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Steven Beacom: Forest revolt signals it's time for O'Neill to embrace life as a pundit

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Martin O'Neill was back at his old school this week opening new state of the art sporting facilities at St Columb's College in Derry.

On such occasions O'Neill is engaging company, full of fun with a little mischief telling stories that bring smiles to faces.

Talking to the BBC's Thomas Niblock with those in attendance hanging on his every word, the former Northern Ireland skipper told how he didn't play a proper game of football until he was 16 with GAA taking priority before then.

O'Neill is now 67 and having enjoyed a remarkable career as a player and manager, there is serious doubt that his dug-out days are over having been sacked yesterday by Nottingham Forest after just five months in charge.

There will always be demand for O'Neill as a television pundit due to his sharp wit, knowledge and determination never to back down in a debate regardless of the mega-stars who disagree with him, but he has always preferred the challenges of being inside the game looking out, not the other way round.

O'Neill was booted out by the Championship club due to player power with suggestions that influential first team stars at Forest made it clear they were disillusioned with his coaching and his methods.

To think that when he was winning trophies at Leicester City and Celtic in the 1990s and early 2000s and being touted as a future England or Manchester United boss, the Ulsterman was viewed as one of the best man managers around revelling in his strong relationships with players.

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Sure we are in different times and given that Forest go through managers these days at an alarming rate, it's evident O'Neill is not the only boss to have had issues with the players at the club, but still, five months and out due to a lack of respect and discipline from those he is supposed to be inspiring is not a good look. Lose the dressing room, lose your job.

All this on the back of a troubled end to his reign with the Republic of Ireland after delivering early on and reaching the knockout stages of the Euro 2016 finals.

Some felt O'Neill should wrap up management when he left the FAI last year but the 1982 World Cup captain didn't want to finish on a low note.

When Forest came calling it was a move that had potential. After all, O'Neill was a legendary figure in the club's history having won a league title and two European Cups in Brian Clough's 'miracle men' era.

O'Neill brought another Forest hero, Roy Keane, in with him having worked with the Manchester United great at international level.

The remit was to take the midlands club back into the Premier League. Forest were eighth in the Championship when O'Neill arrived in January. They finished ninth.

Even so, he was still due to be in situ for the start of this season until the players dissatisfaction became too much to ignore for owner and Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis.

O'Neill took training in the morning before being sacked. Maybe Keane knew what was coming. He had cleared off a few days ago.

Forest announced O'Neill's exit at 1.21pm yesterday. Just 18 minutes later they revealed they had a new boss - Sabri Lamouchi, a 47-year-old Frenchman who had previously managed Rennes and Ivory Coast.

That savagely quick turnaround lacked the class which O'Neill oozed back amongst his people at St Columb's.

He now has a big decision to make about his football future. Once again many will feel it's done. Don't be surprised though if, when the dust settles, O'Neill sees things differently.

Belfast Telegraph


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