Northern Irish international John O'Neill had one of the shortest
careers in a Canary shirt for a non-Youth team product. Signed
from Queen's Park Rangers on 16th December 1987 as a replacement
for Steve Bruce, he made his first team
debut against Wimbledon two days later. 34 minutes into the game,
a collision with John Fashanu ruptured O'Neill's knee ligaments and
he was stretchered off.
This was the end of his professional career - one that had started
with Leicester City in 1976 on an non-contract basis whilst studying
at Loughborough University. In eleven years at Filbert Street,
he made 345 appearances in their back four. International recognition
followed with 39 caps for Northern Ireland during their most successful
spell. Two Home Nations Championships were won (1980, 1984) and
two World Cups (1982 in Spain, 1986 in Mexico) were enjoyed. In
July 1987, John joined Queen's Park Rangers for £150,000
as manager Jim Smith restructured the QPR side. Another of Smith's
purchases that summer was Dean Coney. O'Neill failed to gain a regular first team place
at QPR and moved to Norwich to resurrect his international career.
How little did he know.
Since his retirement, he has been running a wholesale wine and
spirits company in his native Derry - possibly funded by revenue
raised at his testimonial in May 1989 that saw Gary Lineker score
four goals for the John O'Neill XI. He has remained connected
to the game with a managerial spell at Finn Harps of the Northern
Irish league and was on the board of Derry City.
He can be found commentating on Northern Ireland's international
fixtures alongisde Jackie Fullerton