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. crc



    Apologies for skipping your gathering today- I was a bit delicate.



    I was out on Friday night celebrating an anniversary and had eaten and drunk my fill.



    Incidentally, I looked up one of those lists that tells you what material your gift should be for your partner on the occasion of each numbered anniversary.



    Anyway, the suggestion this time was ALABASTER



    WTF are ye supposed to do with that?



    Buy a Scottish ref?



    What is it anyway?

  2. Celticrollercoaster......Hail, Hail Cesar on




    Hope you are well and that is no excuse btw? I was out also on Friday with Smashing Milk Bottles who was another man that cried off for Saturday and had a skin fill.



    Catch you soon







  3. Celticrollercoaster......Hail, Hail Cesar on




    Happy Alabsaster Anniversary btw. 37 years!!!







  4. Just back from driving through a downpour.


    Surprised the Yankees won 17-14 in the end.


    Not surprised they won, surprised it finished.


    Nearly 5 hours.

  5. Mulumbu has left the buildimg, cant recall him coming into the building tbf, best of luck big man

  6. Daily Mail claiming manure about to bid 50M for mcginn, world has gone mad. That should be price put on KT & CM for any clubs considering bids.

  7. St. Brendan ( and backroom staff )


    Lee Congerton


    Youssouf Mulumbu


    Scott Allen


    Dorus De Vries


    Mikael Lustig


    Filip Benkovic


    Dedryk Boyata


    Jeremy Toljan


    Christian Gamboa


    Emilio Izaguirre


    Ollie Burke


    Timo Weah



    Have left the building 2019 CSC

  8. That was a good wee satvrday.


    Fine cqn company and the standard for havering was grand


    Thanks Marc enjoy yir holiday


    Good to meet terry, , catman and penfold


    Rest o yeez know who youz are


    Thanks for the company.





  9. Where is the Mulumbu news from?



    Great to get another non contributor off the wage bill. That should only leave us with only Compper and Benyu in the completely useless bracket. Some others (Kouassi, Bitton, Hendry) are very average squad players but can at least do a job.



    Hopefully Harper announced as Mulumbu’s replacement next week.

  10. Good morning CQN from a rather chilly but dry Garngad



    Another win under the pre season belt and a good run out for some players.



    I will say again, the bidding for KT should start at £30-£40 mill. With add ons. Not £20-£25 mil with add ons. Again though I would offer him an improved offer and make him our highest ever paid player, the problem with everything I have said though is that from what I have read it’s the club that want to cash in, not the player wanting a move. ?????


    I liked the look of Bayo last night, I though he got into good positions, obviously needs game time. Time will tell. Good to see the Griffalo back as well.



    Let’s get another few in without anyone going out. Doubt it though. Under no cicumstances should we be considering letting Cal Mac go as he is our most creative player.



    D. :)

  11. Brendan signed and players recommended by Kolo Toure down at Leicester yet?






    Didn’t think so.



    Can’t believe Peter Lawwell allowed that character carte blanche with the cheque book.



    HH. ?

  12. Another scorcher in the Chilternz…



    Morning DAVID66…



    Yes, winning is a habit we need to continue, interesting we seemed to have played better with a 4-2-3-1.



    Totally agree on KT but this “value” thing for all players (even potential “one club” legends) means we’ll never have another Larsson and is ensuring we don’t have a quality settled squad. Not even a core.



    I’m with you on offering KT a new highly improved new deal, there’s sense in it…



    Apparently Arsenal are offering 75K per week.



    Now how far does that go in London… pretty far, even with the property prices and inflated London living.



    Yet 50K a year in Scotland, with no moving costs would arguably get you a similar quality of life, financial reward package.



    Over 4 years that costs us 10M, if we offer a 2.5M signing fee to compensate for the loss of his transfer bonus, then we are talking 12.5M.



    After 2 seasons KT should be at his peak and worth how much… get a mega money move after the 10iar to a top Club.



    Yet for Celtic PLC a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Note Dembele.



    The other issue is the infamous wage structure. Of course it is a very useful, some would say necessary part of cost control at Celtic Park.



    But can’t we have exceptions? The Chief Exec has proven we can. The PLC will remunerate to an exceptionally high level if they think it appropriate as in his case.



    So why can’t this happen for KT.!?



    Simple really, if Celtic start paying their stars close to what they’re worth then where is the incentive for said player to transfer to another Club. Say a player is on 25K and getting offered 50K + transfer bonus, it is a huge incentive for the player to move.



    If the same player is on commensurate wages at Celtic he may choose to stay at Celtic Park.



    So no, KT can’t be offered a better deal that more realistically reflects what he’s worth, he and all “high value” players must have maximum incentive to move on, when required.



    Hail Hail

  13. 16 ROADS. @ 8:47 AM



    Can’t believe Peter Lawwell allowed that character carte blanche with the cheque book.



    Big Pedro giving someone carte blanche woth his cheque Book…



    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!



    I’ll tell you when that happened or is going to happen…



    NEVER !!



    Hail Hail

  14. Good morning Chairbhoy



    I agree with your first post about KT and said wage structure.



    Sadly if it’s the Club wanting to cash in rather than KT wanting away then we are fecked.



    D. :)

  15. ULSTER-CELT on 29TH JUNE 2019 8:13 PM


    No further update on Harper.




    Not guilty of taking your jacket, came without one, went home without one.




    Great to meet you at last as well and thanks for the compliment. You too are a top guy.


    Great to meet some old friends and new.


    I will leave you with this and think back to yesterday’s post about the possibility of O’Donnell signing…I hear Calvin Miller on his way home from Austria, next stop Kilmarnock!


    Off to Mass…


    Until we meet again…


    Keep the Faith!


