Martin O’Neill says Gerrard at Rangers could benefit Celtic
Former boss believes Celtic need better domestic competition to prosper in Europe
Martin O’Neill at the launch of the SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Martin O’Neill believes that if his former club Celtic want to make more of an impact in Europe then they need a stronger Rangers to help push them in the quest for honours in Scotland.
The extent of Celtic’s domestic dominance, he suggests, is actually proving to be a problem. The appointment of Steven Gerrard, the Republic of Ireland manager feels, might actually work out well for both clubs.
With their arch-rivals still struggling to fully recover from the financial scandal that resulted in a four-year absence from the Scottish top flight, the Parkhead club have gone into for Europe as title winners in each of the last six straight seasons.
“I actually think that if Celtic are to improve in Europe then they need a strong, competitive Rangers to push them,” he said at the launch of the FAI’s Sports Direct sponsored Summer Soccer Schools.
“Now that might be anathema to some Celtic fans – some of them will be desperate to go 10 in a row – but I honestly think that a stronger, more competitive Rangers would help Celtic to get that extra bit out of themselves in Europe.
Rangers are “desperately weak,” he says, and Gerrard has no experience but it might it might still be a good move for all concerned.
“Why not? He has to start somewhere and he knows pressure, he’s lived with pressure. He has performed brilliantly under pressure as a player. I know it’s different as a manager but he would be a massive lift for Rangers and they would have to improve the calibre of player because if he was going there they would almost have to guarantee that they will have a better calibre of players.”
Gerrard, sure enough, is said to be seeking firm guarantees about the club’s willingness to spend in order to strengthen the squad and he confirmed on BT Sport that he has held “positive talks,” about the move.
The former Celtic boss, meanwhile, accepts that he will be bringing a weakened Ireland squad to Glasgow for Scott Brown’s testimonial on May 20th with various Premier League and Championship players set to be absent from the squad he is due to name next Thursday.
James McCarthy and Robbie Brady will still be recovering from injury and former Celtic midfielder Aiden McGeady looks likely to be sidelined by a heel problem. A number of others have been excused from the trip due to family holidays while a couple seem set to be involved in play-off games.
O’Neill says that the absences will open the door to others and Preston striker Callum Robinson might come into the reckoning having formally declared for Ireland.
Liam Kelly will not, he suggests, with the Reading midfielder needing, O’Neill feels, to make the next move in terms of his international career after having indicated that he prefers to keep his options open.
The former Sunderland boss says he is weighing up the merits of Perth-born Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O’Neill but has no plans to travel out to see him and says he will also mull over Millwall midfielder Shaun Williams’ claims.
“I’ve seen him a bit of him this season and he’s done well. In my early days here [as Ireland manager], I saw him playing for them and the very fact I didn’t put him in the squad might at that time might suggest something but he’s had a really good season. I’ll give it some consideration.”
Details of the FAI’s summer school programme is at www.summersoccerschools.ie