Early Doors

Liverpool must turn to O’Neill

Early Doors

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Martin O'Neill's dad once said that his son should be willing to down tools and walk to Glasgow if he got the chance to manage Celtic. The venerable Northern Irishman may not be willing to swim across the Mersey to wash up at Anfield, but there is apparently a ferry that will get him there. 

If club captain Steven Gerrard is declaring publicly before the end of September that the best Liverpool can manage is a challenge to reach the top four, then there is something far, far wrong. Not that the man in the street is unaware of the depressing issues misting over Anfield when such a privileged club have not won their domestic league in over two decades.

If Liverpool can find a new owner to rid the club of the rotting Tom Hicks and George Gillett partnership, two decidedly dumb, classless Americans fixated by cash, and bring O'Neill in from the cold as manager, then Liverpool can yet rescue some meaning from a season that began unravelling long before they were emptied out of the Carling Cup by Northampton Town.  

The accepted wisdom is that it is easier to find a job when you are in a job, but the Premier League obeys no such laws of logic. In the brutal business of professional football management, it can be easier to find a job when you are out of a job. If you are an unemployed O'Neill, it seems like you have never had it so good.

"I'm very sad about the Villa manager departing because Martin O'Neill did a fantastic job, so I wonder what they're going to do next," said the Prime Minister and Villa fan David Cameron as he reflected upon a prime manager's decision to leave Villa Park last month.

After a week in which Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City were all bundled out of the Carling Cup early doors, Early Doors wonders what O'Neill is making of it all? More to the point, could O'Neill have chosen a better time to be out of work?

O'Neill left Villa after growing frustrated by the club's American owner Randy Lerner and his apparent unwillingness to support future ambitions in the transfer market.

Not that O'Neill would delight at a fellow man's misfortune, but Liverpool's defeat on penalties to Northampton has not exactly enhanced Roy Hodgson's prospects of keeping his post.

O'Neill once studied criminal law before realising he was a good enough player to win two European Cups under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest. He would find no case for the defence at Anfield.

If a new buyer emerges to wrench the club away from its American duopoly, Hodgson will surely be done for.

Not that ED does not admire Hodgson, but he is the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, to quote some ham actor out of Die Hard 2.  Hodgson is a realistic candidate to replace Fabio Capello when he moves aside as England manager. O'Neill is the right man to replace Hodgson now. 

O'Neill is the Liverpool manager in waiting, and bookies appear to agree with ED.  He was this morning installed as the 5/2 favourite to be offered the post before the end of the season. Such an appointment will only happen if there is a change in ownership.

O'Neill is unlikely to be overly keen to work under another almost illegitimate American owner after Rafael Benitez recently described working for Gillett and Hicks as an endurance test. "The last year at Liverpool... I had directors who knew nothing about football, and you couldn't talk about football with them," said the Internazionale coach.

Of all the candidates out of work in the world game, O'Neill's name must feature on a wish list of any ambitious boardroom, but O'Neill is the perfect fit for Liverpool.

He is surely the outstanding candidate for a return to the Premier League, but there are not too many clubs who could tempt him. Casting a glance at the morning odds on who is ripe for the chop, there are not too many jobs out there that would placate O'Neill.

Roberto Martinez is a 2/1 favourite to be sacked by Wigan Athletic with West Ham's Avram Grant priced at 3/1 and Roberto Mancini, who seems to constantly work on the edge of a precipice, a 9/2 shot at City.

He would get the funds at City, but would he want to dance with the devil and work for whimsical Arab owners at Manchester City after their treatment of Mark Hughes and flimsy nature in disposing of managers?

You probably don't need reminding, but O'Neill won the Conference with Wycombe Wanderers, two League Cups with Leicester City, seven trophies at Celtic including an unfortunate runners-up place against Jose Mourinho's Porto in the 2003 UEFA Cup final before leading Villa to their first major final in a decade when they narrowly lost the League Cup to Manchester United last season.

ED loved attending O'Neill's pressers at Celtic Park where he mastered the art of saying a lot while saying very little. He is a dream manager in this era of spin and public relations.  

After running Celtic and Villa, Liverpool are the only club where O'Neill could take a step up. There is no other club with greater tradition, history and a hunger for renewed glory than Liverpool.

O'Neill may be the favoured longer term option to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, but Liverpool could yet beat them to the punch. What a result that would be over their old foes. O'Neill would be an inspirational manager for Liverpool with the right chairman and the right backing.

Interestingly enough, O'Neill is also among the leading candidates to be wheeled in as a new pundit on the BBC's Match of the Day programme. Maybe that will be his next port of call until Capello leaves England, or maybe not. Something suggests the club game remains his natural domain. He has unfinished business with the Premier League 

When you are wanting to put out a wildfire, you don't turn up with a hosepipe. For Liverpool, O'Neill is Red Adair. 

It is time for change, it is time for O'Neill.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: ED likes the cut of David Beckham's jib. Away from turning out for LA Galaxy, news reaches us this morning that Beckham has given his lawyers "a blank cheque" to clear his name over unsubstantiated magazine claims in the US he had a threesome with prostitutes.

A brass is in hiding this morning as Beckham seeks to serve her with a writ rather than anything else she has suggested. Beckham is chasing £5 million in damages from the magazine, publisher and hooker. A more interesting and costly threesome for those involved. 

"He could get £5m - unheard of in a libel case here. A jury may set the damages, it just depends which US state the case is heard in," says media lawyer Paul Gilbert. 

"It's nearly unprecedented for a celebrity of his profile to bring proceedings of this sort in America and could mean we see a change in attitudes to this sort of case there.

"But he's sending a message to gold-diggers to say: 'If you say stuff like this about me, I'll come after you.' I imagine Hollywood will be watching very carefully." 

Go get 'em, Becks. Hang them out to dry and make sure they take a big towel.

COMING UP: We have live commentary on Portsmouth against Leicester City in the Championship at 19:45. If that doesn't excite, there is free practice at the Singapore Grand Prix. We will have coverage of that for you at 11:00 and 14:30.

The Snooker World Open reaches its last-16 stage. Live coverage from 12:30 with a mouthwatering clash as Ronnie O'Sullivan, fresh from beating Jimmy White, takes on Stephen Hendry. 

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