Over the past 18 years, many of Norwich City's managers have
had more than one spell at Carrow Road. Unlike Dave
Stringer, Mike Walker,
John Deehan and Gary Megson, Martin
O'Neill differs in that he has spent three separate periods of
his footballing life with the Canaries.
Martin first joined the Canaries on 26th February 1981 from Nottingham
Forest as Ken Brown invested money in a vain attempt to stave
off relegation from the old Division One. Martin had been with
Forest since 1971 when he came over from his homeland of Northern
Ireland where he had studied law and played for Distillery and
Derry City. A total of 371 appearances for Forest resulted in
62goals and international honours with Northern Ireland. Eventually
he would gain 64 international caps. He sought a way out of Forest
when they requested he played on the left when he preferred a
creative central midfield role.
In addition to the £250,000 that Ken Brown splashed out on
O'Neill, Brown also paid £175,000 for defender Steve Walford and brought goalkeeper Chris
Woods on loan from QPR. Despite their best efforts, Norwich
were relegated on the last day of the season in a 3-2 defeat at
home to Leicester. O'Neill's contract had an escape clause which
stated he could leave if Norwich were relegated and on 25th June
1981, he joined Manchester City for £275,000. His spell
at Maine Road was unsuccessful and Martin made just 3 appearances
before returning to Carrow Road in February 1982 for £125,000.
Adding to his initial 11 league appearances for the Canaries,
Martin played a valuable role in Norwich's late surge up the Second
Division table and into the 3rd promotion slot behind Luton Town
and Watford. In his 20 appearances, Martin struck 6 goals from
The following summer saw the highlight of his international career
when he captained Northern Ireland at the World Cup finals in
Spain. The Irish side being one of the surprises of the tournament
and topped their first round group after beating Spain 1-0. Martin
made 35 appearances for Norwich in Division One in season 1982/83
scoring 5 times. He also made 3 FA Cup and 5 league Cup appearances
scoring in one of the latter. In August 1983, Martin moved back
to Nottingham to join Notts County for whom he made 64 league
appearances scoring 5 goals. A brief stop at Chesterfield in 1984
preceded an even shorter visit to Fulham where finally he retired
from a knee injury in February 1985.
In August 1987, the lure of football was too strong and he returned
to the game as manager of non-league Grantham Town. In July 1989,
he moved to Shepshed Charterhouse as their manager before taking
on the hot seat at Wycombe Wanderers the following February. In
the five and a half years that he spent at Wycombe, Martin gained
respect for his managerial attributes as he brought Wycombe the
FA Trophy twice (1991, 1992), the Bob Lord Challenge Trophy (1992)
and finished second in the GM Conference in 1992. The following
year saw Wycombe promoted to the Football League by winning the
Conference with a massive gap of 15 points between them and second
place. Although linked with the vacant manager's position at Notts
Forest after Brian Clough departed that summer, Martin was content
to see how his Wycombe side would fare in the Football League.
The result was promotion to Division Two via the Play-off finals
at Wembley. Wycombe narrowly missed promotion the following season.
In the summer of 1995, Martin decided it was time for a change
and was tempted to the vacancy at Carrow Road with the target
of a quick return to the Premiership following the relegation
the previous May. He brought with him Assistant Manager Paul
Franklin and Reserve Team Manager Steve
Walford. However things did not work out as Martin would have
liked. Although the Canaries were constantly in the top six of
the table, struggles with chairman Robert Chase over funding for
team strengthening eventually came to a head. On Sunday 17th December,
fans traveling to Filbert Street for the clash with managerless
Leicester were shocked to hear that O'Neill had resigned. To make
things worse, Norwich threw away a 2 goal lead to tumble 3-2 to
one of their promotion rivals. The following week saw O'Neill
confirmed as Leicester's new boss (He replaced Mark McGee who
had joined Wolves). Franklin and Walford eventually joined him
in the East Midlands.
Whilst Norwich struggled and even flirted with relegation under
Gary Megson's leadership, Leicester went
from strength to strength. Although unpopular with the Filbert
Street faithful at first, Martin led Leicester into the promotion
play-offs and victory over Crystal Palace saw them promoted to
Martin worked more miracles in his first full season in charge
as relegation favourites Leicester won the Coca Cola Cup and finished
a respectable 9th place. This season (1997/98) has seen Leicester
enjoy UEFA Cup matches and again occupy a placing in the top half
of the table with victories at Old Trafford and against Chelsea.
