LEAVING Norwich City a third time is one of the big regrets of Martin O’Neill’s career, but he is full of admiration for the latest occupant of the Carrow Road manager’s office.
The Northern Ireland midfielder made 66 appearances in two spells with the Canaries either side of a stint at Manchester City.
O’Neill made his name as a manager by guiding Wycombe Wanderers into the Football League.
Despite numerous offers, he was careful before cutting his ties with the Chairboys.
Nevertheless, he admits when he did leave to go back to Norwich, it was the wrong move.
O’Neill recalled: “My dear old friend Mel Machin was a coach at Norwich and he told me, ‘don’t go, because you won’t get on with Mr (Robert) Chase (Norwich’s then-chairman) and of course I did not take his advice,” O’Neill recalls. “He was right.
“We did not see eye to eye which was unfortunate because if I had stayed we would have gone up but instead I went to Leicester.
“My annoyance is I left the club and broke a contract, the only one I have ever broken.”
The details of O’Neill’s departure from Aston Villa, which was eventually resolved by arbitration, have never been resolved, though he disputes the perceived wisdom he walked out.
After a slow start to life back in the Premier League, Norwich have grown in stature under the astute leadership of former Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton.
O’Neill added: “He’s doing very well indeed. He was unlucky at Newcastle. He did very well and got them promotion.
“I thought they would maybe be set back a bit by the loss of Paul Lambert, who did exceptionally well for them in the last two years.
“Chris in recent times has shown at Newcastle and Birmingham he’s a fine young manager.
“They’re in a good run, seven undefeated.
“I watched them on Wednesday evening against Southampton and they’re very strong, durable and will cause problems but it’s up to us to counter-act that and try and win.
“They have won big games at Carrow Road where they’re particularly strong.
“They’ll be ready for the game and it’s up to us to be ready for them.”