Thursday 19 October 2017

Chris Sutton reveals Martin O'Neill's biggest strength...and gives a verdict on Roy Keane

Martin O’Neill acknowledges supporters after Ireland’s famous victory in Cardiff. Photo: REUTERS
Martin O’Neill acknowledges supporters after Ireland’s famous victory in Cardiff. Photo: REUTERS
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton has given Independent.ie his inside view on what it was like to work under Martin O'Neill, as he poured praise on the manager who has guided the Republic of Ireland to the World Cup play-offs.

O'Neill has come under fire as Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign stumbled over the last few months, but Monday night's famous win against Wales in Cardiff has silenced his doubters and fuelled hopes that he can fire the national team into next summer's World Cup finals in Russia.

Now Sutton has given us an inside view on the methods O'Neill uses to get the best out of players, as the BT Sport pundit opened up on a manager whose reputation for keeping his distance from players creates something of a mystique around his methods.

“I played under Martin O’Neill for many years at Celtic and from my experience, he is a manager Ireland are lucky to have,” BT Sport pundit Sutton told Independent.ie.

“What is Martin's biggest strength? That's simple. Players want to win for him and that is not the case with every manager. Martin is one of those managers that players will go the extra mile for and that is why he has enjoyed such a successful career over so many years.

“You look at Ireland’s performances at Euro 2016 and they were full of everything you expect from a Martin O’Neill team, with the win against Italy one of the great moments of the tournament for me.

Chris Sutton
Chris Sutton

“Yet I have heard some people in Ireland questioning him and his assistant Roy Keane in the last few months, which is amazing to me. The idea that they would want to change a manager who has already brought success to a team lacking star names would baffle me.

“Ireland’s don’t have players of the class of Paul McGrath, Andy Townsend, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge any more, but they do have a manager and an assistant in Roy Keane who have helped to put them back on the international football map. They should be praised and not questioned."

Sutton went on to reveal O'Neill was 'tough to get close to' during their time working together at Celtic, as he revealed his unconventional style kept players on their toes.

"You never quite knew where you were with Martin," continued Sutton. "Players never got close to him, but he was always fair with you if a problem came up or a decision was made that went against you.

"Just look at the record this guy has for lifting players in big games. He can get a group of footballers who may not be the best in the world and get them winning matches they have no right to win.

"We saw that time and again with Celtic and now he is doing the same with Ireland. It is no co-incidence. His methods work, even if some players don't quite know how they work."

Sutton believes O’Neill’s high profile assistant Keane is good for the game, after accusing those who are offended by the Irishman's brash manner of not wanting to hear the truth.

“I like Roy Keane and we need more people like him in the game,” adds Sutton. “People who have opinions and say what they think are few and far between in the game and I have been accused of speaking out of turn at times.

“I suspect that is because some people don’t like hearing the truth if it is not a very palatable truth. Roy speaks his mind and doesn’t care who he upsets in the process and I applaud him for that.

“He is an interesting assistant manager with Ireland as you would normally associate him being the front man, but Martin O’Neill would have had no worries about putting him into that role.

“Martin looks at who will be the best person for a job and has done so throughout his career. He signed Stan Collymore at Leicester, he brought Craig Bellamy to Celtic. Those two came with a reputation for being difficult, but that doesn’t worry Martin.

“He would also not have any concerns about Roy being a threat to his job as Ireland manager. He can handle big personalities and maybe that is why these two get along so well.”

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