HAVING CUT HIS teeth with Grantham Town and Shepshed Charterhouse, Martin O’Neill took over Wycombe Wanderers in 1990. A fifth-place finish in the Vauxhall Conference in 1991 was improved on the following season as the club only missed out on winning the Conference on goal difference.
In 92/92, they earned promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history as Conference champions. Incredibly, After turning down an offer to take over Nottingham Forest, O’Neill then secured a second consecutive promotion by beating Preston North End in the play-off final.
Highlights of the final between 28 mins and 57 mins:
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2. The 1997 League Cup final replay
Leicester City had knocked out Manchester United en route to the Coca-Cola Cup in 1997 and, at Wembley, came up against Middlesbrough. Ending 0-0 after 90 minutes, extra-time saw Fabrizio Ravanelli put Boro in front before Emile Heskey scrambled the ball over the line with 12 minutes on the clock.
Ten days later, the teams lined out at Hillsborough Stadium and, after the game had again ended in a stalemate, Steve Claridge’s volley on 100 minutes handed the Foxes their first piece of silverware in 26 years.
Three years later, O’Neill lifted the same cup for a second time.
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3. His first Old Firm Derby
Cetlic had one just one SPL title from the past 12 campaigns when O’Neill arrived in Glasgow to replace Kenny Dalgleish and John Barnes in June 2000.
Less than two months later, he tasted his first Old Firm Derby as Dick Advocaat brought his Rangers side to Celtic Park.
The game was just 51 seconds old when new signing Chris Sutton scored the opener and that set the tone for the day. Paul Lambert, Stiliyan Petrov and Henrik Larssson – whose first is still remembered as one of his best goals – all got in on the act in a 6-2 demolition.
It signalled a shift in the balance of power and although Rangers won 5-1 the next time the sides met, Celtic claimed a domestic treble in O’Neill’s first season.
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4. The 2003 UEFA Cup final
Liverpool, Blackburn, Stuttgart, Celta Vigo and Boavista were all sent packing by Celtic, who went on an remarkable run in the 2003 UEFA Cup.
In their first European final in 33 years, they met another Portuguese outfit in Porto and were backed by 80,000 Hoops fans who descended on Seville for the final.
They twice fell behind but fought their way back with legendary Swedish striker Henrik Larsson finding the back on both occasions.
Six minutes into extra-time, Bobo Balde received his second yellow card and Derlei popped up with a winner on 115 minutes before Nuno Valente was also shown his marching orders.
It was a bitterly disappointing night for O’Neill, who criticised the unsportmanlike behaviour of Jose Mourinho’s players for their cynical tactics in the latter stages of the game.
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5. The end of the road at Sunderland
While it wasn’t his last game in charge, the 3-1 loss to bottom side QPR effectively spelt the end of O’Neill’s time with Sunderland. Steven Flecther put the Black Cats in front in the first half but goals from Loic Remy, Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas gave Harry Redknapp’s men some hope in their relegation battle.
After he had secured seven victories in his first 10 league games to keep the club out of relegation the previous season, this defeat was his 25th in 64 games in charge and owner Ellis Short took the decision to call time on O’Neill’s reign when the winless run stretched to eight games against Manchester United two weeks later.
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