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Jimmy McIlroy's innovation captured the tradition of brains over brawn in Irish soccer

Jimmy Hasty receiving  Dundalk FC’s footballer of the year award for 1965

Remarkable ex-Dundalk player became another tragic casualty of the Troubles

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill: “Irish rugby is so strong, producing players of a world level. It’s very difficult to then say ‘here’s a wee lad playing for Crusaders, watch him’.” Photograph:   Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

‘The Irish League still has the same format: two nights training and a game on Saturday.'

  Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was frustrated by his side’s late home defeat to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Response from some quarters to Chelsea defeat shows new confidence is brittle

Chelsea’s Gael Kakuta against Wolves in 2009. Former manager Carlo Ancelotti described him as “the future of Chelsea”. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Chelsea released Gael Kakuta in 2015 after six loans in five countries over four years

 Why is Mike Ashley still doing it? Is it really to plaster St James’ Park in Sports Direct logos? Is there not a simpler, less time-consuming form of advertising? Photograph:  Martin Rickett/PA

Echoes of earlier history as sports shop protest reflects disenchantment at the club

Leeds United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell had low-level enquiries from England. 'It was more a few feelers and gauging where I’m at here.' Photograph: Getty Images

Leeds United goalkeeper is eager to make his competitive debut for Northern Ireland

Steven Gerrard: “We’re in a good place. I think it’s a chance to put a marker down.” Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Former Liverpool stalwart has presided over an improved mood around Ibrox

 Cristiano Ronaldo:   he scored 450 goals in 438 appearances for Real Madrid.  Photograph: Getty Images

Ronaldo soaked up the pressure of Real Madrid in full-on Galactico mode and stuck in the goals

Marcelo Bielsa: the former Argentina coach is the latest manager to try and return Leeds United to their former pomp. Photograph: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The ex-Argentina boss is busy implementing his vision as a new league season beckons

Gareth Southgate: “I think we know where we are, we’re a team ranked 13th in the world.”  Photograph:  Adam Davy/PA

Gareth Southgate's squad don't have the usual feverish expectation

 Liverpool fans celebrating in Rome on May 2nd after the team  qualified for the Champions League final. Photograph:  Julian Finney/Getty Images

Liverpool built a European empire on camaraderie, banter, talent and a passion for the shirt

Celtic’s Scott Brown and Ireland’s Seán Maguire clash during the Celtic captain’s testimonial. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Graham Burke and Callum Robinson get opportunity to impress O’Neill against Celtic

Scott Brown of Celtic is seen with his children during the Scott Brown testimonial match between Celtic and Republic of Ireland XI at Celtic Park. Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Celtic captain was honoured on a day where Graham Burke made his international debut

Packie Bonner directs his Celtic  team-mates during a game against Aberdeen in 1991. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Allsport

The ex-Celtic and Rep of Ireland No 1 now a technical adviser to Uefa on goalkeeping

Rangers fans display banners during the league  match between Rangers and Hearts at Ibrox  on April 22nd, 2018. Photograph:  Getty Images

Both former Liverpool star and Ibrox had reasons to hesitate before managerial move

Aaron Mooy celebrates a vital goal  for  Huddersfield Town against Manchester United in October. The subsequent victory ended a poor run for the newly-promoted side. Photograph:  Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Maintaining their Premier Division status would be a remarkable achievement for Town

Pep Guardiola: is on the cusp of winning a seventh league title in three countries. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Style and substance the mark of a coach who has guided Man City to the cusp of the title

 Sunderland’s Darron Gibson: in 2015 he  was a mainstream Ireland international and Premier League footballer with Everton. Photograph: Getty Images

Republic of Ireland player has been central yet peripheral in his unusual career

West Ham legend Trevor Brooking looks on from the stands during the club’s Premier League match against  Burnley at London Stadium last Saturday. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

It’s hard to see what the club – or its fans – have gained by the move from Upton Park

 Ryan Sessegnon celebrates scoring his side’s  opener against Wolves this week. For all  the Fulham player’s maturity,  it is worth bearing in mind he is still a teenage boy. Photograph: Mark Kerton/PA Wire

Cautionary tale of George Green shows that Ryan Sessegnon may not be the next big thing

