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  Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Profile: Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill has taken Celtic back to the top
Martin O'Neill has taken Celtic back to the top
BBC Sport Online outlines the career of Celtic manager Martin O'Neill.

In less than two seasons Martin O'Neill has transformed Celtic from a club with a massive inferiority complex to a team capable of dominating Scottish football.

This season O'Neill has underlined Celtic's domestic superiority over bitter rivals Rangers by retaining the league championship title for the first time in 20 years.

The inspirational Irishman, who learned his trade as a player under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, has certainly turned his Bhoys into men since he walked into the Celtic hotseat.

On Saturday he will be looking to win his fifth domestic trophy in six competitions since taking over from John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2000.

O'Neill is unique among football managers in that he has enjoyed success at nearly every club that he has managed.

The abrasive Irishman, who is now at his fourth club, likes his sides to be disciplined but has always encouraged his teams to play a fluent passing style.

Successful apprenticeship

His managerial apprenticeship began at lowly Wycombe Wanderers in 1990. He guided them from the Conference to Division Two in successive years.

After turning down the chance to make an emotional return to Forest in 1995, he tried his luck at Norwich briefly before guiding Leicester to the Premiership.

He led the unfashionable Filbert Street side to two Worthington Cup finals, beating Middlesborough in 1997 to qualify for the Uefa cup.

As a player O'Neill was part of Nottingham Forest's double European Cup winners of 1979 and 1980.

The influence of former mentor Brian Clough on O'Neill's managerial career is plain to see.

Like Clough, O'Neill was the kind of player who had a huge influence on his teammates as a player.

His strong personality has been crucial in the dramatic turnaround in Celtic's fortunes.

Midas touch

O'Neill is one of the best motivators in the business and has instilled a winning mentality into the Celtic players that was sorely lacking under his many predecessors during Rangers' decade of dominance.

On his arrival, he challenged all at Parkhead to forget the bad experiences encountered under previous managers and chairmen and the players at the club have responded valiantly to his plea.

Martin O'Neill has instilled a winning mentality
O'Neill has instilled a winning mentality at Parkhead
He has also been brave in the transfer market, ending Chris Sutton's Chelsea nightmare.

He plucked Neil Lennon from Leicester for a sizeable but justifiable fee and has got the best out of prize asset Henrik Larsson.

O'Neill started off his Parkhead career with a bang after thumping Rangers 6-2 in his first Old Firm encounter.

His team went on to wrap up the domestic treble in some style with Larsson completing a record breaking season with 53 goals and the Golden Boot award for Europe's top scorer.

Old Trafford rumours

The spectacular success in his first season led to speculation linking him with a move to Old Trafford as successor to Sir Alex Ferguson.

But O'Neill has repeatedly denied such rumours and is adamant that he will see out the remainder of his contract at Parkhead.

The Celtic manager even purchased 2m worth of shares in the club in July 2001.

In terms of the style of play, O'Neill has introduced a doggedness to his squad, something of a novelty for a Celtic team.

Previously, Celtic have won trophies playing the attacking football they are famous for.

In the past the defensive game has been completely alien to Celtic. That has now gone under O'Neill.

Bobo Balde, Joos Valgaeren and Johan Mjallby have been rock solid at the back for O'Neill's side and the team have leaked a mere 18 goals in the league this season.

Paul Lambert has been the lynchpin in a physically imposing Celtic midfield.

It is significant that Lambert has not only had his best season in the Hoops, picking up the Writer's Player of the Year award, but also returned to the international fold under O'Neill's influence.

Winning mentality

O'Neill has instilled in his players an ability to win when they are not playing particularly well which has been the mark of championship winning teams over the years.

He has changed tactics from time to time, but O'Neill has basically stuck by the wing-back system that was already in place.

This system was exploited to fine effect in Celtic's first foray into the Champions League.

They remained unbeaten at home throughout their campaign but even a 4-3 victory against Juventus was not enough to prevent Celtic's exit from Europe.

This was followed by a narrow defeat by Valencia on penalties in the Uefa cup.

However, such is O'Neill's ability to keep a happy dressing room that his team didn't suffer from the usual hangover that follows the exertions of European competition and Celtic were quickly back on track to retain their domestic title.

The Irishman will be eager to continue his fantastic record in Old Firm matches on Saturday and add another trophy to an already impressive haul during his two seasons in the Parkhead hot-seat.

Big match action



The road to Hampden


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