MARTIN O’Neill is keeping his man-management philosophy as simple as possible as he continues with his task of turning the Wearsiders’ fortunes around.
Given the upbeat reaction to the Ulsterman’s appointment, it would be fair to say O’Neill knows a thing or two about this management lark.
Success at Leicester and Celtic – which in the latter case included a Uefa Cup final appearance – as well as getting Aston Villa to again punch above their weight, ensured he was usually top of everyone’s hot-list when a managerial vacancy at the top level cropped up.
O’Neill, of course, had an excellent teacher in the school of management in Brian Clough who had the young midfielder O’Neill within his ranks at Nottingham Forest.
Other prominent tutors have figured in O’Neill’s footballing education, such as Jimmy McAlinden who discovered him at Distillery, and one of his bosses when playing for Northern Ireland, Billy Bingham, who guided the Ulstermen with O’Neill as his captain to the quarter-final group stages of the 1982 World Cup.
O’Neill has no doubt picked up plenty from them but he has also worked under a host of other managers with variable results.
While the good points have been digested, the bad ones have also been taken on board.
Simplicity when communicating to your players is for O’Neill a key component of management, as he knows full well from personal experience.
He said: “I have had managers who have had elongated training sessions and you think to yourself, ‘this is never going to end’. It is so long it is Easter now.
“Other managers have kept it short and sharp and kept concentration.
“My concentration span as a player was about four seconds. I like it short and if you are doing decent work in that time, it is fine.
“It is different in pre-season when you have to put serious work in.
“It is hard to gauge the fitness of a team, especially when you have just arrived and others have left.
“I don’t like it when you hear players saying we did not do enough fitness work – they are usually the laziest ones.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s fixture at Tottenham Hotspur, O’Neill believes midfielder Lee Cattermole still has a role to play at the club – even in his current position as team captain.
Although he was speaking prior to the news of Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner’s arrest on suspicion of causing criminal damage, O’Neill spoke about the Cattermole he has got to know since taking charge.
He added: “At this minute, I do not see any reason to change that. The team played well in the game (against Blackburn), but we might change things round. If someone gets left out of the team, especially after Sunday, they would consider themselves unfortunate, but don’t see any reason as we speak to change it.
“If Lee plays in the team, he will be captain.
“I stress, at this minute, I don’t see any reason to change it.
“Lee is as wholehearted as they come. Even in the little training sessions we have had, he is vociferous.
“We might have, generally, a quiet team, but that is not unusual any more.
“We might have a quiet team, although in five or six weeks time I might think we are the most vociferous going.
“I just want points on the board and if we get them by being like a library in the dressing-room, I would be happy.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill had positive news on the respective rehabilitation of injured duo Craig Gordon and Fraizer Campbell, the former playing in a reserves game earlier this week and the latter finally allowed to train again after respective knee injuries.
O’Neill added: “Craig played the game and did not have any reaction and with Fraizer it is encouraging he is playing some part. It is good to have another striker nearly back.
“Fraizer is so bubbly. Nothing fazes him in turns of being down or fighting back from the same injury.
“That would have knocked other people.
“From that point of view alone, it will be great to see him back.
“He has just had that little game so we are hoping next week’s reserve game will not be called off. That will be his first. He can start in that game.
“Craig could start too. He was not over-exerted in that game.
“Fraizer has had rehabilitation for some time and you hope his natural fitness will carry him through quickly.”