Rhino on: Martin O Neil, the Villa departure and potential England manager?
Martin is a man who sticks to his principles. If he feels something isn’t right he’ll let you know about it! Clearly something wasn’t right at Villa and they weren’t willing to budge on it, so he took the decision to get out. Ultimately, this is why Martin will probably never get the England job. Do I think he’d do the job well? Absolutely, he’d be brilliant. He used to make you feel like a great, great player, simple as that. Ask players from any team he’s managed and they’ll say the same. There was nothing complicated about it. That’s just what England need. He may not be as calm and collected as the likes of Arsene Wenger, but when he loses the plot it’s for a reason, and you listen. As long as the big, senior players like John Terry had confidence in his ability, which I’m sure they would do, they’d accept any criticism that might come their way. I used to feel humbled when I took an earful. I’d sit there and think to myself ‘you’re right, come one. Let’s get in this game.’ There’s no reason why the top, top players shouldn’t react the same way.
They may well get a bit of a shock to the system though. I remember once at half time, when one of our players Jason Cousins had got himself sent off for a pretty x rated tackle during the first 45 minutes, Martin just snapped. Jason was already in the shower covered in soapsuds when he stormed in, grabbed his head and dragged him out into the tunnel. He gave him a right b****ing and let him stand out there on his own completely stark naked whilst stewards and such strolled past completely bemused.
Ultimately this passion and heartfelt manner is the reason why he’s not an FA man. He does things his way and I’m not sure they’d like it. A perfect example is on the day of a playoff semi final Martin had just announced the team for the game. As a fairly young lad I went out and did my warm up and really put the effort in to get myself physically and mentally ready for the game. At the time we had a player called Simon Garner, who you may remember as the all time leading scorer at Blackburn Rovers, who was still in his suit despite getting the nod to play. He hadn’t come out for the warm up at all and I asked him where he’d been. He said he’d gone off through the gathering crowds in the car park to find the team bus and have a quick cigarette! With that he put his kit on and went and had one of the best games you’ll ever see a striker have! And Martin allowed that. He recognised that different things work for different people. As long as the player doesn’t let him down then who is he to change him? But I’m not sure that attitude would fly with the FA, and you can imagine the headlines if something like that came out these days.
Villa need to watch themselves though. There seems to be an ‘after O Neil’ syndrome which creeps into any club he leaves. When he left Wycombe we were devastated. I watched the same thing happen at Leicester. It wasn’t that the boys didn’t want to play for a new manager, it’s just they really wanted to play for Martin. And new managers tend to sense this and react by trying to immediately stamp their own imprint on the club. Whoever takes over at Villa, I’d recommend they make changes slowly otherwise they could be in for a real struggle this season.
Rhino on The new 25 man squad rule and whether or not it’s a good thing for English football
It’s certainly a step in the right direction, especially for our national team, it can’t be a bad thing. With it being such big business now it’s really hard to change. I’m an Arsenal fan and it is worrying when you see us fielding teams, last year for instance, that didn’t have one English player in the line-up. It’ll be interesting to see how it affects the loan system as it’s a really useful exercise for players to learn their trade elsewhere. Players that came down to Wycombe loved it. It’s not like slumming it anymore. Yes, some of the pitches aren’t the best but the facilities are second to none. Even the likes of Cyrille Regis and Rob Lee who came down the leagues were surprised with the quality I think. As long as players are getting the opportunity to play somewhere that’s the main thing.
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Next time Rhino talks about his Premier League predictions and the youth system in England.