What next for Martin O’Neill?

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.

10 thoughts on “What next for Martin O’Neill?”

  1. The Premier League is much stronger than the days of Peter Reid. There are many more world class players,so a top seven finish is much harder to achieve. Players like Summerbee and Johnston played well for a couple of seasons but they would’nt get into the present team or any other team in premiership.
    Some of Reid signings were disgraceful. Nunez for example!
    Bruce’s team beat Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs last season and Man. City this season, so now we can truly say we are at last a Premier team capable of making the top ten.

  2. I wouldn’t necessarily call O’Neill a quitter Keith. He hasn’t been sacked anywhere and that’s pretty much unheard of in any football management career these days; even in a hugely successful one like O’Neill’s.

    If you look at the records of O’Neill and the likes of Smith and Strachan the evidence will speak for itself. Strachan has only won anything in Scotland. He has no record of achieving promotion to the PL or the consolidation that folllowed as per Leicester in MON’s case. He hasn’t won anything at all in England and is now in his third managerial post where he seems to be doing even worse than the lamentable Southgate.

  3. In the day to day turmoil of modern football there is no place for a quitter, O’Neils action will make other Club bosses think twice before hirering him. I believe just like Keegan he quit because not everything was on his terms, but it must never be forgotten that football is a business and the books have to balance or we sit with a Portsmouth, Leeds scenario. Managers need to realise there can’t be reckless trading or unrealistic ambition, unless you have a super wealthy owner. What did O’Neil actcually win, anymore than Strachen or Walter Smith, winning anything in Scotland outside of the old firm would be an achievment otherwise expected. The Bruce reign may prove to be another false dawn but at present it doesn’t feel like it and progress is being made. Lets knuckle down and graft our way to respectability,

  4. In response to Bill. It’s because the wheels came off at the end of Reid’s reign in such startling and shocking fashion. The days of Quinn and Phillips were unprecedented in the experience of most of our lives (except the venerable aged).

    I don’t want to be pedantic Bob, but MON was a Johnny Crossan fan. I’ve never heard MON comment on King Charlie but it was the close association with a fellow Ulsterman that first attracted O’Neill to follow Sunderland. I’m not sure why you think that this article is rocking the boat. It was a response to the implicit message that has originated in certain quarters which was saying “O’Neill’s available, let’s get rid of Bruce.” This is not a campaign or view that I’ve subscribed to in this or indeed the other article which appeared in the annals of Salut a couple of days ago which was in response to an earlier piece courtesy of Mike Alcock which took the position which you disagree with.

  5. Peter Reid was a hero for a while in the ’90s and worked wonders with the team when it was really struggling. Why is it that most people only seem to remember the relatively brief bad spell toward the end of his tenure with Sunderland?
    Cheer up, Peter Reid!

  6. No rocking the boat, Bob. Since we are all SAFC fans here, what we write reflects what other fans are talking about.
    I may be in a minority in regarding with fond memories the Reid era, naturally excepting the final two seasons of it. If Bruce’s team is light years ahead of the Quinn/Phillips side, then I am delighted because it means top six this season!

    There is no Salut! Sunderland line/angle on Bruce. I think he should stay, because it is now his squad for better or worse and he must be allowed time to justify his decisions, but I encourage others to express alternative opinions.

    Anyone who can string a few sentences together, or doesn’t mind being edited, and has something interesting to say is welcome on our pages…

  7. M.O N supported Sunderland because he was a Charlie Hurley fan. Stop rocking the boat with Steve Bruce. Bruce’s players are light years ahead of Peter Reid’s team. We have some hard games coming up but we can still make top 10 which is a great change from relegation.

  8. Ian. I’m not suggesting for one moment that he should. Even if Bruce did get the sack, I’m gently suggesting that O’Neill isn’t necessarily the right bloke for the job. A few years ago I would have been delighted to see MON in charge. Something suggests to me that he might just not have the passion he once had. Personal stuff that’s gone on in his life has maybe shifted his priorities; and rightly so too.

  9. We’ve got to give Brucey a chance. He did OK last season with a HOST of injuries. Quinns not going to sack Bruce now and go for O Neill at this point in time.

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