City boss Paul Lambert has admitted that the departures of both Steve Coppell and Martin O’Neill in the last week came as a surprise.
Lambert does, of course, know O’Neill well and still refers to him as ‘The Gaffer’ after his time spent under the former Canary chief at Celtic. The Scot never hides his admiration for O’Neill and the pair are thought to be in regular contact.
But O’Neill resignation at Aston Villa came as somewhat of a shock to the football world, even if there had been murmurings of a breakdown in communication between the Northern Irishman and the club’s owner, Randy Lerner.
The nearly completed sale of James Milner to mega-rich Man City obviously didn’t help matters…
“It was a surprise in a way but not a surprise in another because I know what he [O’Neill] is like,” said the Norwich boss, speaking to reporters at Colney last Friday.
“But I think some of the stuff I’ve heard coming out of some people’s mouths is terrible – they don’t know the ins and outs of it.
“It is all very well saying he is walking out at the wrong time but if you are selling the best players, that is tough. He is a unique manager that’s for sure.
“I am quite sure he’ll be back. I knew him for five years and I know he will come back hungry that’s for sure. I have nothing but the highest praise and respect for him.”
In a week of managerial upheavals, Bristol City boss Coppell went one further and announced his retirement altogether. And in what was a bizarre turn of events, the former Palace legend revealed that he didn’t have the desire for the challenge anymore.
But Lambert offered some words of support for Coppell, and hinted that the football world should just respect his decision.
“That was a shock, I must admit. He has been terrific in his career as a manager and again, you just never know the ins and outs.
“This job is as hard as hell and when you’re standing on the touchline, everyone thinks they can do it and it is not an easy job to do. What he has done in his career is unbelievable and he knows what he wants.
“I think you have always got to have the hunger and desire for it. Everybody gets that in different ways. Some people keep that inside others keep it on the outside.
“But it is a shame, that is for sure.”