Repeat: OTB Breakfast

12:00 AM-02:00 AM

Repeat: OTB Breakfast

Martin O'Neill vs Nigel Reo-Coker | "It was hilarious, we still talk about it"

A memorable bust-up between manager and player on the training ground, former Aston Villa midfiel...

Martin O'Neill vs Nigel Reo-Co...

Martin O'Neill vs Nigel Reo-Coker | "It was hilarious, we still talk about it"

A memorable bust-up between manager and player on the training ground, former Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov recalled with OTB what happened when Martin O'Neill and Nigel Reo-Coker squared up against one another over a decade ago. 

As the 2009-10 Premier League season got underway, Aston Villa had ensconced themselves among England's elite clubs. Some way shy of Manchester United or Chelsea, perhaps, Martin O'Neill had nevertheless guided Villa to successive 6th place finishes in the league.

Few would have expected him then to depart the club in the summer of 2010. After achieving another top-six finish, O'Neill ultimately felt that he wasn't been given the necessary funds to take the club on to the next level.

They have only finished within the Premier League's top-10 (9th, 2010-11) once in the years since his departure.

In a squad boasting the likes of future Premier League winners in James Milner, Ashley Young and Gareth Barry, Stiliyan Petrov, a central figure in O'Neill's great Celtic team of the early 2000s, followed the boss south of the border to take on a fresh challenge.

As he recalled these years at Villa during OTB Sport's UEFA Champions League Final preview night in association with Pepsi Max and Doritos, one incident particularly stuck out: Martin O'Neill's training ground bust-up with Nigel Reo-Coker.

Martin O'Neill Nigel Reo-Coker, Aston Villa

Although most footballers attest to the great frequency with which such training-ground fights occur, it is not all that often that we, the general public, hear about them in much detail.

When O'Neill and the former English U21s midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker clashed in September 2009, however, it did not remain hidden for very long. Banished from the club in the immediate aftermath, Reo-Coker had had a face-to-face row with O'Neill.

"It was hilarious," recalls Petrov over a decade on. "I think Martin beat him up. We still talk about it to this day.

"It was really funny the two of them putting their fists up and fighting. This was part of a winning mentality and winning team though."

According to reports in the Guardian at the time of the event, O'Neill had been unhappy with how Reo-Coker had criticised a teammate during training. Insisting that no punches were thrown, O'Neill described it as "more of a verbal" confrontation.

"It was two guys with very strong opinions that had a disagreement," suggests Petrov who had watched the fight escalate first-hand.

"They squared up to one another and I think the gaffer slapped him. Nigel kind of went for him as well. The funny thing is though, Martin is a very honest man and he expected an apology.

"He didn't get an apology so he left Nigel out of the team for a while. But he fought his way back in."

Indeed, Reo-Coker would go on to feature sporadically during O'Neill's final season in charge. After the Northern Irishman left, however, the English midfielder would play most of the following season for Villa before moving on.

"We've seen a lot of players who aren't happy with O'Neill and how he manages," admits Petrov, "but he is that kind of man.

"He is all about Saturday, about winning and achieving. Some players cannot deal with that. It isn't a big issue. Some players just cannot deal with the pressure.

"Nigel was a very good player but he was challenged all the time and he had serious competition at Villa. Sometimes, you just have to be up to the task. Sometimes, he just wasn't."

Check out OTB Sports UEFA Champions League Final preview across our social channels all weekend, in association with Pepsi Max and Doritos. It’s Back, Get Ready #UCLisBack

Download the brand new OffTheBall App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

Subscribe to OffTheBall's YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.

Read more about

Aston Villa Martin O'Neill Nigel Reo-Coker Premier League Stiliyan Petrov