    Hail Hail!

  16. David66,



    Yes I think it’s short sighted. Many believed that KT was destined to be Club Captain and huge role model, if that’s not worth pushing the boat out, what are we about?



    The tone of my reply to 16 Roads may seem a bit harsh, but we’ve oft cross swords and oft agreed…



    The thought of Big Pedro… Cheque Book and Carte Blanche tickled me though..:))



    Hail Hail

  17. Catman.


    Had a wonderful afternoon with you and the other CQN’rs yesterday in the Beer Bar.


    Boy, did we set the world to rights!


    Hope this will be a recurring theme during the coming season!


    Hail! Hail!






  18. God only knows, God makes his plan


    The information’s unavailable to the mortal man


    We’re working our jobs, collect our pay


    Believe we’re gliding down the highway


    When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away ?

  19. CHAIRBHOY on 30TH JUNE 2019 8:59 AM






    Kolo practically signed every dud in the Ivory Coast.



    The club would be facing bankruptcy had he been allowed to continue.



    HH. ?

  20. Here I am again in this mean old town


    And you’re so far away from me


    And where are you when the sun goes down


    You’re so far away from me ? ?

  21. 16 ROADS. @ 9:26 AM,



    Well I know what you mean, we have, it seems to me, been overly keen to take recommendations on the next great thing – from wherever.



    Would think Kolo’s brother recommemded Bayo to him. Brendan Rodgers had little or nothing to do with the January signings, outwith the loanees, he stuck them in reserves or straight out on loan.



    He had no intention of being at Celtic Park when/if they made the first team.



    Hoping Bayo makes it, took his goal well yesterday and strikers need confidence.



    Don’t worry too much about bankruptcy, that’s the least of our worries, we start the UCL qualifiers soon.



    Hail Hail

  22. quadrophenian on

    Only a bounce game (‘cept for the lusty tackles fae the Weiner midfielders) but notable to my eyes:



    Gutman looks a tidy link-up kinda LB, with style closer to a younger Izzy – better than Jonny


    Bitton looks to be playing with plenty attitude, enterprise and dig – I reckon he can have a great season ahead


    Mikey is a wee buzz-bomb unlucky not a snag a wee sausage roll – maybe a loan deal would polish him up



    Generally, first 45 had better shape and presence than the second 45 line-up.



    I hope our RB recruitment drive isn’t just Ayrshire based. HH

  23. mullet and co 2 on

    Is Nicky Howard the Director of Football or is he chief of recruitment?


    Two different remits I suspect but one some fans are happy to conflate? Congerton wasn’t Director of Football but Howard has been appointed in that capacity.



    The £50m for McGinn story comes from Man U enquiring how much from Aston Villa. Papers say £50m. Fanciful fantasy figures.


    If that’s the case Tierney is worth £70m! The figures down south are mental but we should take advantage. Somebody made the Comparison between Dennis Irwin signing fee for Man U and Wan Bissaka. The fees are more or less the same in percentage terms relative to the clubs Turnover at both times. The rich have gotten richer but they still need to buy their players from somewhere.


    Clubs that are good at scouting and developing their own should do really well. In fact if you can fit players into a system and make them look good for a year then transfer them it should add a few million to your income when they are sold.


    Where Celtics Turnover has increased from around £40m to £100m from the early 2000s, Man U have increased from £140m to £590m. We have increased our turnover by 2.5, Man U by Around 3*.


    Inflation remains static on average for clubs who haven’t imploded by seeking the most risky strategies.


    I haven’t looked at the proportions of income for Man U but ticket prices prob represent a fair chunk of their difference of the 3 times increase v our 2.5. Also TV money and the increase in capacity of their ground.


    Anyway, what I am trying to get at is that the we need to be performing at Champions League level and have our players involved in International football at a successful enough level to convince the Man Us of this world to pay over £30m for our players. That’s how we bridge the gap and not accepting 1999 prices.

  24. CHAIRBHOY on 30TH JUNE 2019 9:40 AM









    See Aston Villa have put a £50million price tag on John McGinn.



    The world really has gone mad.



    KT has returned to Scotland.



    HH. ?

  25. Extraordinary scenes from North Korea being beemed across the globe.



    Wow President Trump just wow!



    4 more years!! ?? ?

  26. mullet and co 2 on

    Selling one player at £30m per year increases your turnover to £130m if you are in the Champions League proper. This allows you to pay total wages of £78m.


    Better commercial deals and inflating TV deals gets you more exposure.


    £78m shared among the top 50 employees is £30k per week.


    All we would need then is to register Celtic as an English company to take advantage of Boris tax haven.

  27. 16 ROADS. @ 9:56 AM,



    Yes, McGinn after one good Season in the Championship… crazy… but I think the price tag is Aston Villa’s determination to keep the player for the Premier League campaign rather than his true value.



    MULLET AND CO 2 @ 9:54 AM,



    Nick Hammond doesn’t have a title from what I can see, although he’s done both roles before.



    I think he starts tomorrow as a consultant until the transfer window closes with a view, if things work out, to be offered a full time position. What that may be I don’t know.



    Lee Congerton was offered the Director’s role after BR left but turned it down.



    Hail Hail

  28. mullet and co 2 on

    Chair Bhoy – interesting re Congerton – that’s a good sign he was offered the role – at least Celtic see the need for someone as DOF

  29. i'vehadtochangemymind on

    Gordan Waddell is championing common decency and the working class in the DR. Guess who come out as the baddies. You should read it , it’s funny.

  30. Nick Hammond may just be filing in during the busiest transfer period, helping getting deals over the line, por cierto

  31. 10 days until our first qualifying game and we don’t have a right or left back. But why am I supprised

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