He is a top, top manager.
It's awful what Martin is going through in his personal life, and I just think he's a sad loss to the game full stop international football or not.
Martin's passion for his teams and players is unbelievable. Apparently he can't even bring himself to speak to his players after a game sometimes for two days if they've lost, because he's that angry. That's how much he cares and all the Ireland players would have benefited from such enthusiasm. He's a winner.
Martin has done it at every level. He started with nothing and had incredible success with Wycombe, Leicester and Celtic. He took his 3-5-2 system all the way through the leagues. God did he play it well. You can sit there picking your fantasy teams with your £50 million and it's the easiest job in the world, but Martin never had that. Success was never handed to him on a plate. The man's fantastic; absolutely brilliant; a real life miracle worker. Martin does things that make him look crazy, but he's just using every method he knows to get the best out his players. Every manager has his own way of dealing with things, and Martin's ways are different from others. He would have learnt a lot from Brian Clough when he played under the great man at Nottingham Forest. Cloughie was the most eccentric manager of the lot and you can see a lot of him in Martin. However, one of Martin's great strengths is that the players always know where they stand with him, and that was never the case with Cloughie.
Steve Hodge told me that you could never second-guess Clough. One minute he'd be talking about professionalism, the next he'd be putting a crate of beers on the coach the day before a crucial game. He kept the players on their toes and it worked.
You never knew what sort of mood Clough was going to be in or what he was going to do. And most of the time he had a squash racket in his hand and went off for a game. Ridiculous, but you can't argue with his record. He was one in a million.
Justin Fashanu only scored three goals in 32 games for Forest even though Clough spent £1m (€1.4 million) on him, but not for one minute did Clough think his judgement was wrong. He refused to take any of the blame. It was as if he was saying: "I'm so good that I know this bloke's rubbish, but it doesn't matter that I'm the one that's just paid so much money for him."
Talk about eccentric! It was an incredible show of self-belief from Clough. He believed in himself that much that he didn't think it was a problem that he'd blown a million quid. It wasn't a media stunt, that's just what he believed. And Martin O'Neill is the same. He believes in himself and he passes that on to his players.
Cloughie was always right. If he thought someone was out of order he'd just belt them. End of story. And the person who'd been walloped would apologise! He even hit his own fans and they came back grovelling to him.
Through all that madness he got people to believe in him, and that's what it's all about for a manager. Belief. I once took my lot into a pub pre-match when I was player-manager of Bristol Rovers. We'd got to Gillingham a bit early so we went out for a walk. I thought the atmosphere was tense so I dragged them into the pub.
"That's how much I believe in you," I was saying. "Let's have a relaxing drink together."
One or two of them had a beer and we won 3-0. Sometimes you can't get too serious. Other times you need to kick the players up the arse because they might be getting sloppy. It's all about showing the players that you have faith in them. Cloughie absolutely mastered it.
Martin's taken on that mantle.
I admire Cloughie's achievements, but I model myself on William Wallace. That will do for me Braveheart! I've been looking for relatives of his to sign for years. A weak man would cry out if he was getting hung drawn and quartered, but Wallace just shouted out: "Freedom." End of story. He believed totally in what he was doing.
It's all about conviction as a manager. You'll try anything to make your players better. I took my players ballet dancing once. They were in the van and I couldn't get them out. They were all singing: "We shall not be moved." But I got them out. They knew I meant it.
I believed it would help their leg strength and jumping ability. If you look at Riverdance, how fit have you got to be to do all that dancing? In the end they loved it and big Danny Shittu had one of the players sitting on his shoulders.
The most difficult challenge facing a manager is having to talk to and treat every player differently, while not showing any favouritism or double standards. That's what being a manager is about in a nutshell. You have to manage and coach every single player you've got.
That's what Cloughie mastered. That's why Martin will always be in demand.