Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill
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Martin Hugh Michael O'Neill

Current Club/Country: Nottingham Forest.

Previous Clubs/Countries: Republic of Ireland, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Celtic, Leicester City, Norwich City, Wycombe Wanderers.

Honours: English League Cup 1999/00, 1996/97. Scottish Premier League 2003/04, 2001/02, 2000/01. Scottish Cup 2004/05, 2003/04, 2000/01. Scottish League Cup 2000/01.

O'Neill's tactics are what could be described as direct. In essence it is get it forward quickly and whip it into the box. It can be long ball hoofs in the direction of a target man on a bad day, however that is not really the way he wants to play it. That is just what happens to a direct style when it gets pushed back, as there is a lack of thought involved and the team is not used to playing it around to give time for players to get up there before launching the ball.

If it is working well, the balls do not just go aimlessly into the centre, other than to give a striker the ball to hold up while team-mates get up in support. The tactics are aimed at getting the ball forward in wide areas to be crossed into the box for a striker to finish. O'Neill likes to have wingers or wingbacks who can deliver quality balls and a big man who is strong in the air to get on the end of the delivery.

While those tactics are dated and have not worked well for him since the early part of his reign at Villa, the issue is more around one of his big weaknesses, transfers. O'Neill has a tendency to make a number of mistakes in the transfer market. Firstly there is his preference for signing older players, who have no sell-on value at the end of their time, who usually come with bigger wage demands.

Then there is his loyalty to his current team, which means that the new players on bigger wages end up mostly sat on the bench, while the current players go past their best still in the team. He will continue to stand by them until long after they should have been replaced, and the players who have been bought to replace them are unhappy and wanting to leave (usually they are past their best now as well).

In the early days of his career that was not an issue as he was winning promotions, so had to rebuild his side for a new division and they were not able to grow old together. Managing teams that were settled in the top flight brought out that weakness in him, as they did not need replacing initially, by the time they did he had grown attached to them and his loyalty saw him wait too long.

There are worries over his ability to sign players, he seems to be limited in terms of the quality of those players. That should not affect him in the short term at Forest, as he is able to build a team of mid-table Premier League players, it is going beyond that when he hits the buffers. With a lack of ability to develop players technically, that holds him back from the next step to becoming more than just a motivator.

Motivating players is his best asset. O'Neill's teams may be limited tactically and technically, but he manages to get more out of them than most managers ever could. Somehow he manages to inspire them to produce results that would be seen beyond them if you looked at the team on paper. That is particularly useful in cup games, when he can make mediocre players raise their game and sneak through ties.

The big question with him, that he will have to answer with Forest, is whether time has passed him by or not? Are direct, longer ball tactics still capable of getting results over the course of a season at the highest level? They did not work at all with Ireland, a lot of the blame being placed on disruption caused by his assistant there Roy Keane. With Keane following him to Forest, there is a chance for the pair of them to prove it was not just down to them that things did not work out with Ireland.

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