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There Are Two Moments In Martin O'Neill's Career He'd Love To Change

Picture credit: Sportsfile / Shutterstock.com
By PJ Browne Updated
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Martin O'Neill says there are two moments from his managerial career that he'd love to go back and change. During a management career which has spanned more than three decades, O'Neill has managed Wycombe Wanderers, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Ireland and Nottingham Forest, among others.

"There are a number of games from my managerial career that I'd love to go back and relive," O'Neill exclusively told Ladbrokes Fanzone.

"Going all the way back to my time at Wycombe Wanderers, where arguably they were the most important, because if some of those moments and games would've gone against me, then who knows; I might not have had the opportunity to go to and manage at the level I did.

"I had so many great moments with Leicester City, after a really tough start. There aren't many things I'd change about my time there; maybe winning a third League Cup against Tottenham Hotspur would've been nice; we lost that game, but we won two others, we finished in the Top 10 in the Premiership, which was really important."

24 July 2010; Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill sits on the bench with his backroom staff. Pre-Season Friendly, Bohemians v Aston Villa, Dalymount Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

The first game he'd liked to change is the 2010 League Cup final which Aston Villa lost 2-1 to Manchester United.


"My time at Aston Villa was really terrific," said O'Neill.

"If you're asking me for a moment in my career I'd love to go back and change, it might be in that League Cup final against Manchester United. Nemanja Vidic - a great centre-back - makes a foul on Gabby Agbonlahor inside three minutes, and should have been sent off. We get the penalty, and Vidic stays on the field - the referee made up a different set of rules.

"The player really had to go, and I think that, because of the team that we had, and the style in which we played, even against Sir Alex Ferguson's Man United, I think we'd have won that game. And that might have changed my relationship, maybe, with the owner, Randy Lerner, who knows. It's a moment I'd love to have changed, but it was completely out of my control."


The second moment O'Neill would like to change is Celtic's 2003 UEFA Cup final loss to Porto.

6 July 2002; Martin O'Neill, Celtic manager, speaks to the press at the end of the game. Shelbourne v Celtic, Pre season friendly, Tolka Park, Dublin. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

"But if you're asking me for the standout moment which I'd love to go back and change in my career, then it's the UEFA Cup final, against Porto, for Celtic," he said.

"75,000 Celtic fans descend upon Seville, and not all of them had tickets, because the stadium only seated 50,000! It was awash with green and white, and it's a game we should have won. We went into extra-time and had a man sent off, then within a few minutes they had scored. We were down to 10 men in the blistering heat, against a team who went on to win the Champions League in the following year.

"If I could change a result, it would be that one. I'd want to change that one, selfishly for myself and my players, but more for the 75,000 supporters who almost, to a man, still say it's one of their greatest experiences of all time. Could you imagine what it would've meant to them if we'd have won it? Those fans travelling back to Glasgow as winners of the UEFA Cup? If I could change any result in my career, it'd be that one. A European cup for a football club that truly deserves trophies of that scale, because they're so, so big.


"That defeat was a difficult one to take. I always took my work home with me; I never left it behind. I know some managers who were able to turn it off and, regardless of the result on the Saturday, leave it until they're next at work. I was unable to do that, and that's the nature of myself.

"Immediately after that game against Porto, losing in extra-time, we had to go back because we were contesting the final match of the league season with Rangers. They were at home to Dunfermline, we were at home to Kilmarnock, and we had to score one more goal than Rangers to win the league. We won, but we missed a penalty in the game and Rangers beat us to the title by one goal.

"So that was a double disappointment; we'd lost in the UEFA Cup final, and then we'd lost the league to Rangers. But, still, it was considered a magnificent season for us. But for me, it was a real sense of double disappointment. Even despite the fans, even to this day, saying it was one phenomenal season... it was a season in which we didn't win anything.


"But then it's about how you respond to pain like that, and you have to just pick yourself up and all get on with it. The new season comes around and you have to put your mind on winning the league, for those supporters - and that's exactly what we did, by a distance, as well. And we reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup again, knocking Barcelona out along the way."

See Also: Martin O'Neill Has No Regrets Over Jack Grealish And Declan Rice Choices

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