The subject is one of many addressed in O’Neill’s compelling new autobiography ‘On Days Like These’
The subject is one of many addressed in O’Neill’s compelling new autobiography ‘On Days Like These’ and in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Northern Ireland’s iconic 1982 World Cup captain outlined his belief that for some elements of the media in the South his “persona didn’t seem to fit”.
He adds that as time passed by his assistant Roy Keane saw things the same way.
Following on from the era of Italian Giovanni Trapattoni, and Noel King in charge on an interim basis, O’Neill became manager of the Republic in November 2013, having previously enjoyed successful spells as boss of Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa.
He immediately created a buzz in the country by bringing in legendary Irish international Keane as his No.2.
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O’Neill would inspire the Republic to the Euro 2016 Finals, beating World Champions Germany 1-0 in qualifying, and take them to the knockout stages in France courtesy of a famous victory over Italy with supporters euphoric. The two-time European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest would then guide the team to the 2018 World Cup play-offs where they lost 5-1 at home to Denmark.
O’Neill feels the criticism of his reign intensified after that loss and following relegation to the third tier of the Nations League the FAI made the call in November 2018 to replace him with former boss Mick McCarthy.
Always one to speak his mind, Kilrea native O’Neill said: “The Denmark result became a point for the Republic media to throw everything at you in terms of criticism. It was kind of storing up a little bit. The truth is this, there were a number of times that I was called ‘the Northerner’ or ‘the outsider’ and I was treated in many ways the same way as Trapattoni eventually became, one of those figures you tend to hate. I think that was it.
“My persona didn’t seem to fit with them throughout the time and I’m even going back to heavy criticism in the early stages of our 2016 European campaign when we were in the same group as Germany, Poland, Scotland and Georgia.
“When we only drew with Scotland in Dublin and we still had plenty of matches to go, the criticism was very heavy at that stage but we made it through.
“I think if you are viewed as a bit of an outsider to begin with then it’s hard, regardless of results being okay, to win them back again. That would be my thoughts on it.”
“I mention this in the book when initially I said to Roy Keane I was considered a bit of an outsider and he wasn’t so sure to begin with but as time wore on he was absolutely convinced of it.
“At the end of the day I’m maybe not blameless. I think they felt I had an arrogant streak about me. I think that’s been called a few times but that’s absolutely and utterly far from the case.
“The result against Denmark was treated as if it was the first match of the group rather than a play-off game to get to the World Cup.”
The Republic have failed to qualify for any tournaments since O’Neill’s departure and under current boss Stephen Kenny have struggled to make an impact on the international scene.
For the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign they have been drawn in the same group as France and the Netherlands.
Martin O’Neill: On Days Like These - My Life in Football is published by MacMillan