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Martin Hugh Michael O'Neill, OBE, (born 1 March 1952 in Kilreamarker, Northern Irelandmarker) is an association football manager and former player, who is current manager of Aston Villa.

Starting his career in his native Northern Ireland, O'Neill moved to England where he spent most of his playing career with Nottingham Forest, with whom he won the European Cup. He was cap 64 times for the Northern Ireland national football team, captain the side.

O'Neill managed Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City and Celtic before moving to Aston Villa. In his time as Celtic manager between 2000 and 2005, he led the club to three Scottish Premier League titles and the 2003 UEFA Cup Final in Seville.

Early life and Gaelic football career

O'Neill was born into an Irish nationalist working-class family in Kilreamarker in 1952. He was the sixth child and has four brothers and four sisters. He has a strong Gaelic football background, his father being a founding member of local club Pádraig Pearse's Kilrea. His brothers Gerry and Leo played for the club as well as being on the Derry senior team which won the 1958 Ulster Championship and reached that year's All-Ireland Championship final. O'Neill played for both Kilrea and Derry at underage level as well. He also played Gaelic football while boarding at St. Columb's College, Derrymarker, and later at St. Malachy's Collegemarker, Belfastmarker. While at St. Malachy's, he first came to public attention as a soccer player with local side Distillery. This breached the Gaelic Athletic Association prohibition on Gaelic footballers playing "foreign sports". When St. Malachy's reached the 1970 MacRory Cup final, the Antrim County Board refused to allow the game go ahead at Casement Parkmarker in Belfast. The colleges involved switched the venue to County Tyrone to enable him to play. St. Malachy's won the game. The dispute heightened O'Neill's profile.

Playing career

Before playing for Distillery in the Irish League, O'Neill played for the South Belfastmarker side Rosario. While at Distillery, he won the Irish Cup in 1971, scoring twice in the final. He also scored against FC Barcelona in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in a 3–1 home defeat in September 1971. During this period he was spotted by a scout for Nottingham Forest. He signed for Nottingham Forest in 1971, leaving Distillery and quitting his studies in law at the Queen's University of Belfastmarker.

O'Neill went on to play an integral role in Forest's golden era, in which they gained promotion to the top flight, won the League and League Cup in 1978, followed by further League Cup success a year later. He was dropped for Forest's first European Cup victory in 1979 after failing to fully recover from an injury, but he played in their 1980 victory.

O'Neill was a regular for Northern Ireland, captaining the side at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spainmarker, which included defeating the host nation in Valenciamarker. He played 62 times and scored eight goals for Northern Ireland. He was captain of Northern Ireland, where he was booed by fans in Windsor Parkmarker because he was a Catholic. At club level he also played for Norwich City, Manchester City and Notts County. O'Neill attempted to make a comeback in 1986 with Chesterfield, but only played part of a reserve game before being forced off with a knee injury after 20 minutes. This was made in an attempt to get fit for Northern Ireland's 1986 World Cup squad.

Managerial career

After his playing career, O'Neill began a career in football management, initially at Grantham Town in 1987. This was followed by a brief spell at the helm of Shepshed Charterhouse.

Wycombe Wanderers

He became manager at Wycombe at the beginning of the 1990–91 season. In the following season he led Wycombe to 2nd place in the Conference, losing out to Colchester United only on goal difference. The following season, he took Wycombe into the Football League for the very first time. In the 1992–93 season, he took Wycombe to a second successive promotion via the Division 3 playoffs and a 4–2 win over Preston North End took them up into Division 2. He left the club in 1995 to become manager at Norwich City.

Norwich City

He became manager of Norwich City in 1995, but left the club in December of that year due to differences with club chairman Robert Chase over the potential signing of striker Dean Windass during his first stint at Hull City for £750,000.

Leicester City

He joined Leicester City immediately after leaving Norwich. They won the Football League Cup under O'Neill in 1997 and 2000, as well as reaching the 1999 final of the competition. They finished ninth in 1997, tenth in 1998 and 1999, and eighth in 2000. The two League Cup triumphs saw them qualify for the UEFA Cup each time.

During his time at Leicester, O'Neill held talks to become manager of Leeds United but declined the job after thousands of supporters held up placards saying "Don't go Martin!" in an effort to make him stay.

Celtic

O'Neill left Leicester on 1 June 2000, taking over from the team of John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish to become manager of Celtic. It was at Celtic that O'Neill gained his nicknames "Martin the Magnificent", "St. Martin" and "the Blessed Martin". O'Neill's first Old Firm game ended in a 6-2 victory for Celtic over Rangers. In that first season O'Neill's Celtic won the domestic treble. He was the first Celtic manager to take the team into the revamped Champions League (a feat he managed three times). He guided Celtic to the 2003 UEFA Cup Final in Sevillemarker, which Celtic lost 3-2 in extra time, to a Porto side coached by José Mourinho. In his five seasons at Celtic Park, O'Neill won three League titles, three Scottish Cups, and a League Cup. He also oversaw a record 7 consecutive victories in Old Firm derbies, and in season 2003-04 Celtic created a British record of 25 consecutive victories. During this time, O'Neill's name was linked with a number of high-profile jobs in England.

