Men's Team

My City Nightmare XI: Martin O’Neill

Ahead of this weekend’s clash at Nottingham Forest, we continue our new feature series ‘My City Nightmare XI’ with their iconic former midfielder and manager, Martin O’Neill.

We face Forest at the City Ground on Saturday, with a 3pm kick-off.

O’Neill, who also played for City in 1981/82, will be in our Matchday Live studio as a special guest for the game.

But, before then, he selects the best sky blues team he played and managed against.


Martin O’Neill had a hugely successful career as both a player and as a manager.

He made his name as an all-action midfielder for this weekend’s opponents, Nottingham Forest and enjoyed enormous success under Brian Clough.

O’Neill won the European Cup twice in succession in 1979 and 1980 in an era of British dominance of the competition and also the First Division title in 1978, the League Cup in 1978 and 1979 and the European Super Cup in 1979.

DOUBLE CHAMPION : Martin O'Neill won the European Cup, now the Champions League, twice at Nottingham Forest.
DOUBLE CHAMPION : Martin O'Neill won the European Cup, now the Champions League, twice at Nottingham Forest.

He also captained Northern Ireland during the Spain 82 World Cup.

After two spells at Norwich, here at Manchester City, Notts County, Chesterfield and Fulham, he retired from playing.

O’Neill then enjoyed huge success in the dugout – a career that took off at Wycombe Wanderers and then skyrocketed at Leicester City from 1995-2000.

He took the Foxes to Premier League promotion in 1996 as well as two League Cup wins in 1997 and 2000 on top of another final appearance in the competition in 1999.

He followed that up by winning three Scottish Premier League titles as boss of Scottish giants, Celtic, as well as three Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup.

FORMER BLUE : Martin O'Neill played for one season at City in 1981/82.
FORMER BLUE : Martin O'Neill played for one season at City in 1981/82.

As manager of Aston Villa, O’Neill secured three sixth-place finishes and introduced a brand of exhilarating football, driven forward by star players like John Carew, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor.

What followed was further managerial roles at Sunderland, Republic of Ireland and Nottingham Forest.

During his illustrious career, he came up against some City greats and here he selects his best sky blue XI.

Seriously, there were a number of footballers I could have put in the various positions, aside from the ones I eventually picked.

There were some very tough decisions.

Mick Channon, for example, was a fabulous player – terrific. He would be known for his lengthy career at Southampton before coming to Manchester City. In fact, he and I played together in the last stages of his career at Norwich and even then, at 32, 33, 34, you could tell he was just a brilliant player.

He could easily be in this side. But, he’s only not because we played late on.  But if you’re talking about Mick Channon at his very best, yes he could easily be in this team. No doubt about it.

Francis Lee was a brilliant footballer, a great goalscorer. Mike Summerbee was Manchester City’s answer to George Best. The two were great friends. Mike was a great footballer, no question about it.

The reason I’m saying these things is if I end up meeting any of these lads, I don’t want them to think for one second that I’ve forgotten them. Far from it.


Joe Corrigan would be a standout goalkeeper from the players I played and managed against.

First of all, for being an excellent goalkeeper. Secondly, for his length of tenure at Manchester City. That becomes really, really important.

The other goalkeepers on the list of ones I’ve played and managed against have been really fine, in fact better than fine – excellent goalkeepers!

But I’ll go for Joe because of his length of time at Maine Road.

RIGHT BACK : Kyle Walker
RIGHT BACK : Kyle Walker


Kyle Walker is a terrific full-back and has been for a number of years.

He’s been a standout player. He’s so, so quick and would fill in that right-back spot so easily because he can get forward and also defend.

I think if the back four are in any sort of trouble, hopefully they won’t be, then you feel as if Kyle Walker would be able to, at least, outrun any forward that might just get past the other members of the back four.


Pablo Zabaleta is normally a right-back – and an extremely talented one.

I thought, at his very best, he was as good as anyone in European football.

So I have him playing at left-back because he would have been too good to leave out of the team.

CENTRE BACK : Dave Watson
CENTRE BACK : Dave Watson


Vincent Kompany? What else can I say? Speaks for himself.

His career has been glittered with prizes because he was a fantastic centre-back.

I remember when he was a kid at Anderlecht. We, being Celtic, played against him. He would have been 17 or 18. He wouldn’t have played many games at that stage.

You could see then – anyone could – that he was going to be an outstanding player. Did anyone think he was going to be that brilliant? I don’t know about that.

He proved himself at Manchester City. He was just a terrific centre-back.

Dave Watson, the old Dave Watson, played for Sunderland for a while and then arrived at Manchester City.

He played a lot of times for England. He was a stubborn, objurgate centre-back.

He could really head the ball, very strong in the air and not too bad with his feet.


David Silva is just a brilliant, brilliant footballer. Mesmeric.

While Man City have gone on to wonderful things over the last number of years with brilliant players, he was very hard to replace.

He was a terrific player. Just excellent ability, able to conjure things out of virtually nothing and a really creative footballer.



I think Gareth Barry and James Milner speak for themselves.

James and Gareth, I knew particularly at Aston Villa – and they’d be in most teams.

For longevity, but not just for that. You can have a long career in the game and not be that good.

These players proved themselves. I know them both well. I know what they’re capable of doing and they did it for so long in the game. Their records speak for themselves.

RIGHT WING : Colin Bell
RIGHT WING : Colin Bell


Colin Bell would be in any Manchester City side of any particular era.

He wasn’t called ‘Nijinsky’ for nothing.

He was a superb athlete and a brilliant footballer.

He had a glittering career himself but just to be playing in the present Manchester City team, he would be even better again I think.

He was outstanding. I believe he could easily take his place in today’s modern game.


I played with and against Dennis Tueart.

Dennis was a really good goalscorer. He was an excellent player.

He could score a goal, conjure a goal and he was a hard working player. But not just a hard working player, he was an effective player.

There were a number of players I could have picked but I’ll give it Dennis for proving himself over a long period of time.

I know Dennis quite well. I can’t pay Dennis a high enough compliment that he wouldn’t pay himself to tell you the truth.

He was a very good player!


For me, Sergio Aguero was absolutely fantastic.

And not just for that wonderful last-gasp goal to win the Premier League!

He was a wonderful centre-forward with terrific ability. He was a magnificent goalscorer.

Interestingly, I was managing Sunderland against Man Utd when City scored that goal to lift the title.

Our game had finished. Man Utd were waiting around in the tunnel area to try and listen to the last few minutes at the Etihad with Man City still playing and with the chances of Man City winning that particular game, at that stage, looking at about a million to one.

Yet they scored two late goals and Aguero’s goal takes pride of place.

Aguero was a great player for a long period of time – and I think that’s the sign of greatness.