Belfast Telegraph

Martin O’Neill will tee up the right job

By Steven Beacom

We've had the return of the King with Kenny Dalglish at Anfield, and now we await another member of footballing royalty to come back into management.

Some might describe him as the Prince of Parkhead, Lord of Leicester or Viscount of Villa Park.

Northern Ireland folk would simply say — Martin O'Neill, master motivator, brilliant boss and great to watch on the touchline.

The 58-year-old is ready for another crack at managing, six months after his shock departure from Aston Villa. The question is where will he end up?

West Ham would love to see him at Upton Park. It is understood that the Ulsterman is the top target to replace the beleaguered Avram Grant, but O'Neill is said to be not so keen. West Ham's loss will be another club's gain.

O'Neill, charismatic, funny and demanding, has one of the shrewdest minds in sport, and is renowned for making wise choices. Down the years too much has been made of him joining clubs when they are at rock bottom, knowing the only way is up.

Whenever any new manager is appointed it is generally because a team has been under-performing, so of course O'Neill has taken over on several occasions when times have been bad. What sets him apart from most is that he can spot the potential, what is required to realise it and most importantly deliver.

Aston Villa supporters looking at their team lying in the relegation zone will now have an idea just how well O'Neill did for them, guiding the Midlands outfit to three sixth place finishes.

Before that he took Celtic out of the big blue shadow of Rangers to bring pride back to Parkhead and this after transforming the fortunes of Leicester City, who became a top flight mid-table team under O'Neill and won TWO League Cups, taking the Foxes into Europe.

If Sven-Goran Eriksson achieves half of what O'Neill did at Leicester, the FA will want him back as England boss! The funny thing is the FA could have had Martin as Eriksson's successor but chose Steve McClaren instead. That worked out well, didn't it?

With Fabio Capello leaving England at the end of Euro 2012, O'Neill's name is still in the frame, though the desire amongst fans and press to have Harry Redknapp as the Italian's successor grows by the day.

In the past O'Neill has been touted as a replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. That's more likely to be Jose Mourinho now.

There is a possibility that O'Neill could take over from Dalglish at Anfield, but the probability is that the American owners will either stick with the Kop idol or go for a young 40-something to build a long-term legacy.

Even if those three jobs are out of the picture, there are many others that will become vacant in the weeks and months to come, with news of managerial sackings on TV more often than Eastenders.

Since leaving Villa back in August with the new campaign just about to begin, O'Neill has kept a low profile. That's the way he likes it. Out of work, he spends as much time as possible with his family, catches up on his reading — criminology is a favourite subject — and enjoys a game of golf.

That's why when he makes a comeback, the impact will be great.

Late last year there was news that Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal wanted to take O'Neill to the Far East, but it looks like the Premier League is where he wants to be.

It will be good to have him back.

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