Martin O’Neill: what went right?


If there is a hierarchy of Celtic royalty – those most of us would feel nervous in front of, Martin O’Neill is sitting on the throne.  For those of us who are old enough, his impact on our lives is significant.

When he arrived in 2000, Celtic were marooned in the wilderness.  An against-the-odds title win in 1998 was a fading memory as the Rangers motor picked up pace: 11 titles in 12 seasons, most of them won with plenty to spare.

On 26 August 2000, the world changed.  Nothing has been the same since.  We put six goals past Rangers, announcing not only that we were likely to win the league, but that this time, the foundations were built on granite.  We lost five leagues in the 19 years since then, but even those seasons were tight, five won and lost on the final day.  Martin was the enzyme for all of this.

His tactics were beautifully simple: be hard in the middle of the park, get the ball down the wing, have players there who can cross the ball, and have the best headers of the ball in the business there to attack those crosses.

It worked and then it stopped working.  Alex McLeish won a treble with lesser players, because he figured out that playing three up against our back three was practically kryptonite to Celtic.  Tactically, Martin had been rumbled, but his magical quality was never tactics.

Listen now to any of the players he had at Celtic and the respect they hold him in remains absolute.  His sheer presence blew them away when he first met them in 2000, and for the next five years.  They would run through walls for him.  If he said “You’re one of the best players in this league” they played like one of the best players in the league, such was their faith in Martin.

Training sessions were left to others, tactical changes were anathema, key recruitment resources were largely SPL opponents and Match of the Day.  The model had many weaknesses and would inevitably crash.  Just as when Dalglish left Stein a generation earlier, when Larsson left O’Neill, the magic disappeared.

You and I know Martin’s tactical weaknesses at Celtic, so does he.  He knows more about the management game than any of us, so he evolved; eventually, but this was not his natural territory.  He was always playing catch up.  The game has moved on and Martin’s principle strength, that significant force of personality, was never going to be enough.

He arrived in a militant Nottingham Forest dressing room that had seen off other managers.  Roy Keane was his enforcer.  If that’s all there was to the game, Forest would have flourished, but this is not the 60s.  You can’t bully your way to authority.

I’ve seen enough managers and players to know they all ‘move on’ sooner than we do, and I’ve no illusions that Martin is an exception to this.  He is an intelligent man and entitled to find things other than Celtic to fill his life.  But still, Celtic Park is his, that is where his throne waits.  He won the European Cup for Forest, not Celtic, but he changed our lives forever.  For that, I will be eternally grateful, and always nervous in his company.

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  1. Good morning from a rather grey Garngad



    I for one cannot wait to see the new big fella Christopher play, likewise it will be interesting watching young Luca Connel develop.


    Then we also have Bayo and Griffiths who are basically new strikers.


    Hopefully add in a couple more with very few to none going out and here we go 9IAR.



    Bring on tomorrow to we see the bhoys again.



    D. :)

  2. Scotsman has a story(rumour) about J McGinn going to Man U for £50m ..



    But arsenhole think it’s exeptable to bid £15m for KT because he’s playing north of the border ..



    They can GTF!

  3. Cosy Corner Bhoy on

    POG: Your post made my Monday an even better day than usual (golfing or trying) with the news of the donation to Mary’s Meals.


    At the prices in there I’m surprised there was even a fiver?.


    BTW ,not guilty of the missing jaiket.., I’m too skinny to fit anyone else’s!


    Enjoyed the day and the company.

  4. WITS said:


    “Kieran Tierney may well be a better player than the Crystal Palace full back who went to Man Utd for 50 million but no one will dream about paying that for him.:



    Do you think, WITS, that the success of van Djik and the apparent success of McGinn might make some Clubs feel that, perhaps, the SPL does have some players who are worth paying massive fees for? KT would seem to be a strong candidate to be one of those highly valued players.




    PS As my post might suggest, I am becoming resigned to the likelihood of KT leaving.

  5. The papers suggest that the KT deal is “imminent”. Arsenal fans like the chap from Arsenal Fans TV believe its agreed.



    This all stems from a “reported third offer” which is clearly closer to the KT valuation in the press core and KT returning to Glasgow as part of the rehab.



    The situation on the ground hasn’t changed. Celtic have the player under contract for four years. The fee required to take KT from Celtic would have to be gob smacking. I don’t believe £20 million plus add ons is close to being good enough.



    This is silly season. McGinn for £50 million? Absolute rubbish.