On 25 May 2005, Celtic announced that O'Neill was resigning as manager at the end of the 2004/05 season to care for his wife Geraldine, who has lymphoma.

O'Neill's last competitive game in charge of Celtic was the Scottish Cup final 1 – 0 victory over Dundee United on 28 May 2005, decided by an eleventh minute goal by Alan Thompson. Celtic's record under O'Neill, was winning 213, drawing 29 and losing 40, of 282 games played.

Leeds contract

Revelations in Peter Ridsdale's book 'United We Fall', later confirmed by O'Neill, have shown that he signed a conditional agreement with Ridsdale in January 2003, to leave Celtic and become Leeds United manager. This deal subsequently fell through on the departure of Ridsdale from Leeds, one of the conditions for the deal, and the failure of Ridsdale to remove Terry Venables as manager. O'Neill has since hit out at Ridsdale, describing the agreement as 'full of conditions that hadn't been true' and blaming Celtic's failure to offer a new contract as his reason for the deal.

Aston Villa

O'Neill giving a speech at Columbus Crew, during a Villa tour.
O'Neill was introduced as the Aston Villa manager at a press conference on 4 August 2006. At the press conference he stated "It's absolutely fantastic to be back and with a club such as this. This is a fantastic challenge. I am well aware of the history of this football club. Trying to restore it to its days of former glory seems a long way away - but why not try? It is nearly 25 years since they won the European Cup but that is the dream."

Villa had the longest unbeaten start of any Premiership side in 2006-07 (9 games), not losing a league game until 28 October. Villa suffered a mid-season slump but recovered late in the season, winning their three away games in April, to end the season how it began with a run of 9 unbeaten fixtures. For this O'Neill scooped the Barclays Manager of the Month for April. Villa's final points tally was 50, an improvement of 8 over the previous season.

Aston Villa's owner Randy Lerner said that he would not stop O'Neill from leaving Villa if offered the job of England manager, because he respects that it is a very prestigious position. O'Neill later dismissed the reports, calling them "unfair speculation".

Aston Villa just missed out on a UEFA Cup spot on the final day of the 2007-08 season and qualified for the Intertoto Cup by finishing 6th. They scored 71 goals, (their best ever tally in the Premier League and best tally since winning the title in 1981), gained 60 points which was Villa's highest points tally since the 1996-97 season, and were the 3rd highest goalscorers. After 25 games of the 2008-09 season the club were third in the table on 51 points, 2 points above Chelsea on level games and 7 points above Arsenal in 5th place and on course for a place in the Champions League for the first time since 1983. However, O'Neill then decided to prioritise Champions League qualification above all else, fielding a virtual reserve side for a UEFA Cup game against CSKA Moscow which was subsequently lost. Following this, Villa's failed to win any of the next 10 league games and improving form for Arsenal & Chelsea meant that Villa failed to reach the top 4. Villa eventually finished 6th for the second season running with 62 points, 2 more points than they finished with last season.

At the start of the 2009-10 season, Villa failed to qualify for the group stage of the newly named Europa League.

Outside football

Despite never completing his degree, O'Neill remains an avid follower of criminology and has attended some of Britain's most infamous trials, including those of the Yorkshire Ripper, Rosemary West and more recently the re-trial of Barry George. His fascination began with the James Hanratty case of 1961.

O'Neill was awarded an OBE for services to sport in 2004. In 2002, Norwich supporters voted him into the club's Hall of Fame.

Personal life

O'Neill is married to Geraldine. The couple live in Sutton Coldfield, and have two daughters, Aisling and Alana. Martin also has a brother Andy who lives in Bury St. Edmundsmarker.

Honours

Northern Ireland

Distillery

Nottingham Forest 1971–1981

  • Runners-Up
    • European Super Cup – 1981
    • Football League Championship – 1978/79
    • Intercontinental Cup – 1980
    • Football League Cup – 1980


Managerial

Wycombe Wanderers 1990–1995
  • Winners
    • Football Conference – 1993
    • FA Trophy – 1991, 1993
    • Division 3 Play–Off Winners – 1994


Leicester City 1995–2000
  • Winners
    • Promotion to Premier League – 1995/96
    • League Cup – (2) 1997, 2000


  • Runners-up
    • League Cup – 1999


Celtic 2000–2005



Aston Villa 2006–
  • Winners


    • The 2009 Peace Cup –


Awards



Statistics

Manager

Team Nat From To Record Notes
G W D L Win %
Wycombe Wanderers 7 February 1990 13 June 1995

Conference Title, 2 FA Trophies, (2 Promotions)
Norwich City 13 June 1995 17 November 1995

Leicester City 21 December 1995 1 June 2000

2 League Cups, (Promotion)
Celtic 1 June 2000 31 May 2005

3 League Titles, 3 Domestic Cups, League Cup
Aston Villa 5 August 2006 Present

Total



References

  1. Said by O'Neill during lecture on theme of " What it means to be Irish", part of the Ireland Of Tomorrow - A Presidential Lecture Series (first broadcast on RTÉ Radio on 31 December 2008).


External links




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