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Sunday 4 December 2016

Lennon - Martin was my best boss

Bolton manager lauds the two O'Neills for Euro 2016 feat

Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile
Neil Lennon. Photo: PA

Neil Lennon has played for some big names in his time, so the Lurgan native knows a thing or two about managers.

And Lennon is learning a lot about the other side of management, the stuff they don't teach you on UEFA coaching courses, as his current side, Bolton Wanderers, are officially the crisis club of the English league scene.

The players have already accepted that they won't get their wages for the time being but Lennon dug into his own pockets earlier this month to ensure that office staff and other employees at the club got paid.

But Lennon has no doubts about who was the best man he worked under, current Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.

"Martin was the best manager I played under. No doubt about it," said Lennon, who caught up with his former mentor, and predecessor as Parkhead boss, at the Belfast Telegraph's sports awards.

"As a motivator he was fantastic and technically and tactically he was very astute. What Martin did at Leicester and Celtic was outstanding. It was great to play in his teams.

"He was a great player and he went on to become a great manager. His record is superb and he continues to impress. Taking the Republic of Ireland to Euro 2016 was another great achievement," added Lennon.

The current Bolton boss played under O'Neill at club level and alongside Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill for the international side, and Lennon is impressed with the achievement of the former Shamrock Rovers chief.

"What Michael has done for the team deserves respect," Lennon added.

"I am not sure many people expected Northern Ireland to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals at the start of the campaign but they did it in style by topping their group.

"Michael has given the players great belief and it shows in their play. I think it is inspirational for the country.

Qualified

"The last time Northern Ireland qualified for a major tournament was the World Cup finals in 1986. People like myself and Michael were inspired by that and now youngsters growing up will feel inspired by this generation going to play at a big tournament.

"The Euro 2016 finals are going to be pretty special," said Lennon.

Michael O'Neill, who trained in financial services when his playing career was finished, was proud of his record at Shamrock Rovers which saw the Hoops become financially stable off the field as well as successful on it, can empathise with Lennon's financial plight at Bolton.

"It has been very tough for Neil at Bolton," said O'Neill.

"Financial problems are never easy at a club for a manager, players and the staff but I know Neil is doing his best to keep things going there and he got a good result at the weekend which will have given everyone a little lift.

"When a manager goes through a difficult experience it can actually make you stronger and better for the future and I'm sure that will be the case for Neil."

Meanwhile, former Shamrock Rovers and Derry City man Pat McCourt has not given up hope of making it to the Euros with Northern Ireland.

"The more games I play here and do well it will help my chances of getting to the Euros in the summer with Northern Ireland, so that's my only focus at the minute," says McCourt, now at Luton Town.

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