    Don’t read the rags.

  6. It’s been a while.



    In my totally 100% baseless opinion (nae taxi drivers, nae pals at the beeb, nae contacts within the walls of the Holy ground, nae love for Tam McManus, nae anyfing) I do not see KT leaving in this tranny (am I allowed to say that now with all the gender\nae gender\mixed gender\back to front and upside doon gender equality?) windy. Who is going to fork out £25 for a player who is currently going through rehab to get him back to peak fitness? Who is going to spend £25 on a player who is nowhere near match fit? Naebody is going to pay 25p never mind the reported (baseless again, see above) £25m Celtic are looking for.



    Me thinks it’s another season for KT up The Park. And all those wee twitter Celtic Bawbag Bairns who have had a go it him will just need to get over their hateful disrespect for the young Bhoy.



    If he does go then I wish him the very best of luck, all the success in the world and I will celebrate with glee The Bonus Collector Heated Driveway upgrade.



    MWD back in for a wee min and oot again.

  7. Theres a simple solution to all the KT speculation , why do Celtic not come straight out and say at this moment in time he is not for sale . He is Young , he is on a long term contract at the moment , he will still be worth £20m + a couple of years down the line. We have money in the bank , we dont need to sell him . Why not for once build from a position of strength, now theres a novel idea Celtic !!……………I do feel we are being softened by articles Paul67 making out that it is out of Celtics hands if a fee in the region of £25m comes in , nonsense he is our player and by all accounts seems to be a happy bhoy to be here at the moment.

  8. Roddybhoy,


    We dont know if KT has told Celtic ,he wants to be kept informed.If he decides to go,if,Celtic wont stop him.They wont say “He is not for sale”No point in that.Lenny says,they do not want to sell him.Far ,far too many reading the gash in the Media.They know as much as we do.Celtic have done nothing wrong here.

  9. weebobbycollins on

    What I will say re the KT saga (always a saga where Celtic are concerned)….whatever the decision, get it done quickly…the uncertainty causes unnecessary angst within the support…personally, I don’t really care, I’ve been through it all before so many times–paddy crerand-kenny dalglish-charlie nic etc…however, the bhoy himself didn’t initiate this (I’m sure), so why is he getting pelters on social media?


    Some are feeling like a lover about to be dumped…shit happens…plenty more fish in the fishmonger’s…

  10. I disagree that the KT business needs to be resolved right now.



    KT will be worth a great deal of money in summer 2020 or summer 2021. Celtic should be looking at bringing in a new LB in the meantime as KT can’t play 70 plus games a year.



    Even then we shouldn’t consider it unless its a crazy fee.

  11. WBC @ 10:35


    `the uncertainty causes unnecessary angst within the support`


    Hasn`t that been the MSSM`s objective all along?


    Having said that, I am at a loss to explain why Celtic have not come out and said that KT is going nowhere.





    Good to see you back ( albeit fleetingly).


    I hope you are right re KT staying.




  12. mickbhoy1888 on

    So a a reported £15m bid by Arsenal for Tierney is deemed to be disrespectful and unacceptable for a player who may have a dodgy hip that in the future may require further treatment. Unlike some I am not privy to contract negotiations that go on within the confines of Celtic Park,however I am not naive enough to discount the possibility that when Tierney signed his last contract which no doubt saw his wages increase there may have been a clause that allowed the player to speak to other clubs should a certain bid be offered for him. Tierney won’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last dyed in the wool Celtic supporter who has wanted to try his luck elsewhere.


    And just for comparison was the reported 2 to 3 million bid made to Hibs last year disrespectful and unacceptable for a player that is now rumoured to be subject of interest by Manchester United which Aston Villa would be looking for circa 50m to lose his services.

  13. Just a quick question for accountants out there.



    KT moving from (say) 25k per week to 75k per week. Looks like a three-fold change.



    What would be the tax implications. Would he be moving into a higher tax bracket? how much would the take home pay be under both scenarios?

  14. I’m no expert, but I would reckon that KT is already on the highest tax bracket.


    £25K per week is a basic salary of around £1.25M per year.

  15. weebobbycollins on

    Hot Smoked…totally agree re smsm…was it not yourself who mentioned the bbc dropping a wee negative (weak on the turn) into their headline of Jullien’s signing?


    He who laughs last kicks their bums…

  16. Anyone heard how the “deal” for that wee Kent is doin’?



    That’s a bit of a saga.

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