John Hartson fears Martin O’Neill could wreck Wales’ World Cup dreams. And few would know better what heights the Derryman is capable of inspiring his players to reach.
Hartson lifted six trophies in his five seasons under O’Neill at Celtic — the only silverware of his playing career. The former Arsenal and West Ham hitman also bagged a remarkable 109 goals in 201 appearances for the Hoops, and he’s revealed just how the sharp-tongued Irishman got the best out of him.
“He’s a genius. The result against Germany, the result against Italy, your win against Bosnia — only Martin produces these types of things,” Harton said at the launch of eir Sport’s European Football coverage. “He really is...I think he’s a genius. I’m not doing it to appease my ex-boss. I have that opinion of the man. I think he’s incredible — what he demands, what he gets out of every player. There’s that fear of letting him down, that fear of being the one that doesn’t quite achieve. He just makes it simple. Martin used to say to me, ‘John, today son, when the ball comes into you, I want you to do two things’...this is how he talked to all the players.
“He says ‘Put your foot on the ball for me - that would be very nice of you’, he said, ‘Stick that big arse of yours - because it’s getting f***ing bigger by the way — into the defender... if you could possibly, please, just for me today, give it to a green and white shirt, please, and get yourself in the box — that’s all you’ve got to do.
“Don’t have 10 million things in your mind when the ball is coming into you — ‘Am I going to flick it? Am I going to play it first time?’
“Put your f***ing foot on that ball, allow us as a team to come up the pitch, hold a few off like you do — that’s why I f***ing paid six million pounds for you, son — this is what you do’. This is Martin talking to me in front of the whole dressing room. ‘And if you could just give it to a Celtic shirt’. And I said ‘Is that all I’ve got to do? Really?’
“It was very Clough, very Clough.”
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