Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer


Gary O’Neil: Wolves’ Meticulous Manager Opens Up About FEAR OF FAILURE and Ambitions in an interview with The Daily Mail.

It’s interesting that Oliver Holt notes Gary O’Neil doesn’t just walk into a room, he knocks before entering the meeting room at the Wolverhampton Wanderers training ground. It might seem like a small gesture, but it speaks volumes about his attention to detail. Most Premier League managers wouldn’t bother knocking; they would have someone open the door for them. O’Neil, however, believes in the little things that matter.

Here are the key takeaways from his interview.

Dressed in what appears to be a black top, O’Neil corrects the photographer saying it’s actually dark navy. This attention to detail is what defines him as he navigates his debut season as a Premier League manager. O’Neil prides himself on his meticulous preparation and ensuring his players are ready for any challenge they may face.

Reflecting on his time at Bournemouth, O’Neil admits to possibly taking his attention to detail too far. He acknowledges the surprise his meticulous nature may have caused among the Wolves players, but he knows it’s a key part of his coaching style. Described as smart, driven, and ambitious, ‘meticulous’ encapsulates his approach to the game.

O’Neil is uncomfortable with early praise in his managerial career, choosing instead to focus on the fear of failure that continually drives his attention to detail. Despite the positive start at Wolves, he remains wary of complacency and constantly strives to reach the highest levels of success.

Wolves fans have embraced O’Neil’s methods, with a thread on a fan forum titled ‘The Gary O’Neil Humble Pie Safe Space’ symbolising the shift in perception since his appointment. Initially doubted due to the club’s circumstances, O’Neil has proven his worth through impressive results on the pitch and his astute analysis showcased during media appearances.

O’Neil’s coaching philosophy revolves around versatility and adaptability. Refusing to limit his team to a single style, he aims for them to excel in every aspect of the game. He draws inspiration from various managers but ultimately believes in being prepared for any challenge that comes their way.

Detail is paramount to O’Neil, who believes that controlling every aspect of the game is essential in modern football. He emphasises the impact of strategic movements and the need for players to understand their roles thoroughly. While striving for perfection, O’Neil acknowledges the importance of balance and freedom for players to express themselves on the field.

As he matures as a manager, O’Neil is learning to delegate and find moments of relaxation amidst the constant pressures of the job. Understanding the value of switching off to rejuvenate his mind, he aims to strike a balance between dedication and self-care in his coaching approach.

In conclusion, Gary O’Neil’s journey as Wolves’ meticulous manager highlights the importance of attention to detail, adaptability, and continuous self-improvement in the competitive world of football management.



‘I think I have made a solid start here,’ he says of six months at Wolves that have breathed new optimism into the club after the fraught departure of Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the season. ‘But if I go back to my playing career, I was always really worried about failing. It really drove me on.

‘I got to 23 or even 24 and I was still thinking “what if I don’t make it as a footballer?” And people said to me: “What do you mean? You have already made it as a footballer.” Yeah, but I knew it could definitely end quickly.

‘I was playing in the Premier League but I always had that feeling of “yeah, but what if, what if”. That always kept me alert. Maybe it held me back at times. Maybe it said something about a lack of maturity mentally.

‘That’s the way I am. It makes me feel uncomfortable when people tell me I’m established and tell me what I’ve achieved in management, because I know how quickly it can change. I know how easily I can get things wrong on a Saturday or through the week.

‘I know how hard you have to keep working to stay at the incredibly high level the Premier League demands of you. I have only been a head coach for 12 or 14 months and every weekend, you get tested by top level coaches and I am always conscious of that.

‘I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable with where I have reached. I think I will always be worried about dropping and falling down from the level I’m at. I think I’ll always constantly be striving to get to the top.

‘I appreciate the fact that people are recognising what we are doing at Wolves but inside me, there’s the knowledge that we’re playing Sheffield United on Sunday and there’s a big opportunity for me to mess that up. Let’s make sure I don’t.’




