Martin O'Neill reveals Sir Alex Ferguson role in Celtic appointment

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Martin O'Neill and Sir Alex Ferguson
Martin O'Neill and Sir Alex Ferguson faced each other in a 2004 friendly match

Martin O'Neill has revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson was instrumental in him taking over as Celtic manager in 2000.

O'Neill, now Republic of Ireland boss, told BBC Scotland Ferguson recommended him as successor to Kenny Dalglish.

Celtic under O'Neill won seven trophies and reached the 2003 Uefa Cup final.

"I got a call, initially from Alex Ferguson, saying would I have an interest - that essentially the owner Dermot Desmond would like to speak to me," O'Neill said.

"I consequently found out - Dermot knew Sir Alex very well at that time but didn't know me at all - and really Sir Alex was the one that actually recommended me for the job.

O'Neill on Sir Alex role in Celtic move

"I went to see Dermot and the board members in London and for once in my life I must have done alright at the interview."

Ferguson was in the middle of his highly successful and lengthy spell in charge of Manchester United at the beginning of the millennium.

O'Neill had been at Leicester City for five years and says he was not looking to leave, having just guided the club to European qualification by winning the League Cup for the second time in four seasons.

But he did have a clause in his contract allowing him to speak to other clubs and the lure of Celtic proved too great to resist.

"Definitely sad to leave Leicester," he added. "I had a few moments of anxiety about it, but it was Celtic I was going to.

"Childhood days, naturally from where I was you were either Celtic or Rangers, brought up in Northern Ireland, and of course I was heavily into Celtic.

Chris Sutton and Henrik Larsson
Having won three trophies in the 1990s, under O'Neill Celtic won seven from 2000 to 2005

"So this opportunity to go and manage the club was something I didn't feel I could possibly turn down. Plus the fact they were in a bit of difficulty - I think Rangers had won the league by about 20 points and were really dominating Scotland.

"So here was this opportunity - a fantastic club, playing second fiddle to Rangers for some time and an opportunity to turn the tables."

O'Neill's family also encouraged him to make the move, while a poignant memory also played a role.

"I remember the words of my father who did say 'if you ever get the opportunity to play for Celtic, then go and take it'," added O'Neill, who left Celtic in 2005.

"Unfortunately he wasn't around the time I was going to go and manage them.

"I think there's always a wee bit too much made of making people proud but I think if my father had been around, I think he would have been, he would have been absolutely delighted."

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