Gareth Barry and Jonny Evans: two of the four West Brom  players that nicked a taxi at five in the morning outside a McDonald’s in Spain. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Pardew will wonder if Barcelona taxi ride ends with West Brom in the Championship

Celtic fans stand for a minute’s silence in memory of Liam Miller at Parkhead. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

‘The Boy On The Shed’ more than a sporting bio – it’s a window on another world

Harry Gregg makes a save for Manchester United in August 1958. Photograph: Getty

United goalkeeper has never wanted to be defined by the lives he saved in February ’58

Manchester United line up before their 1958 European Cup quarter-final second leg against Red Star Belgrade. Photograph: Inpho/Getty

Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy’s flowers left an indelible mark on European football

Martin O’Neill: the Republic of Ireland manager took the job not to get rich but because he considered it an honour. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The Republic of Ireland manager’s commitment has served him, and his country, well

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill: he has been impressed with the speed and scale of the IFA’s offer.  Photograph: EPA/Jean-Christophe Bott

O’Neill met Scottish Football Association to discuss succeeding Strachan as manager

Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish  shoots at goal during the Sky Bet Championship match against Derby County at the iPro Stadium. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Former bright prospect ready for a fresh start under Steve Bruce at Aston Villa

Sam Allardyce: “It’s extremely depressing that a country of this magnitude . . . can allow so many food banks to be operating.” Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty

Manchester and Liverpool clubs tackling hardships caused by government inaction

For thinking about the game differently and for making us think about the game differently, Pep Guardiola deserves all the praise he is receiving. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Some said England had ‘found out’ the Manchester City manager. The opposite is true

Sean Dyche: the Burnley manager believes in structure and work, values and intelligence and has led his club to lofty heights. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

No-nonsense manager has achieved great things with meagre resources

 Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates with the Premier League trophy in 2012. Photograph:  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Under Guardiola, City are throwing down the gauntlet to their great rivals, United

 Sam Allardyce  arriving at Goodison Park for  the Premier League match between Everton and West Ham United on November 29th. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Allardyce is viewed as old school even if Ferguson calls him ‘ahead of his time’

Enda Stevens in action for Sheffield United under pressure from Matty Pearson of Barnsley. Photograph: Mark Cosgrove/Action Plus via Getty Images

‘There’ll be disappointments but it’s how you come through it. Application, dedication’

Sunderland fans are prepared to pay a serious sum to watch a team that is yet to win on the pitch on the other side of the turnstile in 2017. This is a scene that, simultaneously, bemuses and intrigues. Photograph:   Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Regardless of dismal record, Simon Grayson’s did not deserve his abrupt dismissal

Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan in action against Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

Both at club and international level the skilful midfielder has overcome adversity

Argentina’s Lionel Messi  scores his third goal against Ecuador. Argentina’s victory sealed their place in the World Cup in Russia.  Photograph: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images

O’Neill trusts footballers to do what’s necessary because he was one and knows the drill

Istanbul bonded Rafa Benitez to Liverpool FC, and his activity with the Hillsborough Family Support Group bonded him to the city. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Benitez will get a warm reception from Liverpool fans for reasons more than football

Rangers’  new signing Alfredo Morelos looked lively midweek against  Partick Thistle, but then again it was against Partick Thistle. Photograph: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Pedro Caixinha may fear for future should Celtic remind hosts of how far they have fallen

Modern football is one long racket, Messi is the whisper of history heard above it

Neymar scores for Barcelona during the Celtic’s 7-0 defeat at the Camp Nou in September 2016. It was a night that raised questions about the entire competition and the role of clubs such as Celtic in it. Photograph: Alberto Estevez/EPA

Michael Walker: It’s a balancing act of domestic domination and European inspiration

Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans celebrates scoring his team’s first goal. Photograph: Reuters

Michael O’Neill’s team secure second spot with their 2-0 win over Czech Republic

Michael O’Neill’s decision to switch Josh Magennis to the centre paid off with two goals against San Marino last Friday. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA Wire

A point against the Czech Republic would guarantee second place in pool

Jamie Vardy: celebrates one of his two goals against Arsenal at the Emirates. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Leicester striker’s fairytale rise from non-league obscurity to international striker

Darren Randolph on his move from West Ham: “When you’re told one thing and something else happens, it becomes clear you’ve to look after yourself.”   Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/ Reuters

