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Martin O'Neill exit is softened by a £500k pay-off

 

Stunned: Martin O’Neill
Stunned: Martin O’Neill

By Aiden Fitzmaurice

Martin O'Neill was left reeling by his shock dismissal by Nottingham Forest less than a week into pre-season training.

But the blow from his sudden exit from the City Ground will be softened by a pay-off for the 12 months remaining on his contract there, the Derry man picking up a severance package of around £500,000 to add to the estimated lump sum of £895,000 which he received from the FAI when they dismissed him last year.

Former Northern Ireland World Cup finals captain O'Neill (66) was appointed as Forest boss in January on an 18-month contract.

He was unable to turn a struggling side into promotion contenders and they finished ninth in the Championship table, eight points off the final play-off spot which was secured by their bitter rivals Derby County.

But over the summer break reports emerged in Nottingham of unrest within the Forest squad over the manager's training methods and manner of dealing with players.

One local media outlet reported O’Neill’s departure followed a “players’ revolt” as senior figures within the squad alerted the club’s owners of their concerns.

O’Neill had returned for pre-season training, and spent time last week in Derry at a function for his alma mater, St Columb’s College, and there was no public hint of his job being under threat.

There was, however, an early sign of unrest when Roy Keane quit as assistant manager last weekend, reportedly so he could further his own managerial ambitions though Keane remains out of work.

O’Neill had started the pre-season preparations and, according to one source, was speaking to his players yesterday morning about their training programme ahead of a friendly match today against local side Alfreton Town when he was informed that he was dismissed.

Sources claimed O’Neill’s perceived “old-school” approach left players confused and underwhelmed. One alleged that training was flat with no clear pattern, and little focus on the opposition.

The club confirmed his exit in a terse, 37-word statement at lunchtime.

“Nottingham Forest can confirm that manager Martin O’Neill has left the club. The club would like to thank Martin for all his efforts during his time at The City Ground and wish him well for the future,” the club said.

Eighteen minutes later, Forest confirmed that French-born coach Sabri Lamouchi had been appointed as his replacement.

A second  statement said: “Nottingham Forest are delighted to announce that Sabri Lamouchi has been appointed as the club’s new head coach.

“The Frenchman will be assisted by six new members of staff who will support the first team.”

Northern Ireland 1982 World Cup captain O’Neill, who made 371 appearances and scored 62 goals for Forest during a 10-year stay, was appointed as Aitor Karanka’s successor by owner Evangelos Marinakis in January with the club sitting in ninth place in the table and four points off the play-off places.

They finished the campaign in the same position, but eight points adrift of rivals Derby in the final play-off spot.

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