Why Martin O’Neill is no genius

The ex-Aston Villa boss should have done better.

Martin O'Neill's record as a football manager looks admirable, and neither of the two clubs he managed immediately before he took over Aston Villa -- Leicester City and Glasgow's Celtic -- prospered after his departure. But is O'Neill, who has walked out of Villa because the owner wouldn't let him spend more on players, as good as he's cracked up to be?

He lifted Villa from mid-table mediocrity to sixth in the Premiership in each of the past three seasons. Which sounds good, except that Villa's wage bill has also risen -- to the Premiership's sixth-highest.

If a manager is a genius, shouldn't he be doing better than his inputs would predict? That is how head teachers are judged. If the success of clubs and managers was rated on that basis, football might be solvent.

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.