In the third of our four-part series, we look at a player who has enjoyed a terrific career at club level before moving into international waters…
Ireland: Martin O’Neill
Martin O’Neill made his name as a feisty, busy midfielder in Brian Clough’s all-conquering Nottingham Forest team for a decade.
He was 29 when he left the City Ground for Norwich City, but stayed at Carrow Road only briefly before joining the Blues.
O’Neill’s best days were behind him and he was a peripheral figure in John Bond’s team, making just 16 appearances before returning to Norwich after just six months at Maine Road.
Capped more than 50 times by Northern Ireland, O’Neill soldiered on for another year or so before injury curtailed his career and he was forced to retire.
The influences of Clough and Bond, plus other influential figures during his playing career meant O’Neill was a natural fit as a manager, and he cut his teeth first with Grantham and then Shepshed Charterhouse before landing the Wycombe Wanderers job.
In his five years with The Chairmen, he took the club from non-League up to what is now League One where he narrowly missed a play-off promotion berth for the Championship.
Considered one of the game’s brightest managerial talents, he briefly joined former club Norwich City, but a disagreement with the chairman saw him quit Carrow Road and instead take over at Leicester City.
O’Neill was hugely successful with the Foxes, taking the club to the Premier League and establishing them as a solid mid-table side as well as winning the League Cup twice.
He joined Celtic in 2000 where his successes continued, winning seven trophies in five years and finishing runners-up in the European Cup.
Four years at Aston Villa followed and a period of ‘nearly moments’ as he narrowly failed on several occasions to guide the club to Champions League qualification and a defeat to Manchester United in the League Cup final.
He then managed Sunderland – his last club managerial role – where he initially started well but was sacked in his second season with the Black Cats hovering above the Premier League relegation zone.
As ever, he wasn’t out of work long and was installed at Republic of Ireland boss in 2013 – a position he still holds at present and is contracted until 2020.