O'Neill admits 'addiction' to stress of job

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The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill returned to football knowing the pressure is mounting on managers all the time.

The 59-year-old took charge at Sunderland earlier this month after 16 months out of the game and needed no reminder of the stressful working conditions into which he was pitching himself.

In an interview conducted shortly before he accepted the post on Wearside, O'Neill told the latest edition of the League Managers' Association online magazine The Manager: "It goes with the territory, and you know the minute that you take on the job that it will be stress-related and full of tension.

"This is what every manager will say draws you to the profession. It is an addiction and you do want to take on the challenge time and time again.

"If you start thinking about stress from the minute you step into the job, you'll never be able to get up and function effectively as a manager, so you go along with the environment, you try to win football matches because stress is alleviated by winning games and you know that if you don't win the games, you will find yourself in a bit of bother.

"It certainly seemed in the times of Shankly, Clough and Bill Nicholson that managers only got sacked as the very last straw if results had been going so badly for a fairly lengthy period of time.

"Nowadays, somebody is waiting to take your job if you don't get aresult in two games."

O'Neill, of course, played with distinction under Clough duringNottingham Forest's rise to the pinnacle of European football.

He freely admits not always seeing eye to eye with the former Sunderland striker, but has no doubt about Clough's influence on that Forest side. The former Aston Villa manager added: "The biggest compliment I think I can pay him is he and Peter Taylor took a team from the Second Division to win the League Championship, a couple of European Cups and a couple of League Cups to give us an extraordinary time of our lives for three or four years.

"We had great players that would have graced a lot of teams, but without Brian Clough we wouldn't have won the Championship, two European Cups and two League Cups."

Meanwhile, Villa midfielder Barry Bannan feared he could spend Christmas in prison or be sacked by the club after admitting four motoring offences, including drink-driving.

Bannan is supporting West Midlands Police's Christmas campaign against drink-driving after escaping a custodial sentence last month.

The Scottish international admits that being behind bars over the festive season crossed his mind before he was banned from driving for 18 months and fined £4,500.

Bannan, 21, said: "Loads of things go through your head at the time, and up until I got out of the court case I was thinking the worst. I was thinking I could be in jail. It was down to the judge, so there was a strong possibility that I could have gone to jail."

Asked whether he feared for his Villa future, Bannan said: "Yes, I'm lucky to be here. Obviously, if I had gone to jail, who knows what the club would do? They could easily have sacked me."

He added: "You wake up the next day and you are thinking of loads of other things, but you feel lucky as well because I might not have been here or could have taken someone else's life, so I'm very lucky in a way.

"It was a terrifying experience and it still goes through my head now. It's hard to explain what I was going through and what happened."