Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
O'Neill, Martin.jpg
Personal information
Full name Martin Hugh Michael O'Neill
Date of birth 1 March 1952 (1952-03-01) (age 59)
Place of birth Kilrea, Northern Ireland
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
1969–1971 Derry City
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1971 Lisburn Distillery 7 (3)
1971–1981 Nottingham Forest 285 (48)
1981 Norwich City 11 (1)
1981–1982 Manchester City 13 (0)
1982–1983 Norwich City 55 (11)
1983–1984 Notts County 64 (5)
1984 Chesterfield 0 (0)
1984-1985 Fulham[1] 0 (0)
Total 435 (68)
National team
1971–1984 Northern Ireland 64 (8)
Teams managed
1987–1989 Grantham Town
1989 Shepshed Charterhouse
1990–1995 Wycombe Wanderers
1995 Norwich City
1995–2000 Leicester City
2000–2005 Celtic
2006–2010 Aston Villa
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Martin Hugh Michael O'Neill,[2] OBE, (born 1 March 1952) is a Northern Irish football manager and former player.

Until resigning the post on 9 August 2010, he was 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 which he won the European Cup in 1980. He was capped 64 times for the Northern Ireland national football team, also captaining the side.

O'Neill managed Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City and Celtic before moving to Aston Villa. He guided Leicester City to the Football League Cup final three times, in which he was twice victorious, in 1997 and 2000. 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 family in Kilrea[3] in 1952. He was the sixth child and has four brothers and four sisters.[3] He has a strong Gaelic football background, his father being a founding member of local club Pádraig Pearse's Kilrea, which is named after an Irish nationalist leader. 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, Derry,[3] and later at St. Malachy's College, Belfast.[3] While at St. Malachy's, he first came to public attention as a football player with local side Distillery. This breached the Gaelic Athletic Association prohibition on Gaelic footballers playing "foreign sports".[3] When St. Malachy's reached the 1970 MacRory Cup final, the Antrim County Board refused to allow the game go ahead at Casement Park in Belfast.[3] The colleges involved switched the venue to County Tyrone to enable him to play.[3] St. Malachy's won the game. The dispute heightened O'Neill's profile.

Club career

Before playing for Distillery in the Irish League, O'Neill played for the South Belfast 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 Belfast.

O'Neill went on to play an integral role in Forest's golden era. Although they were relegated from the First Division in 1972, the appointment of Brian Clough as manager in January 1975 was the beginning of a revolution. Under Clough's management, O'Neill helped Forest gain promotion to the top flight in 1977, won the league title and League Cup a year later, 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.

At club level he also played for Norwich City, Manchester City and Notts County. O'Neill attempted to make a comeback in 1984 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. He joined Fulham after leaving Chesterfield, but soon retired in February 1985.

International career

O'Neill was a regular for Northern Ireland, captaining the side at the 1982 World Cup in Spain which reached the quarter-finals and included defeating the host nation in Valencia. He played 64 times and scored eight goals for Northern Ireland between 1971 and 1984. He also won the British Home Championship twice as a player, in 1980 and 1984.

International goals

Scores and results list Northern Ireland's goal tally first.

Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 28 March 1973 Coventry  Portugal 1–0 1–1 1974 World Cup qualification
2 16 May 1973 Glasgow  Scotland 1–0 2–1 1973 British Home Championship
3 30 October 1974 Stockholm  Sweden 2–0 2–0 Euro 1976 qualifying
4 13 May 1978 Glasgow  Scotland 1–1 1–1 1978 British Home Championship
5 11 June 1980 Sydney  Australia 2–0 2–1 Friendly match
6 15 June 1980 Melbourne  Australia 1–1 1–1 Friendly match
7 30 March 1983 Belfast  Turkey 2–0 2–1 Euro 1984 qualifying
8 21 September 1983 Belfast  Austria 3–1 3–1 Euro 1984 qualifying

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 of Wycombe in February 1990. He played in the Martin O'Neill XI side, along with George Best, in the last match to be played at Loakes Park. In the 1990-91 season, he took Wycombe to 5th in the Football Conference. In the 1991-92 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 1993–94 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.[4] In the 1994-95 season, Wycombe narrowly missed out on the Division 2 playsoffs and he left the club on 13 June 1995 to become manager at Norwich City. O'Neill also won the FA Trophy with Wycombe in 1991 and 1993.

