Managing Celtic? Leicester City’s success? International management with the Republic of Ireland? It’s difficult to pinpoint the highlight of Martin O’Neill’s career – one which is brimming with success.

Yet it was his triumphs as a player that the Northern Irish star singled out in an exclusive interview with UCFB. As part of a hugely successful Nottingham Forest team 40 years ago, O’Neill accomplished every footballer’s dream and aspiration of winning the European Cup.

He told UCFB: “I think that day of winning (the European Cup) in 1980 and holding onto the medal is a really unforgettable moment”.

Following the heartbreak of having to pull out of the same final in 1979 due to injury, O’Neill secured his place in Forest history the following year by helping the team on their way to a historic victory. This famously made Forest the only team ever to have won the prestigious competition more times than they’ve won their domestic league – a record which still stands today.

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Reflecting on Forest’s golden era, O’Neill said: “We took off, we absolutely took off. We got promotion [from the Second Division], we won the League, we won two European Cups and we won two League Cups all within a period of about three and a half years, it was absolutely extraordinary.”

Frequently described as the greatest achievement in English football history, it is Brian Clough’s legendary management that Forest’s glory years are so strongly associated with and remembered for. The brilliantly charismatic and wildly unpredictable manager transformed the team, who were 13th in the Second Division when he arrived at the club, leading them to unprecedented success and famously winning the First Division the season after they were promoted to it.


O’Neill, who worked closely with the manager for six years, said: “It was an experience every single day, and I genuinely mean that. If this is going out to people who do not know Brian Clough, they should go and Google him and find out what a character he was.”

It is widely regarded that he revolutionised the club, turning the unthinkable into a possibility and then a reality for Forest fans. O’Neill added: “It wasn’t always great but it was interesting, because he could say something to you on a Monday, totally contradict himself on a Friday and you’d believe both of them. That’s the type of character he was, but he was a wonderful football manager and in footballing terms an absolute genius.”