Former West Ham player reveals why he was so eager to join Middlesbrough

Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner. Photograph: Dominic Ebenbichle/Reuters

Wagner’s minnows will be fortunate to survive the choppy waters of the top flight

Zinedine Zidane: Looking to become the first manager to retain the European Cup since AC Milan’s Arrigo Sacchi in 1990. Photograph: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Real Madrid boss looking to emulate Arrigo Sacchi in Cardiff

Iraqi relatives and friends mourn  victims of a suicide bomb attack in Iskandariyah, a town 40km south of Baghdad, in March 2016. Photograph: Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images

The targeting of boys playing football or girls going to a concert is grim on so many levels

Supporters of Manchester United cheer prior to the UEFA Europa League final  match against Ajax   in Stockholm. Photograph: Soren Andersson/ AFP Photo

However briefly uplifting the 90 minutes in Stockholm, they are incomparable to what has gone and what lies ahead

Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February less than a year  after leading Leicester City to an unlikely Premier League title. ‘The majority of Leicester fans backed the decision.’ Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Shakespearean element to Ranieri’s regicide as kings of England meekly hand over crown

Antonio Conte celebrates Chelsea’s third goal during the recent victory over Everton at Goodison Park. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Italian’s 3-4-3 formation move put Chelsea on path to glory as he quietly overhauled team

A statue of revered former owner Jack Walker  outside Ewood Park, home of Blackburn Rovers. Photograph:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Club going downhill since Indian owners Venky’s bought a Lancashire institution

John O’Shea has said he wants to stay at Sunderland despite relegation to the Championship. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday consigned Black Cats to the Championship

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez celebrates promotion to the Premier League after the 4-1 win over Preston at St James’ Park. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Manager will look for the right resources to be able to compete with Premier elite

Tottenham players gather to celebrate Harry Kane celebrates scoring their third goal against Bournemouth last Saturday.  Photograph: Paul Childs/Livepic/Reuter

Mauricio Pochettino’s side need to win a trophy to avoid the Belgium hype syndrome

A seething mass of passion: The Boca Juniors fans during a Superclásico match against River Plate in 2013. Photograph:  Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

When Paddy McCarthy left Cashel for Argentina he brought his luggage and love of sport

Sunderland manager David Moyes signed a four-year contract at the Stadium of Light last summer. Photograph: Getty Images.

David Moyes seems to have truly lost plot and looks unable to ‘slap’ himself out of quagmire

Brendan Rodgers outside Celtic Park, with the statue of European Cup-winning manager Jock Stein in the background. Photograph: Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers close to leading Celtic to a domestic treble on 50th anniversary of 1967

Northern Ireland’s Jamie Ward  celebrates his goal against Norway  at Windsor Park. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Jamie Ward and Conor Washington on target as O’Neill’s men go second in Group C

Michael O’Neill: has overseen a transformation in Northern Ireland’s fortunes since he took over at the helm. Photograph:  Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Professionalism, pride and preparation the mark of the new-look Northern Ireland

 Preston North End’s Aidan McGeady, the Championship player of the month for February, in action against Fulham at Craven Cottage in  March. Photograph: Craig Mercer/CameraSport via Getty Images

Championship club eye playoffs as blossoming Horgan and Boyle follow lead of McGeady

Aitor Karanka: facing an uphill struggle to keep Middlesbrough in the Premier League. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Goal-shy Middlesbrough are relegation-bound if their current form continues

Dundalk’s Robbie Benson celebrates scoring his goal against Shamrock Rovers last weekend. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

‘When Oriel is full, it’s a brilliant, brilliant atmosphere and a great place to play football’

Southampton’s Claude Puel (left) and his management team celebrate after his side  scores during the EFL Cup semi final, second leg match against Liverpool.  Photo:  Martin Rickett.

Unfashionable and characterised as dull, the Frenchman has a CV to savour

Alan Power scores Lincoln City’s equaliser against Brighton from the penalty spot at Sincil Bank Stadium. His side went on to win 3-1 to earn a visit to Premier League Burnley.  Photograph: Andrew Vaughan/ CameraSport/Getty Images

Dubliner who has laboured in lower leagues revelling in Lincoln City’s FA Cup run

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