Although one of the worse-paid managers in the Premiership, Martin
is respected for his tactical nous and ability to conjure results
out of limited resources.
Leicester's mid-table finish in 1997/98 and boardroom upheaval
at Leicester suggest that Martin O'Neill may find it the right
time to move onto a bigger club. So far this summer, he has been
linked with Liverpool, Everton and Celtic. Martin has also been
commentating on the World Cup for BBC TV.
In early September, Martin found himself again linked with a move
to another club as he was seen as a viable replacement for Christian
Gross who had been sacked by Tottenham. However the media's speculation
overdrive had also linked Glenn Hoddle, Joe Kinnear, George Graham
and Raddy Antic to the Spurs' job. Eventually George Graham accepted
the post leaving Leeds United to take over at White Hart Lane.
Martin has been linked with the vacancy at Elland Road and has
suggested in media interviews that he would be interested in this
job. Whilst the media expects O'Neill to join Leeds, the tabloids
have started speculating on his potential transfer targets with
the Sunday People suggesting Neil Lennon (Leicester) and
former Canary Ashley Ward . Norwich's transfer
listed Keith O'Neill is another
possibility. All of this has speculation proved to be in vain
as Martin decided on Wednesday 21st October to reject Leeds offer
and instead stay at Filbert Street. The pleas and demonstration
by the Leicester fans at the game with Tottenham on Monday 19th
October obviously helped sway his opinion. It is pleasant to see
some loyalty within the footballing industry.
Martin led Leicester to the Worthington's Cup final but lost 1-0
to Spurs. Despite rumours of his Leicester side splitting up this
summer due to expired contracts and the attentions of bigger clubs,
Martin has accepted the challenge of Filbert Street and has signed
a two year extension to his contract. According to the Daily Mirror
(17th May 1999) Nottingham Forest's new chairman wants O'Neill
and assistant John Robertson to take over at the City Ground.
This proposal is popular with the Forest fans who chanted that
"O'Neill is a Forest Fan" on their last game of the season against
Leicester. Rumours that O'Neill is unsettled are not helped by
the fact that he is yet to sign his new contract whilst there
is a long-running feud between him and Leicester's Chief Executive
On 10th December 1999, Martin returned to Carrow Road to sign
Darren Eadie for Leicester's record transfer
fee of £3million. On 3rd January 2000, Martin ruled himself out
of the race for the vacant Northern Ireland manager's position
stating that it was too big a task to do part-time and that running
Leicester City took all of his resources and intellect and that
there was no time spare for researching international opposition.
In February 2000, John Barnes' was sacked as Celtic manager following
their shock defeat at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in
the Scottish Cup. O'Neill was linked the following Sunday to the
vacant position at Celtic with The People claiming that
he "has jumped to the top of Celtic's manager hitlist but that
it will cost them £1million to drag him away from Leicester. And
Celtic will have to wait until the summer before launching their
bid.. there is a clause [in O'Neill's contract] which would allow
him to switch to a major club for a compensation fee just short
of seven figures. And the claus can only be activated in the close
season". The People claim that O'Neill would be receptive to such
an approach because he would love to manage a bigger club, he
has become disillusioned with the boardroom struggles at Filbert
Street and that star players Emile Heskey and Muzzy Izzet will
probably depart this summer. This rumour was also supported by
the Sunday Mirror on February 13th 2000.
Martin's Leciester City side won the Worthington's Cup final at
Wembley on 27th February 2000, defeating John Aldridge's Tranmere
2-1. This gives Leicester a place in the 2000/2001 UEFA Cup campaign.
At the end of May 2000, Martin was closely linked with the vacancy
at Celtic and was interested in the post. On 1st June 2000, Martin
signed a three year deal worth £1million a year as Celtic's new
manager despite attempts by Leicester chairman John Elsom to keep
Martin at Filbert Street. Elsom felt that Martin "was making a
wrong move and that his career would be better served at Leicester...
