Wednesday 18 January 2017

'Martin O'Neill was strange, but his players loved him' - former Leicester captain Steve Walsh

Published 23/03/2016 | 13:34

27 Feb 2000: Martin ONeill and Matt Elliott of Leicester City hold the cup in celebration after the Worthington Cup Final victory over Tranmere Rovers played at Wembley Stadium in London. The Match finished Leicester City 2 Tranmere Rovers 1. \ MandatoryCredit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport
27 Feb 2000: Martin ONeill and Matt Elliott of Leicester City hold the cup in celebration after the Worthington Cup Final victory over Tranmere Rovers played at Wembley Stadium in London. The Match finished Leicester City 2 Tranmere Rovers 1. \ MandatoryCredit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

Former Leicester captain Steve Walsh has offered up a fascinating insight into life working under Martin O’Neill, describing the current Republic of Ireland boss as “a little strange” and “impossible to read”.

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Walsh was the leader of O’Neill’s Leicester sides that won the League Cup in 1997 and 2000, with his towering performances alongside partner Matt Elliott earning him hero status among Foxes fans.

Walsh confirms he still has huge affection for O’Neill, but he admitted he was never quite sure if his manager was a fan of his talents when he worked under his management.

“Until he wrote a foreword in my book, I wasn’t sure whether he liked me or not,” Walsh told talkSPORT as he spoke about O’Neill. “He was hard to read. He would get in your head and that was his way of getting the best out of players.

“He would often have a go at me, but I was hard work for him at times. The success we had under him was unbelievable, it really was.

“In that first year, he was nearly out and I remember there was a fan that wrote him a letter telling him to go. He kept that letter and then rang him at 11 o’clock at night and said: “What do you think now”. Amazing.

“When you see the antics on the sidelines I loved it, but he was a little strange the way he delivered things at times and he took things very personally. A defeat wouldn’t be out of his system for three days.

“He would walk past you in the corridor, he wouldn’t want to know you if you’d made a mistake. There was a little bit of Brian Clough in him, he loved Cloughie.

“Now it is different when the old Leicester players see him. I went to Celtic when he was manager and he kept bringing the beers in for us. What a great man.”

Walsh is thrilled by the progress of the current Leicester side and when asked to select the star turn in the Leicester side on the brink of a remarkable Premier League title success, he selected a surprise candidate.

“We can go on about Vardy, Mahrez and the other players later, but for me Robert Huth was a massive signing for Leicester,” he said of the powerhouse defender.

“I think we are going to do it. We have a well-drilled organized unit and there is a relaxed pressure among the players. The objective was not to go and do what they’ve done, but the next games are winnable.

“This is the month we have go to do it. Look at the fixtures coming up. Three home games and Sunderland away. We have to do it in April.”

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