Norwich City

He became manager of Norwich City in June 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.[5]

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.


O'Neill left Leicester on 1 June 2000, taking over from the team of John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish to become manager of Celtic, who had finished runners-up to Old Firm rivals Rangers in both of their previous seasons; in the season just gone, they had finished 20 points behind the champions.

O'Neill's first Old Firm game, in late August 2000, ended in a 6–2 victory for Celtic over Rangers, perhaps the first real indication that Celtic were capable of emulating Rangers under O'Neill.[6]

The following Old Firm game at Ibrox saw Celtic fall 5-1, but before long Celtic were ascendant at the top of the SPL and there seemed little doubt that they would be champions.

In that first season O'Neill's Celtic won the domestic treble, the first time the club had done so since 1969. 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 Seville, 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 league victories.[7]

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 had 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 United contract

Revelations in Peter Ridsdale's book 'United We Fall', later confirmed by O'Neill,[8] 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.[8]

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."[9]

Villa had the year's longest unbeaten start of any Premier League 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.[10] Villa's final points tally was 50, an improvement of 8 over the previous season and finished 11th, 5 places higher than the previous season.[citation needed]

Aston Villa's owner Randy Lerner said that he would not stop O'Neill from leaving Villa if offered the job of England manager,[11] because he respects that it is a very prestigious position.[11] O'Neill later dismissed the reports, calling them "unfair speculation".[12]

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 third highest goalscorers.[13] 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. 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.[14] Following this, Villa 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.[citation needed]

At the start of the 2009–10 season Villa failed to qualify for the group stage of the newly named Europa League, but continued their progress in the league with impressive wins against teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.[15] Villa were on the way to reaching an achievement that had long since not been reached, which was to beat all "top 4" clubs, consisting of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. Arsenal defeated Villa 3–0 at Emirates Stadium, and drew home, destroying any hopes Villa had of reaching this achievement.[15]

Once again Villa finished 6th for the 3rd season running, and once again improved their points tally finishing with 64 points; their poor home form (they drew 8 times at home) denied them a chance to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

Aston Villa reached their first final under Martin O'Neill, and first final in 10 years on 28 February 2010 against Manchester United in the Carling Cup, but lost 2–1.[16]

Following the departure of Rafael Benitez from Liverpool in June 2010, Martin O'Neill was thought to be one of the main candidates for the manager's job at Anfield,[17] Former Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was appointed as Benitez's successor.[18]

On 9 August 2010, Martin O'Neill resigned as manager of Aston Villa with immediate effect.[19] On his departure O'Neill said "I have enjoyed my time at Aston Villa immensely, It's obviously a wrench to be leaving such a magnificent club."[20] O'Neill was reportedly unhappy about the funds available for transfers,[21] but his departure just five days before the start of the new season still came as a shock to the club and its players.[21] Lerner issued a statement two days later saying he and O'Neill "no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward, but the two remain good friends."[22]

Outside football

Despite never completing his degree, O'Neill remains an avid follower of criminology. His fascination began with the James Hanratty case of 1961.[23]

O'Neill was awarded an OBE for services to sport in 2004.[24] In 2002, Norwich supporters voted him into the club's Hall of Fame.

Personal life

O'Neill and his wife Geraldine live in Sutton Coldfield with their two daughters, Aisling and Alana. Geraldine is a cancer survivor and Martin took some time off in 2005 to nurse her back to health.[25]

He supported Celtic FC and Sunderland AFC as a child.[26]




 Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland Distillery

England Nottingham Forest 1971–1981

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


Wycombe Wanderers 1990–1995

  • Winners
    • Football Conference – 1993
    • FA Trophy – 1991, 1993
    • Division 3 Play–Off Winners – 1994

Leicester City 1995–2000

  • Winners
    • First Division Play-off Winners – 1995–96
    • League Cup – (2) 1997, 2000
  • Runners-up
    • League Cup – 1999

