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‘Just to be absolutely sure about this, I want you all to know that I bear a grudge.’ Martin O’Neill to the Scottish hacks

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MARTIN O’NEILL gathered the Scottish sports journalists in the mainstream media together as soon as he took over as Celtic manager and put them in their place.

In CQN’s book The Winds of Change author Alex Gordon recalls just how impressive Martin was from the very start and how his warning to the media made a huge impression on the hacks. O’Neill warmed them that he held a grudge and told them to that they would cross him at their peril. It certainly worked.

Contrast that with Ronny Deila, who has been polite, helpful and courteous to the press in his two years in charge of Celtic but is seen as an easy target by the hacks. Many supporters have in recent weeks commented on Ronny being a nice guy but O’Neill’s Mr Nasty approach on his first meeting with the Scottish media is surely the correct way to approach the press,

Here’s how Alex Gordon recalls Martin O’Neill’s first meeting with the Scottish hacks in The Winds of Change (available to order HERE)…

‘I BEAR A GRUDGE…’

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It was important O’Neill got to know the Scottish press with whom he had practically no experience in the past. On a gloriously sunny afternoon only a week after O’Neill’s appointment, I was one of the few invited to meet the new manager at the chic Crutherland Hotel, set back in beautiful gardens on the way to East Kilbride.

So, along with a handful of other selected journalists, I was given the opportunity to greet the incoming boss for the first time. O’Neill, fashionably about an hour late for the lunch date, was soon addressing a dining room mainly consisting of total strangers.

O’Neill looked around the room and said, ‘Just to be absolutely sure about this, I want you all to know that I bear a grudge. No, I’m not joking. Seriously, I do bear grudges. Honestly, I do.’

I have to admit it was quite an impressive ‘maiden speech’. I sat opposite him for an hour or so that day and swiftly realised he wasn’t a massive fan of mirth. He appeared to be solemn and withdrawn and made little effort to indulge in idle chit chat with anyone around about him, including me. However, I did get the distinct impression he was sizing up everyone in the room, making little mental notes and gathering strength. GW310H300

When it came to coffee and liquors, the man given the task of breathing urgent life into the ailing giant that was Celtic Football Club moved to the top of the table to grab everyone’s attention. He went through the usual preamble; ‘Big club, big job, big test.’ All that sort of stuff. Once he had got the formalities out of the way, the real Martin O’Neill took over and he had no intention of leaving anyone in that room in any shadow of doubt about what he expected in the coming years while he was manager of ‘one of the greatest clubs in the world.’

He wasn’t just talking about his players, either. No member of the press left the Crutherland Hotel that day with any uncertainty about what was around the corner. The feeling was unanimous, ‘Cross me and you’re in trouble.’ It was loud and clear. He came across as a singleminded, fiercely-committed individual who wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep on slamming doors on people.

He meant every syllable of his ‘bearing grudges’ speech, no doubt about it. He was laying down the law, setting the ground rules and everyone was warned what to expect if they didn’t toe the line. If he was looking for any favours from the media, I must have missed it. Nope, he was Martin O’Neill and it was his way or the highway. They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. I would say that most certainly is the philosophy of a fairly astute chap from Kilrea.

From The Winds of Change, published by CQN Books in November 2015 and written by Alex Gordon. You can order a copy HERE or click on the link below.

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