Martin O’Neill praises Conte’s ability to ‘reinvigorate’ Chelsea
‘He’s younger. He’s a passionate guy. He does remind me of a younger me’
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said Antonio Conte has “done splendidly”. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Just a year after he came face to face with the Italian at the European Championships, Martin O’Neill has paid tribute to the manner in which Antonio Conte has made such a success of his first season in English club football at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s fantastic; a really great achievement. He couldn’t have done any more,” said O’Neill of the Italian’s hand in Chelsea’s title win which may yet prove to be the first half of a league and cup double. “He went in there and had a look at it. Got players reinvigorated from last season.
“But it’s more than that. He changed the system around a little bit to play his favourite system at the end. Considering that he was being quizzed about his job seven weeks into it, particularly after they lost to Arsenal, it’s a great achievement.”
Asked about whether Conte’s sideline antics are more energetic than his own, O’Neill admitted they might just be but, he said: “He’s younger. He’s a passionate guy. He does remind me of a younger me,” he said, laughing. “I was probably the first one to invent the jumping up on the touchline. It’s become a theme now.
“But he’s done splendidly. Where he has had a bit of a break, and I do agree with Arsene Wenger in this sense, that he has nothing else to concern himself with: no Champions League football to worry about, no European football. You can go for those particular things which he will not be afforded next season. But does that diminish achievement? In my mind, not really. It’s fantastic and, I must admit, I was cheering him on.”
He will, he says, be doing the same for Juventus when they play in the Champions League final due to Gianluigi Buffon’s involvement with the Italian side.
“Real Madrid have won it and he more than anyone else and I would love to see him do it. He’s been a fantastic goalkeeper and he was really complimentary about us that evening (of the 1-0 win in France). I’m cheering on Juventus.”
Goalkeepers: Colin Doyle (Bradford City), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Darren Randolph (West Ham United)
Defenders: Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce (Derby County), Paul McShane (Reading), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Andy Boyle (Preston North End), John Egan (Brentford), Marc Wilson (West Bromwich Albion), Kevin Long, Stephen Ward (Burnley), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Midfielders: Aiden McGeady (Everton), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady (Burnley), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City), Eunan O’Kane (Leeds United), Darron Gibson (Sunderland), James McCarthy (Everton), Liam Kelly (Reading), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Daryl Horgan (Preston North End), Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen)
Forwards: Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids), David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town), Daryl Murphy (Newcastle United), Shane Long (Southampton), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen)