Play-off veteran Gary O’Neil was happy to pass on insight to help Norwich City win promotion to Premier League
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Gary O'Neil admits he did his utmost to secure a third personal Championship play-off final success – long before he had even set foot back on the hallowed Wembley turf.
The experienced midfielder was forced to make do with a watching brief for almost all of Norwich City's 2-0 win over Middlesbrough on Monday. But that did not stop him from trying to affect proceedings by passing on the insight he gained from successful appearances on the same stage with West Ham and QPR.
O'Neil, a late second-half substitute, said: 'I've started the last two so I needed to be a little bit patient this time and try and influence the lads in the dressing room, with a bit of experience, and influence the game in a different way from the outside.
'The tactics that the gaffer set up were absolutely spot on, they worked a treat, and the boys carried it out perfectly. It was nice and it felt comfortable. The last two were stressful last-minute winners. I just (always) try and pass on experiences I've had quietly in little individual situations.
'That's what I tried to do on Monday because I felt I definitely played better in my second play-off final than my first one. I was probably a little bit too intense the first time and the occasion sort of got to me. That helped me when I came back with QPR, I definitely played better, so I tried to pass things like that on.
'It was a lot of the boys' first time here – although you'd have never know it as they were brilliant – so I'm absolutely delighted just to be part of another fantastic squad.'
The 32-year-old was sent on with a clear message to shore things up and make sure the Canaries did not ruin what had been, up until that point, a near faultless display.
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The man he replaced in the 87th minute, Nathan Redmond, was just one of O'Neil's team-mates who excelled during a polished performance. Plenty of plaudits deservedly came the winger's way following his classy offering – some long before the final whistle.
'I am doing my coaching badges. It's something I want to go into after (I retire),' added the player who was quick to indicate retirement was far from his immediate thoughts.
'It is difficult because you don't want to sound condescending or like you're talking down to the lads. The lads are well driven. They don't need too much from people like me.
'I had a quick chat with Nathan (Redmond) at half-time just to tell him how well he was doing, especially defensively against (George) Friend as well.
'I wanted to let him know I thought he was doing the right things. Nathan's played something like 150 games already though so he knows what he's doing.
'The day worked out exactly as we wanted it to. We got the early goal and followed it up with another one. And the gaffer managed to get me on so it was nice to play in another final.'