But I must say Leicester have had a marvelous sequence of years
with Martin.. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for bringing
to us what will be remembered as the Martin O'Neill years." (The
Sun 2nd June 2000). The speculation will now continue as to
whom will replace O'Neill. Candidates suggested by the media include
Peter Taylor (Gillingham), Peter Reid (Sunderland), Dave Bassett
(Barnsley), David Moyes (Preston), Joe Kinnear (ex-Wimbledon),
Steve Walsh (Leicester defender),
Steve Bruce (Huddersfield) and former
Arsenal and Norwich manager Bruce Rioch
Both John Robertson and Steve
Walford followed Martin to Celtic whose 2000/01 season started
favorably including a 6-2 victory over Rangers on 27th August
2000. The Scottish League Championship was secured on 7th April
2001 in addition to the Scottish League Cup. The Green half of
Glasgow are celebrating O'Neill's tenure at Parkhead. May 2001
saw Martin linked strongly as Alex Ferguson's replacement at Old
Trafford when Fergie retires in May 2002. Martin became the Bookies
favourite to succeed Fergie whilst the Sunday media alleged that
representatives from the Theatre of Dreams had already spoken
to O'Neill's agents. Fergie himself backed O'Neill saying "He
is a no-nonsense manager who is strong and has a personality -
these qualities are important at a big club. .. Any recognition
and praise that Martin gets is deserved. For him to go to Celtic
and change it all around in one season is remarkable". Celtic
completed a historic treble beating Hibs on 26th May to win the
Following another successful season in 2001/02 that resulted in
another Scottish Championship, O'Neill was linked with the vacancy
at Elland Road following Leeds' sacking of David O'Leary on 27th
June 2002. O'Neill was unable to comment as he was away in Japan
commentating on the World Cup with the BBC. After ten days of
speculation, O'Neill signified that he would stay at Parkhead,
forcing Leeds to turn their attentions to Middlesbrough's Steve
McClaren and Charlton's Alan Curbishley.
Speculation as to Martin's future arose again in January 2003
when he didn't accompany Celtic to their Florida training camp
during the Scottish winter break. In addition to the much used
link with Manchester United, he was rumoured to be heading for
Merseyside to replace Gerald Houllier whose Liverpool side had
faltered in recent months, going 11 games without victory. Martin
was indeed in contract negotiations but with Celtic, agreeing
a 12month rolling contract to follow on from the contract that
was due to end in the summer of 2003. He was though linked with
the vacancy at Villa Park in the summer of 2003 which eventually
went to David O'Leary.
The 2002/03 season ended trophyless for the Hoops with arch-rivals
Rangers completing a domestic treble. Celtic reached the final
of the UEFA Cup only to lose to Porto with O'Neill facing disciplinary
action following his outburst over the standard of refereeing.
In September 2003, Martin was suggested to be clear favourite
to replace Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham following Spurs' poor start
to the 2003/04 campaign and Hoddle's subsequent sacking following
the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Southampton.
In March 2004, Martin was suggested to be on the English FA's
shortlist to replace Sven Goran Eriksson if the Swede did not
renew his contract after Euro2004. However many suspect this "leak"
is a ploy to force Sven to sign.
Celtic won the Scottish Premiership for a third time under O'Neill
on April 18th 2004. Martin was also named Scottish Manager of
the Year for 2004
In March 2005, Martin was named, albeit by The Times,
as the preferred choice to take over at Manchester City following
Kevin Keegan's departure.
In May 2005, it was widely speculated that Martin would quit
as Celtic's manager at the end of the 2004/5 season so to care
for his seriously ill wife Geraldine. This was announced on 25th
June with Gordon Strachan succeeding as his replacement at Parkhead.
Although Celtic failed to win the Scottish title in 2004/5, martin
ended his Celtic career ona high, beating Dundee United 1-0 to
win the Scottish Cup.
