O’Neill enjoying assistant role too much to make the step up

A messy end to his first managerial role at Bedworth left a bitter taste, but Brakes assistant boss Liam O’Neill still harbours ambitions of stepping back into a number one role.

Liam O'Neill
Liam O'Neill
Liam O'Neill

O’Neill was sacked after two-and-a-half years at The Oval Ground during which time he guided The Greenbacks to the first round of the FA Cup and admitted at the time the dismissal left him “seething and upset”.

After a season coaching at Redditch, the former Banbury midfielder joined Brakes as first-team coach in June 2011, moving up to assistant manager following the departure of Lee Williams.

His rehabilitation was complete when he led Leamington in the absence of Paul Holleran - away on holiday in Ireland - for friendlies against Nuneaton and Birmingham City.

However, despite the two-game spell whetting his appetite, O’Neill says he is enjoying his time too much at Leamington to go chasing a managerial role elsewhere.

“It was a reminder to when I was at Bedworth,” said O’Neill.

“It was nice to dip my toe back in, but I don’t miss everything else that goes with the job, I’ll leave that to Paul.

“It’s given me the taste, but I’m only 39, I’ve got another 30 years left yet.

“And why would I want to leave Leamington? I’ve got carte blanche in training, but if Paul sees something that needs tweaking he’ll tell me.

“It’s the same in a game and if I see something that needs changing, Paul is all ears. He’s open to opinions and we work well together.”

That partnership will face its sternest test this season as Brakes make the step up to Conference football and O’Neill is under no illusion as to the challenge facing Brakes.

But having secured all their major transfer targets in the summer, he believes they are well equipped to cope.

“We can’t go into games and say we’re playing 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-5-1, we’ve got to be more reactive. In the modern game you can’t have a rigid set-up.

“We’ve now got a good balance and can go with four or five different systems, we’re a lot more versatile.

“Jamie Towers, for instance, can play wide right, wing-back or off the forward and Paul McCone is equally versatile - our armoury is far better this season.

Despite their shrewd additions, O’Neill recognises it is their home form which will ultimately decide Brakes’ fate and says it is vital they make the New Windmill a hostile place to visit.

“Last year you could look and see where 25 wins would come from. This year, you think Christ, there’s less than half that.

“A lot of clubs were full-time not long ago. Your Bostons, Telfords and Barrows are not going to give us any respect - we’re nothing compared to them.

“As nice as the ground has become, they’ll come here and it will be a culture shock.

“We’ve got to make that count.”