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Football: McIlroy: Success won't come right away for Martin.

NORTHERN Ireland manager Sammy McIlroy wished former international team-mate Martin O'Neill well in his new job but warned of the need for instant success at Parkhead.

O'Neill has accepted the challenge at Celtic but McIlroy insists he must show some tangible signs of catching Old Firm rivals Rangers.

"I wish Martin all the best in his new job. It is a great challenge for him and he has always been after a chance like this," said McIlroy.

"They have got to catch up with Rangers and that will be a big job for him.

"He is a very intelligent and articulate man so he knows what he is doing and what it is all about.

"But this is a very different challenge - beating Glasgow Rangers - and that is an enormous task.

"I'm sure he has all the capabilities and he will give the job all he has.

Every manager needs two or three years to turn things around but while Rangers have gone so well in recent years, Celtic will want success rather than later."

Former Celtic defender Paul Elliott insists O'Neill's Celtic background will enhance his popularity with the fans.

O'Neill was a Hoops fan himself as a youngster and Elliott believes that will endear him to the Parkhead crowd.

"I think he's the right man for the Celtic job because he's proven at Premiership level," said Elliott.

"He did very well with a mediocre team, even though he was working on a very limited budget and still managed to win a couple of trophies.

"He has great motivational power and is a very good manager, who has got a bit of a Celtic background.

"The most important thing is that Celtic are patient with him and if they do give him time, then I have no doubt that he is the man who can do the job for them."

"The Celtic supporters will love his passion and I think that's something that has been missing from some of those who have been playing in a green and white jersey.

"Martin is the type of man who will manage a club with the same enthusiasm that he had when he was a player."

Former Nottingham Forest manager Dave Mackay believes O'Neill was right to take his time in pledging his immediate future to Celtic.

Ex-Scotland international Mackay managed O'Neill during his formative playing years at the City Ground and insists his former protege needed to sort everything out in his mind.

"A lot of people down south don't realise how huge the job is. But, to me, Rangers and Celtic are almost as big as Manchester United," said Mackay.

"And if you are going to take that on, you must get everything right."

Meanwhile, former Celtic favourite Charlie Nicholas has urged the Parkhead board to give O'Neill time to return the club to its former glories and end Rangers' dominance of the game in Scotland.

Celtic are not noted for their patience with managers and head coach John Barnes paid the price this season for not living up to the high expectation of the supporters.

Nicholas said: "Celtic certainly needed a coach of significant quality and I think they are getting that - it will be certainly interesting to see him pick brains with Dick Advocaat next season.

"I think Martin can make good progress and I think that is what they were looking for last season and under John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish it didn't materialise.

"I think Celtic will make progress but I really believe Celtic need two seasons, maybe three seasons to really get their act together.

Nicholas told Sky Sports: "I'm delighted they finally got him. It took them long enough to get a new coach and it looked for a few days that Martin was going to change his mind.

"Half of Glasgow were desperate for someone to take charge so I think they can be relieved - and certainly Allan MacDonald can be relieved that Martin has finally arrived in Glasgow.

"It was a strange wait though but with Martin it has always been a long thing, he takes his time and thinks about it for a day or two.

"It looked as if he was on his way but suddenly there was another change of heart.

"If he did say the lure was that strong then I'm surprised it took him a couple of days."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Macdonald, Grant
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2000
Words:731
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