Tag Archives: Martin O’Neill

Martin, Martin, give us a wave!

Last week’s international break has brought about jubilant scenes on the streets of Cairo, Reykjavík and Panama City.

In stark contrast, as Harry Kane sealed England’s World Cup qualification, large swathes of the Wembley crowd were already on their way home, trying to beat the rush for the tube.

It’s all a far cry from Beckham against Greece.

After their routine qualification, made up of insipid performances which failed to banish the memories of THAT defeat to Iceland, I have fallen out of love with the England football team.

However, I enjoyed watching Wales take on the Republic of Ireland in a winner takes all match in Cardiff on Monday.

It looked to be an incredibly even contest with perhaps home territory giving the Welsh an advantage.

Not a bit of it.

As a Wycombe Wanderers fan of a certain age, I knew that there was only ever going to be one winner in this game, and that was Martin O’Neill’s Ireland.

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With a team made up of solid professionals without a superstar amongst them, Ireland negotiated a tricky group to secure a second place play-off spot.

In doing so, they were unbeaten on the road.

Their magnificent team spirit, coupled with O’Neill’s tactical nous and big match mentality, was there for all to see in Cardiff.

Now, I’ve been known to be partial to a pint of Guinness, but even Andy Townsend is significantly more Irish than me.

Nonetheless, I was rooting for the Republic.

I have never met Martin O’Neill, but I can safely say that as a result of his magical spell at Adams Park, I would run through a brick wall for him.

I’d probably even wash his car every Sunday if he asked me to.

I may well have my nostalgic blue quartered glasses firmly on, but has anyone else contemplated what it would be like to have Martin O’Neill as manager of England?

I think he would be the perfect fit.

Throughout his managerial career, O’Neill has seen his teams consistently achieve more than their individual constituent parts would have you believe was possible.

There has been plenty of talk in the media about England not having enough quality players to go far in a major tournament.

I have to disagree.

Denmark and Greece have both won major tournaments, whilst Leicester City stormed their way to the Premier League title.

With belief, a little bit of luck and tactics to suit the players you have at your disposal, the sky is the limit.

Former Chairboy, Keith Scott, who was plucked from the depths of non-league by O’Neill before going onto play in the top flight agrees:

“The gaffer had the ability to make individuals and the team believe that the impossible was possible.”

Gareth Southgate has the impossible job.

He seems like a nice guy and had a fine and distinguished playing career, but since hanging up his boots, Southgate’s record as a manager has been underwhelming.

I truly hope he can prove the doubters wrong and lead England to the latter stages of the World Cup in Russia.

Meanwhile, Ireland will have a tricky play off to contend with before booking any flights, but no one will fancy playing them.

As Martin O’Neill said this week:

“I have always feared teams, it’s the best way to be. And then we go out and beat them.”

Mine’s a Guinness.

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I Believe In Miracles

 It was a warm summer’s evening on the 9th August 1990 when Brian Clough brought his Nottingham Forest team to play in the first ever game at Adams Park.
Holders of the League Cup and featuring some of England’s heroes of Italia 90, it was a strong side that drew 1-1 against Martin O’Neill’s Chairboys.
Fast forward twenty-one years and to August 2011, Forest were in town again.

This time in the League Cup and in a lovely moment of personal symmetry, it was the first game that I ever covered on the radio, calling the action for the patients holed up in Wycombe General Hospital.

I remember nervously entering the tiny old press room with it’s constant cloud of steam on the ceiling courtesy of the over performing tea urn, and sat down trying to look like I knew what I was doing there.

A bloke piped up and enquired: “are you local, how are Wycombe lining up?”

I dutifully went through the formation with a little mention to keep an eye out for Jordan Ibe off the bench.

As I did so, my mentor Keith Higgins looked on in amazement as I furnished the double European Cup winning John McGovern with my thoughts on the game, completely unaware of who I was talking to.

Brian Clough

We all know about Brian Clough taking Forest from an underperforming second division team to twice becoming the champions of Europe.

Jonny Owen’s I Believe In Miracles doesn’t need to tell this story.

Instead it shines a light onto the players and characters that made Clough’s vision happen on the pitch, revealing the brilliant sub plots and hilarious incidents which now seem a million miles away from the soul vacuum of the Premier League.

Nostalgic clips of goals and famous Brian Clough moments are excellently interspersed with interview material from the players.

The likes of Kenny ‘Kenneth’ Burns, Larry Lloyd and the afore mentioned John McGovern revel in telling the stories behind this great side.

Martin O’Neill features heavily too and I found it fascinating to compare the hallmarks of Clough’s success to his wonderful Wycombe Wanderers team of the early nineties.

Preparing for massive games with five a sides, walks by the river or running through stinging nettles, it was all gloriously simple stuff that was built on superb man management.

The film takes a simple approach too.

There is no narration or tactical deconstruction on how the glory was achieved, just pure unadulterated nostalgia told by the people that were actually there.

From the moment the soul funk strains of ‘I Believe In Miracles’ by the Jackson Sisters strikes up in the opening credits, there is a tremendous constant soundtrack of disco, funk and Northern Soul adding further texture to the pictures.

If you were around when it happened and want to relive the magic, or like me, you want to learn more about the greatest club side this country has ever produced, I Believe In Miracles is simply a must watch film.

I’m not sure if Keith has ever forgiven me for not really knowing who John McGovern was.

Courtesy of this film, when I see him next I’ll be able to recount that Larry Lloyd’s signing bonus for Forest was a new washing machine, liberated from the City Ground’s laundry room by Brian Clough himself.

Wonderful.

For cinema screening information check http://www.believeinmiraclesfilm.com

Out on DVD on and blu ray November 16th 2015

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