Celtic 2000–2005

Aston Villa 2006–2010


  • England FA Premier League Manager of the Month (7): September 1997, October 1998, November 1999, April 2007, November 2007, December 2008, April 2010
  • Scotland SPL Manager of the Month (9): August 2000, December 2000, February 2001, August 2001, April 2002, November 2002, October 2003, November 2003, January 2005,
  • Scotland SFWA Manager of the Year (3): 2000–01, 2001–02, 2003–04



Team Nat From To Record Notes
G W D L Win %
Wycombe Wanderers England 7 February 1990 13 June 1995 &10000000000000112000000112 &1000000000000005200000052 &1000000000000003200000032 &1000000000000002800000028 &1000000000000004642999946.43 Conference Title, 2 FA Trophies, (2 Promotions)
Norwich City England 13 June 1995 17 December 1995 &1000000000000002000000020 &100000000000000090000009 &100000000000000070000007 &100000000000000040000004 &1000000000000004500000045.00
Leicester City England 21 December 1995 1 June 2000 &10000000000000223000000223 &1000000000000008500000085 &1000000000000006800000068 &1000000000000007000000070 &1000000000000003811999938.12 2 League Cups, (Promotion)
Celtic Scotland 1 June 2000 31 May 2005 &10000000000000282000000282 &10000000000000213000000213 &1000000000000002900000029 &1000000000000004000000040 &1000000000000007553000075.53 3 League Titles, 3 Domestic Cups, League Cup
Aston Villa England 5 August 2006 9 August 2010 &10000000000000190000000190 &1000000000000008000000080 &1000000000000006000000060 &1000000000000005000000050 &1000000000000004210999942.11
Total &10000000000000827000000827 &10000000000000439000000439 &10000000000000196000000196 &10000000000000192000000192 &1000000000000005307999953.08
As of 9 August 2010[27]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Order of the British Empire: K-Z". BBC News. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 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).
  4. ^ "Wycombe Wanderers". Football Club History Database. Richard Rundle. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Haylett, Trevor (18 December 1995). "O'Neill's sudden resignation stuns Norwich". London: Independent Online. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  6. ^ Sky Sports.,25722,15881_5595879,00.html. 
  7. ^ Smyth, Rob; Ashdown, John (11 March 2009). "Have Manchester United just set a record for consecutive league wins?". London: Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "O'Neill admits to Leeds agreement". BBC Sport. 3 November 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007. 
  9. ^ "Carling Cup final preview". 28 February 2010.,19764,11065_3242664,00.html. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Premier League Manager of the Month Awards from August 1993 to December 2010". Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "Villa free O'Neill for England". Eurosport. Retrieved 4 November 2007. [dead link]
  12. ^ "O'Neill dismisses "unfair speculation"". Eurosport. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007. 
  13. ^ "2007-2008 English Premier League Table". Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "Villa 'reserves' crash out to CSKA Moscow". CNN. 29 February 2009. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  15. ^ a b "Arsenal 3 - 0 Aston Villa". BBC Sport. 27 December 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  16. ^ Winter, Henry (1 March 2010). "Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 2: Carling Cup final match report". London: Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  17. ^ "Martin O'Neill is bookies' favourite for Liverpool job as Rafa Benitez's Anfield reign ends". Daily Record. 3 June 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  18. ^ "Roy Hodgson leaves Fulham to become Liverpool manager". BBC Sport. 1 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  19. ^ "Club Statement". Aston Villa. 9 August 2010.,,10265~2116445,00.html. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  20. ^ "Martin O'Neill resigns as Aston Villa manager". BBC Sport. 9 August 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  21. ^ a b James, Stuart (9 August 2010). "Martin O'Neill quits as Aston Villa manager after transfer funds row". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  22. ^ James, Stuart (11 August 2010). "Aston Villa's Randy Lerner breaks silence over Martin O'Neill exit". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  23. ^ Kehoe, Ian (30 May 2004). "Bhoy wonder". The Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  24. ^ "O'Neill becomes MBE". BBC Sport. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  25. ^ O'Neill's unemployment likely to be short-lived Reuters, 9 August 2010
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Martin O'Neils' managerial career". Racing Post. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 

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