The news that Martin O'Neill
had stepped down as manager of Celtic
was swamped by the pre-match razzamatazz of the Champions League Final in Instabul. (Congratualtions to Liverpool
on a brilliant victory - Harry Kewell
go to hell). Martin O'Neill, the best manager Leeds United
never had, has given up the management of Celtic in order to support his lovely wife Geraldine in her battle against cancer which has sadly returned after remission. This juxtaposition of events reminds us of the nonsense famously spouted by Bill Shankly
- sorry Bill, but football is just a game even if you come back from 0-3 down in the Eurpoean Cup Final; a single second in the life of your family is infinitely more valuable. So I'm sure football fans of all persuasions will wish them both, and their daughters, well in their personal battle. There are a couple of Leeds connections to the story. Leeds Utd fans will remember the struggle that took place between Leeds United and Leicester City
over MON. Eventually David O'Leary
got the job as MON was a man of his word and wouldn't break his Leicester contract despite wanting the Leeds job. Indeed it was the changes to his contract brought about by the missed opportunity to manage Leeds Utd that enabled Celtic to capture him a couple of years later, avoiding the earlier public tug-of-war. MON was a Celtic
supporter as a kid and he has served his club well in the last five years.
Upon whom have the Celtic Board placed the mantle of responsibilty for the well-being of the O'Neill legacy at Celtic Park? None other than our very own Gordon Strachan, the well-known, flame-haired, Scot of green and white sympathies. However, he's of the Edinburgh green persuasion, not Glasgow! Actually he's a Hibee - a Hibs fan - but being fond of the Scum, for whom he was outstanding for many years, didn't stop him winning the last ever Division One Championship as inspirational captain of Howard Wilikson's Leeds United, so I reckon Glasgow Rangers are in for an eventful few years. Gordon has signed a 12 month rolling contract with Celtic which begins after Martin O'Neill's emotional goodbye to the Celtic faifthful at this Saturday's Scottish FA Cup Final (on Sky at 2pm) and on the Sunday at his spiritual home, Paradise (Celtic Park to the unbelievers) at Jackie McNamara's testimonial game. Although Martin said, at his press conference announcing his resignation, that he hopes to return to management eventually, it won't be with the club he loves, Celtic. As he was careful to say, that "torch has been passed on" to Gordon Strachan.
Will MON ever manage Leeds Utd as once seemed inevitable? Very doubtful. As both a Leeds United and Celtic fan I could wish for nothing better. He's now way too good for Leeds United even if we returned to the Premiership, a pale shadow of our former presence. My money is on him being the successor to Arsene Wenger or perhaps even at Old Trafford ("Flame-Grilled McTrafford" as it will be known soon). But given the difference in the Boards of Directors at the 'Big Two' clubs I would think my money would be on a gent such as Martin O'Neill liking the "old school" management style of Arsenal FC rather than the new "good ol' boy" stylings of the Manchester Red Sox Soccerball Club.
Either way whoever gets MON will get a real gem and a gentleman. Best of luck to him and Geraldine as they face, together, an uncertain future. And of course, good luck to former Leeds United favourite Gordon Strachan, once tipped for the poisoned chalice of the Leeds United manager's job. Lucky escape there Gordon :-)
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