Opinion: There’s No Comparison To Be Made Between Current Team & Martin O’Neill’s Team

As goalscoring records look within reach there has been a lot of debate around how this current Celtic team compares with the players Martin O’Neill had at his disposal. For me, this is daft talk. There is absolutely no comparison to be had, despite the fact I love both teams and managers. They’re two teams operating on different levels.

Chris Sutton won the English Premier League and was a Golden Boot winner down there. John Hartson played for Arsenal and scored in European finals for the Gunners. Henrik Larsson was one of the best strikers in the world, who went on to win the Champions League and English Premiership. Stiliyan Petrov went onto become a legend in the Premiership with Aston Villa. Alan Thompson turned down Man Utd before coming to us as he would have been a sub behind Ryan Giggs. Neil Lennon was playing for the team 3rd placed in the EPL. Paul Lambert had won the Champions League with Dortmund. Lubo Moravcik was one of the most skillful players we have had since Jimmy Johnstone.

We have nobody on that level today. We didn’t beat Shaktar or Leipzig, both of which O’Neills’ teams would have destroyed, at home at least.

There’s an argument for Callum McGregor, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Joe Hart making one of O’Neill’s teams but very few else could be considered. Even those who I didn’t list above were top class established internationals – such as Johan Mjallby and Joos Valgaeren.

Martin’s team was cheated out of a place in the Champions League last 16 through a dive in Turin. They reached the UEFA Cup Final. They beat Barcelona, Juventus, Lyon and Liverpool. And before we hear how football has improved, I would have to question whether European teams we have faced today really have line ups much stronger than those with names such as these among them:

Juventus (Celtic beat 4-3) – Carini, Iuliano, Ferrara, Zenoni, Paramatti, Birindelli, Nedved, Maresca, Davids, Del Piero, Amoruso. Subs: Buffon, Pessotto, Trezeguet (scored twice), Tacchinardi, Frara, Piccolo, Luca Rondinella.

Barcelona (Celtic beat 1-0) – Valdes, Reiziger (Gerard 64), Puyol, Oleguer, Gabri, Cocu, Xavi, Motta, Ronaldinho (Overmars 88), Luis Garcia (Quaresma 72), Saviola.

Lyon (Celtic beat 2-0) – Coupet, Deflandre, Edmilson, Muller, Reveillere, Govou (Malouda 79), Diarra, Dhorasoo (Luyindula 74), Juninho, Carriere (Essien 63), Elber.

Liverpool (Celtic beat 2-0) – Dudek, Carragher, Traore, Hyypia, Riise, Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard, Smicer (Baros 56), Heskey, Owen.

Bayern Munich (celebrated a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park) – Kahn, Sagnol, Kuffour, Kovac, Lizarazu, Salihamidzic, Jeremies, Ballack, Hargreaves, Makaay, Santa Cruz (Pizarro 73).

I love this current team and Ange Postecoglou. They play more attractive, exciting football than any other Celtic team in my lifetime. But the financial landscape has changed. We no longer have top class players, who consistently get the better of top European outfits and who have already made huge marks at the upper end of the English Premier League.

We should enjoy what we have and hope to improve in Europe. Who knows a run in the Europa could happen? But the comparisons to O’Neill’s team seem a huge stretch considering the clear gap in talent, the disparity in European results and the difference in the level of domestic opposition we are now up against.

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up on the English south coast with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic during the Martin O'Neill era. I have written four Celtic books since the age of 19: Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support, Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events, Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys: Celtic's Founding Fathers, First Season & Early Stars, and The Holy Grounds of Glasgow Celtic: A Guide To Celtic Landmarks & Sites Of Interest. These were previously sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores, and are now available on Amazon.


  1. David Potter on

    Both good teams, I am looking forward to seeing a good performance from Ange’s team in Europe next year. 2003 was a great year – but we ended up with nothing. We over stretched ourselves but we also had some really hard luck. But I sometimes get a little fed up with the defeatists who say we are beat in Europe before we start because of lack of quality players. It is how we play on the night that matters, and we must expect nothing other than the best.
    Incidentally, circumstances have compelled me to watch a lot more football, particularly English football on TV than I normally do. Take it from me there is a real lot of crap down there as well, and it is paid, presumably, more then Celtic players are. I am thinking of Tottenham Hotspur in particular, but there are others who simply do not have the right attitude or the right players. We are better placed in both respects, I think.

  2. Liam you are correct as is N L.
    Present squad enjoyable to watch but are far from the finished article.
    Hail Hail.

  3. If this was Martin O’NEIL team there wold be no if and buts the would win easy now angi postecoglou is going to hit the heights of Martin O’neil team they have to win and win with authority by 3 or 4 we have not hit the stander in the last six games through chopping and changing through injuries mooyes looked in need of games when he came back O’Riley is beginning to come back to form it happens with young players it will b close between who he picks hatate if fit will play there’s no need to protect him if not awata will come in if so will he risk mcgregor forward awata as sitting midfielder big call but might be what the team needs celtic will be disappointed if they lose cause they should be a far better team

  4. Celtic have to keep 11 men on the park don’t give the ref a chance to red card starfelthasto watch morelos will go down and roll and scream and the usual players will pressure ref to book or worse no they know there only chance is to turn it into a diving competition with rolls and flips thrown in 11 men against 11 they no they won’t compete with celtic ref has to be strong