On 16th October 2005, Martin was linked with managing the Republic
of Ireland after Brian Kerr was unable to lead them to the 2006
World Cup. However O'Neill is on a £500,000 per year "consultancy
fee" with Celtic and so has no need to return to management
Following allegations in the News of the World on January
15th 2006 about Sven Goran Eriksson's loyalty to the Egland job,
Martin was named as one of eight potential replacements if the
FA and Sven parted company. Two weeks later, the same paper suggested
that O'Neill had revealed that he was ready to talk to the FA
about becoming England manager. He has also been linked with the
vacancy at Newcastle following Graeme Souness' sacking in early
2006. Another destination was suggested by the media at the beginning
of April 2006 when O'Neill was spotted watching Fulham as a VIP
guest alongside ally David McNally, a leading director at the
club. He was also linked with the vacancy at Sunderland as he
has been a life-long follower of the Black Cats. He didn't receive
the England job, the FA finally opting for Middlesbrough'sSteve
McLaren. Middlesbrough then turned to O'Neill as an option with
the Sunday Papers on 27th May 2006 suggesting a North East struggle
between Sunderland and Boro for O'Neill's services. Interestingly
the vacancy at League One side Notts Forest has also seen O'Neill
linked with it for sentimental reasons.
On 4th August 2006, Martin returned to football management taking
over at Villa Park to replace the departed David O'Leary. O'Neill
has signed a rolling one-year contract with Aston Villa.
On 9th August 2010, O'Neill surprisingly quit as Villa manager
with immediate effect. He said "I have enjoyed my time
at Aston Villa immensely. It's obviously a wrench to be leaving
such a magnificent club. I would like to pay tribute to the Villa
players, my coaching staff and the Villa supporters for all the
support and encouragement they have given both the club and me
personally during my time as manager I wish them all the best
for the future. I will obviously be assisting the club in the
immediate short-term with regard to the handover of my duties"
It is suspected that he fell out with Villa owner Randy Lerner
over the club's transfer dealings which saw James Milner expected
to join Man City, and Ashley Young linked with Tottenham. Lerner
insisted that Villa would have to adopt a sell-to-buy policy.
Faulkner said of O'Neill's departure: "The club would like
to thank Martin for the great work he has done at Aston Villa
over the past four years.
Chief Executive Paul Faulkner said "He has helped to
establish the club in the upper echelons of the Premier League,
has taken us to Wembley and we have also qualified for European
competition for the past three seasons under his management. We
wish him the best in the future."
In January 2011, Martin was strongly linked with taking over
from Avram Grant at struggling West Ham but he declined their
offer. ONeill is believed to have been angered by the way
in which his possible move to Upton Park leaked out and, in particular,
the reports on Saturday 15th january that he was definitely replacing
Grant after the Hammers' match against Arsenal.
In October 2011, Martin was linked with a return to Leicester
City following the Foxes' sacking of Sven Goran-Eriksson whose
big-money signings were only performing averagely and not competing
for promotion to the top flight. The following month, he was linked
with the Northern Irish vacancy but said he was more interested
in returning to club football although he would assist the Northern
Ireland F.A. in their search for Nigel
On 2nd December 2011, Martin agreed to become Sunderland's manager
replacing Steve Bruce who was sacked two
days earlier. He brough Steve Walford to the club as first team
A poor run of form that saw Sunderland win just two out of 23
league games saw speculation at the end of November 2012 that
o'Neill would be sacked. A 2-1 defeat at Norwich and a home defeat
to Chelsea saw the Black Cats drop into the relegation zone. However
a 3-0 win over Reading on 11th December 2012 saw the pressure
lifted, for now.
O'Neill was eventually sacked by Sunderland on 30th March 2013
following a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United. A run of poor form
left the Black Cat sitting one point above the Premiership relegation
zone with just seven games remaining. They were without a win
in eight league matches, during which they have picked up only
three points. O'Neill leaves Sunderland with a record of 16 wins
from 55 Premier League matches. O'Neill was replaced by Paolo
In September 2013, O'Neill was quickly installed as the Bookie's
favourite for the Republic of Ireland manager's job after Giovanni
Trapattoni stepped down following a 1-0 defeat in Austria that
ended the Republic's chances of qualifying for the 2014 World
Cup. Other names linked to the post included Chris
Hughton, Mick McCarthy (Ipswich) and Brian McDermott (Leeds).
O'Neill was named as Ireland's new manager on 5th November 2013
with former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane as his assistant.
They signed a two year contract. Regular assistant John
Robertson was not available, having suffered a heart-attack.
O'Neill and Keane began their international managament career
with a 3-0 win over Latvia on 15th November 2013.
In July 2015, he was linked with a return to Leicester to replace
the sacked Nigel Pearson.