‘When people at a club ask me “what are we going to be”,’ O’Neil says, ‘my answer is always ‘everything’. I want us to be everything. When we played Brentford at home recently compared to when we played Spurs away a week later, the difference in what you need in those games to be successful is so far apart.

‘The two games are completely different. Brentford give you 72% of the ball and try and score a goal from a set play and then force you to find ways to break them down. Tottenham come flying out at you and are extremely aggressive and leave bigger spaces but ask you completely different questions defensively.

‘The game of football asks you so many different questions all the time. I want to get the lads to a place where they can do all of it. If we need to be a low block – Brentford are fantastic at that – we have to be able to do that and then when a team comes to us and we are going to have loads of the ball, we need to be able to handle that as well.

‘I watch a lot of teams and coaches who have one clear way and they are unbelievably good at it, whether they be counter-attacking or another style. Nottingham Forest were fantastic under Steve Cooper as a counter-attacking team. I respect people wanting to be really good at one thing. I just never saw one way for my team.

‘There was some criticism at Bournemouth last year around not knowing what we were and, yes, it is an obvious thing to level at us. Some people would say that was reactive, as opposed to imposing your style on other teams.

‘Yeah, but we impose the style we have chosen that day on the other team. We always use the same structure with the ball generally. We always try and find our own solutions with the ball.

‘Without the ball, it is important to be flexible in this day and age because of the level of coaching and the quality of movements the team use in possession. To say we are 4-4-2 without the ball, I would enjoy playing against that as a coach.

‘If I knew a team was coming to me with only one way of setting up against us without the ball, I would find that fairly easy to prepare for. It can be seen as reactive. People say you always react to the opposition. Well, no, I want my players to be able to do all of it.

‘Whatever the game needs at any moment, I think our lads should be able to handle it. We are obviously better at some aspects than others at the moment. We have a fantastic counter attacking threat with what we have available to us in Pedro Neto and Matheus Cunha.

‘We have defenders that are good at defending our box as well in Craig Dawson and Max Kilman. When we need to be down around our goal and defend and break into big spaces, it does suit us very well.

‘But to just be that and work on that constantly would mean that we found other parts of the game too difficult. Sheffield United are going to come this weekend and I would guess we are going to have a fair amount of the ball. If we were just a low block counter attacking team, that would be really difficult because we couldn’t do that in that game. We have to be able to be all of it.

‘When I set out as a player, I wanted to be the best player in the world and I fell a long way short. It’s still the same. As a manager, I want to push myself. My aim, which I expect to fall short of, is to be the best manager in the world and I think I need to be able to coach my players to do everything if I want to be that.

‘I watch Manchester City and obviously they don’t have to revert to this very often but they have arguably the best manager ever and they have one way because they have the best players and they are fantastic at it but if you see them having to see a game out, they are unbelievably good at that as well. That is always my vision for the team: to get them to be able to do everything.’




‘I have reached an understanding that switching off actually helps me,’ O’Neil says. ‘Before, I felt that if I switched off for a bit, I was cheating. Why are you not thinking about the game? I felt guilty that we had a big game on Saturday and it was Tuesday afternoon and I was sitting having a cup of tea, just giving myself half an hour.

‘I’d think “I could be using this half an hour to get ready for Saturday”. But now I understand that half an hour makes me better afterwards. I understand that taking a day with the family to refresh my brain helps me get ready to come back and go again. I have got better about that.

‘I still have that guilty feeling sometimes when I am walking round the shopping centre with my wife and kids and it is Sunday afternoon and I do probably deserve a day off but there is still a lot to do. I am always feeling that guilt about not working to prepare for the next game.

‘I’ve had lots of good advice from other people in football I admire like Michael Edwards, and Alex Inglethorpe, the Academy Director at Liverpool. Alex said a successful coach used to say to him: “I got too tired to be smart.” I know that’s what I need to avoid.’

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment


  • youtube
  • facebook
  • instagram
  • twitter
  • tiktok