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Saturday 24 August 2019

Forest exit could be end of road for Martin, a man out of time

Pre-season sacking was a shock to boss O'Neill

Martin O’Neill was sacked by Nottingham Forest after just six months in charge
Martin O’Neill was sacked by Nottingham Forest after just six months in charge

It was an appointment which, it was hoped, would bring back the glory years. But instead of glory, Nottingham Forest fans got grimness.

And so the Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane era at the City Ground is over. Though it's not that long ago that O'Neill was able to conjure up wins for his Ireland side over the likes of Germany, Italy and Wales, it now seems most likely that management is finished for the 66-year-old.

O'Neill had the hunger and the reputation to look for and find work after he left his job as Ireland manager, but now it's hard to see O'Neill working at the elite level again.

Apart from potential offers from the lower tiers in England, or perhaps a punt from a club chairman or national association president in Asia or Africa, places where Premier League status still means a lot, it's difficult to see many offers coming in for O'Neill.

Outdated

Observers of the Ireland scene under O'Neill will not be surprised by the reasons floating around Nottingham for his exit: a man with outdated methods, a poor relationship with his players, fans unhappy with an ultra-cautious style of play. Sounds very familiar to Irish ears.

As that great educator, Principal Seymour Skinner, once asked of himself: "am I really so out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong".

It may seem unfair to compare O'Neill, a man who deserves to be proud of his achievements as a player and manager, to a Simpson character, but how things ended with Ireland, and have ended with Forest, sadly prove that O'Neill simply struggles with how things need to be done in 2019.

Football, and society, has changed, and changed utterly since O'Neill was winning European Cups with Forest, and was enjoying success in the Premier League as a manager.

And his methods - the same methods which helped Ireland to outwit the Germans and the Italians - no longer work.

O'Neill had a harsh tongue when it came to the players he worked with in the Ireland squad but to their credit, they have held their tongue in the months since he left the FAI.

But there was one telling comment from Glenn Whelan after his return to the Ireland squad after he "didn't retire but was retired" by O'Neill. Speaking about O'Neill's successor, Mick McCarthy, Whelan didn't name O'Neill but made his point.

"He builds your ego up a bit and he lets you know what you are good at, rather than stuff that you maybe need to work on," Whelan said.

And it seems something similar happened at Forest, where players didn't want to hear what their manager had to say anymore.

A spell as Ireland manager tends to just about finish off people. Brian Kerr's only job as manager once he was sacked by the FAI was with the Faroe Islands.

Steve Staunton is still a young man, only 50, but he hasn't managed in nine years, working as a scout for a number of clubs since he left Darlington, after his Ireland stint.

Jack Charlton and Giovanni Trapattoni never managed again after they left the FAI payroll.

At least O'Neill did get work when his term as Ireland manager finished late last year, landing that 18-month contract with Forest. But contracts for managers mean little: David Moyes should this weekend be in the final days of the six-year contract he signed with Manchester United.

Chances

And the chances of success for O'Neill's French-born successor, Sabri Lamouchi, are not high: Forest have had just two managers from outside Britain or Ireland and they each lasted less than a year.

The timing of his exit may seem strange at first glance, O'Neill sacked by Forest only a week after Roy Keane left his post as O'Neill's assistant and a week into pre-season training with Forest, as the club have a friendly game planned for today.

As of yesterday morning, O'Neill was speaking to his players about pre-season so his sudden exit was a shock to him.

The timing was brutal, as far as O'Neill is concerned: there was a gap of just 18 minutes between the announcement from Forest yesterday that O'Neill had gone and the subsequent statement confirming his replacement. Eighteen minutes.

Now, Keane and O'Neill are both out of work, while Lamouchi leads the Forest squad today for that friendly. It's the modern way.

Apart from outsiders like Maurizio Sarri, clubs in Britain are less likely to go for the tried and trusted. People like Sam Allardyce, David Moyes, Ian Holloway, Alan Pardew were all hot property. Once. Now they are all out of work. Phil Brown had to go to India to get a job.

Roy Keane is no longer thought of as a potential manager at Manchester United: according to betting prices offered by Paddy Power, his most likely move would be to Doncaster Rovers or AFC Wimbledon.

Chances

Names like O'Neill, Keane and Allardyce no longer hold the status they once had. Clubs go for recently-retired pros with a high profile (Woodgate, Lampard, Gerrard, Parker) or highly rated foreign coaches.

O'Neill had his time, had good times, and Ireland will always owe him for Zenica, Lille, Gelsenkirchen, Vienna.

But he was out of time, as Forest have found out.

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