Martin O’Neill would make a fantastic poker player.

A calm demeanour that is rarely ruffled, there are few chinks in the Northern Irishman’s armour.

He has no tells, no way of knowing what he is thinking or planning.

Straight-talking, yes, but a man who gives much away? Definitely not.

The cards of the Nottingham Forest boss are played as close to his chest as possible.

And he is not about to change his ways any time soon.

Why should he.

A two-time European Cup winner with more than 30 years of coaching experience under his belt – his methods have served him just fine.


(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Those at the City Ground are hoping that they will serve the collective good just as well.

The Reds need the man at the helm to be going all in with the strongest of hands.

Few will be able to predict what he is holding onto along the way, but that is all part of the fun.

More cryptic words have fallen from O’Neill’s lips heading towards a trip to Preston on Saturday.

In the wake of an impressive if ultimately frustrating 2-2 draw at West Brom, the Forest manager said in the Nottingham Post of his plans: “The team put a big effort in there and they put in a big effort last Saturday.

“We might change things around again at Preston, because we might need to freshen things up and there are boys dying to play at the minute.

“But those are famous last words… perhaps we will go with the same team again.”

Keep everyone guessing, always the best approach.

Given that O’Neill is yet to name the same starting XI in successive fixtures – with his hand often being forced – it is safe to assume that changes will be made.


What tweaks, though, is an entirely different matter.

A few of the walking wounded may be back in contention, with the likes of Matty Cash hoping to be involved.

There are also serious claims from Claudio Yacob, Tendayi Darikwa and Leo Bonatini to staring berths.

And that is before the endless debate surrounding Joao Carvalho is reopened.

Whoever O’Neill selects, he could do with them delivering what no Forest side has since November 24 – an away win.

The Reds came agonisingly close to getting over the line at The Hawthorns before being cheated out of two points.

Deepdale is the next port of call and hopefully better luck will be enjoyed in Lancashire.

O’Neill has the cards in his hand; let’s see if his poker face holds.

Related Topics