Forest Legends: Part 4 - Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill signed for the Reds in 1971 and had a glorious 10 year love affair with the club, that saw him become an integral part of the side that went on to win two European Cups and countless other honours. Martin O'Neill is a true City Ground legend.
Before joining Forest, O'Neill was busy studying for a law degree at Belfast University whilst playing football for Derry City. He was spotted by Forest scouts and brought to the City Ground in 1971, where he would spend the next 10 years.
O'Neill was as intelligent on the field as he was off it. He had silky skills and was comfortable with the ball at his feet and could take players on at will. He also proved useful with his goals tally, scoring 48 in 285 appearances for the Reds', all from midfield.
He was one of the few players that was able to stand up to Sir Brian Clough and had more than his fair share of disagreements with him, but he also had the greatest respect and admiration for what he achieved. He's carried that same no nonsense approach into his managerial career and has the respect of everyone in the game (except those who appoint the England manager of course).
He's the proud owner of two European Cup Winners medals, as well as one for the League Title and he can boast a couple of League Cup Winners medals into the bargain as well. He also captained Northern Ireland and made 64 appearances, scoring 8 goals.
His Forest career ended in 1981, but he carried on playing for a few years having stints at Norwich, Man City and even Notts County where his playing days ended in 1985.
This was when he took his first steps into management and in 1987 he joined Grantham Town. He then went onto a short spell with Shepshed Charterhouse following which he was offered the job at none league Wycombe Wanderers. During his 5 year spell there, he took them from the Vauxhall Conference and into the Football League. He also won promotion the following year with them and took them into the old 2nd Division. He moved on to Norwich City but had a fall out with the Chairman over money for players and he joined Leicester in 1995.
His 5 years at Fester, was arguably their hey day. He won promotion to the Premiership via Crystal Palace in the Play Offs and took them to a top 3 finish in the table as well as two League Cups. His reputation was building and soon Celtic came a calling.
In 2000 he ended Rangers domination of the SPL and had a five year spell in Scotland where he could do no wrong. League titles and Scottish Cups followed as the balance of power in Glasgow shifted to Celtic Park. The highlight of his time at Celtic was probably reaching the EUEFA Cup Final in 2003, where they lost out to Porto under Jose Mourinho. Sadly his time in Scotland came to an abrupt end in 2005 when O'Neill resigned, due to the ill health of his wife.
Just over a year later he joined Aston Villa (instead of us, a mistake he probably regrets to this day), hailed as the Messiah in the wake of the ill fated David O'Leary. Villa were in a state of turmoil when he joined, but two years later are now on the verge of challenging for European glory. They just missed out this year, but fans at Villa Park feel that success is just around the corner. Don't bet against it, because success has been a bye word of O'Neills' throughout his career both on the pitch and off it.
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