Do you remember The Animals of Farthing Wood? They were great, weren’t they? Do you know who wasn’t great? Martin O’Neill.
As another painfully disappointing qualifying campaign came to a close, the FAI’s big boss man John Delaney rushes from one headache to another in search of the next Irish manager. For we, the great unwashed, O’Neill’s name has seemingly been in the pot whilst former manager Trapattoni still enjoyed firm job security.
The Irish public do not ask for much. We know that the underwhelming pool of players to choose from shall see us in a constant battle for the shining prism of 2nd place. There is nothing illusory about the job description; make the best of what you have at your disposal.
Trapattoni fell short of this untaxing duty, and while it may insult the intellect of many an avid sports fan, so will Martin O’Neill should he get the job
O’Neill’s back catalogue could, moreover, should be passed over with a shrug of indifference. He is a man who single-handedly relegated Leicester City, when they had an abundance of talent and crippled Sunderland almost to the point of relegation and financial turmoil. During his spell at Sunderland which ended unceremoniously in March of this year, he left with a meager win rate of 35%.
As if that wasn’t enough, he proudly boasts three SPL titles and a meaningless 7th place finish in the league, during his tenure at Aston Villa as the Holy shroud of his success stories. Neil Lennon’s first spell out as manager of Celtic, picking up a league title along the way, can attest to the fact that any rational minded man could win the Scottish league, should they merely turn up for every game. So where does this unfathomable popularity for O’Neill derive from?
Perhaps it’s the cold, discerning distance he likes to keep between himself and his players on the training ground.
Eamon Dunphy made a very good point in analysis following the victory over Kazakhstan, that were O’Neill to be appointed, it should only be under the clause that he takes his former assistant at Celtic John Robertson with him. This, said Dunphy, was due to the fact that Martin takes a very “hands-off” approach to his players at training.
Well as that may be at club level, the limited time a manager gets with the International squad will be spent predominantly down at Malahide’s training facilities. That being the case, how would O’Neill expect to win over the players, more importantly, revive a degree of camaraderie in them, by distancing himself from them?
Supposedly, the FAI have already approached Martin O’Neill about the job, who has remained mute about it thus far. Perhaps the man feels ill equipped to inherit a team that need’s complete reformation, and if so is it worth pursuing someone who may enter into it halfheartedly?
All that we can hope for is that the FAI’s chief executive does not make the same Steve Staunton error twice. The job is better in the hands of someone proven at International level. Mick Mccarthy, should he return to the seat, would be entering a boardroom unrecognizable from that of the Saipan scandals during the 2002 World Cup. One thing Mick will give us is a fresh slate, from which the right players will be picked in their appropriate positions.
Nothing about Martin O’Neill would stimulate the once passionate pride we as a nation held for our national team. It’s spirit is quite possibly dead and buried in the grave for the foreseeable future. No one questions the determination and effort each player lucky to dawn a green shirt gives to the cause. If we are looking for someone to take us beyond the mere call of duty, bereft of talent, the Ireland job is too big and illustrious a platform for O’Neill to launch his International sojourn with.
He may hop like a bunny off Farthing Wood from the sideline, but when the gravel of judgement hammers down O’Neill’s past success with the aim of future employment, he has nothing to pull out of the hat.