Wednesday 22 May 2019

'Liam's move from Celtic to Manchester United caused friction between the clubs' - Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill during a press conference prior to the Liam Miller Memorial match
Martin O'Neill during a press conference prior to the Liam Miller Memorial match

Aidan Fitzmaurice in Cork

Martin O'Neill believes that the turnout at Páirc uí Chaoimh for the Liam Miller tribute game shows the esteem in which the late midfielder was held in the game.

And while the Ireland boss admits that Miller's move from O'Neill's Celtic to Manchester United caused "friction" between the two clubs, he understands why Miller made the move when he did.

"I think of Liam as a young lad playing at Celtic," O'Neill said at a press conference ahead of today's game in Cork.

"He was there when I arrived at the club and was trying to break into the side, he finally made it, big time, really, in the Champions League matches, coming on as a sub against Anderlecht and then starting against Lyon, he did really well.

"I was naturally disappointed to see him leave and join Manchester United, I followed his career from a distance and unfortunately I heard about his illness. The turnout today shows the esteem he is held in.

"He was a really nice young man for a start, he was a really good footballer and I hoped he would stay at Celtic a wee bit longer, in retrospect maybe he should have done. He was learning his trade with us and he thought the move to Manchester United was something he wanted to do.

"If Manchester United come calling, of course that's what you are going to want to do. Let's be fair, at Celtic at that particular time we had reached the UEFA Cup final, we were housing 60,000 people every week so I think Liam was just beginning to learn the professional game as much as anything else and he was doing well, doing well in an environment of good players like Mjallyby and Larsson so that was a great learning period for him but he wanted to go to Manchester United.

"I wouldn't blame him for that, I just think perhaps if he had stayed with us a little bit longer he could have picked up the game, whereas as Manchester United he was competing against the likes of Paul Scholes, big players, and here within our environment players like John Hartson Stilan Petrov and Henrik Larsson were helping greatly.

"But he had his own life to lead, this is what he wanted to do and while it caused a bit of friction between the two clubs for a while, that's what Liam wanted to do.

"To lose a young man in the prime of his life, a family man, those are the things that will stick most in our memories," he added.

"I have the utmost regard for John Hartson and Stlyan Petrov as people but their battles were excruciatingly difficult and they showed great courage and determination to come back. That's the reason they are here today."

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