End of the Line for a Legend ?
I can’t help but get the feeling now when I see Martin on the sideline that it won’t be for much longer . And not only that old devil time will be responsible . Row’s ,, selection headaches,, his pre and post match conference demeanour,,, it all seems very dated now and I get a wee inkling the modern game at the top levels may have moved on from his grasp and indeed his methods.
A credible draw in Wroclaw in a friendly last week might help going into these next 4 games, but from where I sit they are likely to be his last 4 at the helm. Many if not most back in Ireland would be unlikely to argue against his departure . The friendly against the North will sort itself out but upcoming is a double header against Denmark with a home tie against the Welsh sandwiched in between ,,all Nations League Qualifiers ,, is probably a bridge too far for the pair in the Irish dugout .
Make no mistake of the 3 Ulstermen that have sat in the Glasgow Celtic hot-seat over the last 20 years it was Martin that was “ The Man “ and on the rise . The other two cannot say that ,,,one by virtue of right time right place and the other had been sacked . Martin was leaving for a bigger club at the time , but it was a question of who . No doubt Dermots promise of a decent wedge of cash helped sway him .
That Leicester team he had assembled could and did give anyone a tough game on any given day and had more admirers than detractors at the time if my memory is correct . They always struck me as wiley and knew their roles . I freely admit to liking what I had seen of him . Martin looked every part their leader off the field.
And his capture was soo sweet ! He wanted the role and the fans loved that from the off . The club had made a great move after the farcical “ dream team “ and “ sexy football “ . Henrik would later say it but I felt it at the time “ We’ve got something special here ! “ Under his tutelage ESPN had the club ranked as the 8th best club team in the world based on their stats system . I sincerely doubt I shall ever see that repeated. He deserves enormous credit for that .
My father pointed out that he had seemingly made a big mistake in the transfer market at Leicester . His biggest buy hardly played . The others gave him credit in the bank but he questioned that one . We found out later that Martin had told the team before a game if they win no training tomorrow . They didn’t and when Martin announced the report for training the next day Darren Eadie responded I played well they didn’t so I’m not training tomorrow . Martin couldn’t play him from then after that , nor would he . That explains that and I find it reassuring as I would do the same myself or at least council it if asked .
From what we know and was reported about his methods I don’t see him as a Clough style manager and he famously disliked Brian’s attitude towards him . I would say he’s his own man who walked the line between tough to please and your biggest admirer beautifully . To me his background shows a lot in his style . Motivation mixed with determination . It was exactly what we needed at the time you wont need me to tell you . And many responded to that style .
It seemed to work to good effect at his next club with very respectable league positions attained .
Ultimately though , no one stays at the top forever . The current trend is the arm around the shoulder and the friendly all in this together approach . That isn’t Martins style . Not Jose’s either at the moment and his cold do your job approach is not producing either . Just goes to show reputations don’t mean much these days . At the top end any weakness will be exposed and lack of tactical training while opting for motivation is dated .
After managing at the top end for 20 years now a step off may seem more preferable to a step down ,, his beloved Wycombe for instance . I doubt he looks at a lower league club as a challenge anymore having been there done that , just get that feeling. He’s nothing to prove to anyone . I think we are seeing a former great fade away .
For me anyway , Martin was “ the Messiah “. My Eternal Respect Sir !
“ You stop that cross coming in as if your very life depends upon it ! “ Martin to his wing backs.
“If he’d been English or Swedish, he’d have walked the England job” – Brian Clough on Martin O’Neill.
“There was no information whatsoever but, I’ll tell you, he knew his players. You knew where you stood with him and if you played well for him, the confidence he’d give you and the way he’d make you feel, you just want to run even more for him. “ Craig Bellamy on Martin
“What is Martin’s biggest strength? That’s simple. Players want to win for him and that is not the case with every manager. Martin is one of those managers that players will go the extra mile for and that is why he has enjoyed such a successful career over so many years.” Chris Sutton
“ The talk he gave before the game made everything sink in for me. I said to myself ‘F$#king hell, I will have no regrets after this game.” Henrik on Martin