We know a Colchester match report is coming. Please be patient. In the meantime, let Jeremy Robson turn our attention towards Martin O’Neill’s immediate career prospects …
Amid the concerns that some of our fans have raised about Steve Bruce’s management. a constant name was raised in terms of who we might replace him with: the boyhood Sunderland fan, and currently unemployed Martin O’Neill.
O’Neill has quite an admirable record. He got Leicester City promoted and won two League Cup finals and consolidated their position in the top flight. He’d barely driven out the bottom of Filbert Street when the rot set in.
A much bigger job with high expectations awaited him in Glasgow. My goodness did he deliver the goods. Three league titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup, as well as leading Celtic to the UEFA Cup Final in 2003. He had turned Celtic Park into a fortress, but felt he needed a new challenge.
His four years at Villa Park turned Villa into a much stronger PL force capable of scoring a lot of goals but just falling short of breaking the Champions League monopoly of the top four. His recent departure from Villa after falling out with the Villa owner Randy Lerner with whom he had always appeared to have had a good relationship led to stories of players sending images of champagne bottles to one another in celebration at his departure. Maybe this tells us more about the attitude of the modern footballer than it does about Martin O’Neill.
Martin O’Neill has repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse in the management realm. Every club he has been in charge of has performed better then before he arrived.
The question of course is what next for Martin O’Neill.
There is no obvious vacancy, and although these things can change very quickly in football the jobs for which his exemplary cv has prepared him don’t seem ready to offer him the opportunity.
I was disappointed when he turned down the Sunderland job several years ago. The unfortunate situation with his wife’s failing health at that time was rightly a major consideration in his determination to be closer to the family home.
Working in Birmingham afforded him that opportunity. The powers that be at Villa seemed less than heartbroken when he departed unexpectedly on the eve of the season. There were accusations that “he felt he was bigger than the club”.
Another way of looking at that is to say that O’Neill’s ambitions and expectations were not being matched by the financial resources of vision of the owners.
The only top job that changes hands on a regular basis is Chelsea, and I don’t quite see his face fitting there. At various times I could have seen him taking over at White Hart Lane where there’s a history of success and failure being regularly confused.
Has O’Neill’s opportunity to manage one of the established big four come and gone and if so what next in his glittering career? Where is the next big money takeover likely to be? I could see him being attracted by the opportunity to spend big and build the team he wants. This was clearly being denied at Villa.
At the same time I wonder just how much gas there is left in the tank for Martin O’Neill. Maybe it’s the decades of underachievement and disappointment that makes me feel this way, but I no longer have the sense that Martin O’Neill would be able to make the impact that we would hope if he ever took over at the Stadium of Light.
Part of this assumption is that O’Neill is really one of the old school in terms of football management. He’s improved individual players under his stewardship as well as the team, with many individuals playing at a level they would have struggled to attain had it not been for his guidance and leadership.
I just wonder if the day for men like Martin O’Neill has gone, in an era where the youngest talents in the game become financially secure when they are barely out of their teens. If his best years are behind him then it would certainly be a shame as the game has always been more interesting when he’s in it. At the age of 58 he certainly has a few good years left in him, if the desire is still there. His next choice of employer will surely tell is if this is the case.