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Facts On Figures: Using Martin O'Neill's Transfer History To Predict The Future

O'Neill ponders some transfers, and in the mean time we try to get inside that brain of his.
O'Neill ponders some transfers, and in the mean time we try to get inside that brain of his.

While we've been delighted with some of the outgoings this summer, it's been a bit of a quiet one with regards to transfers coming in to Sunderland.

Some folk are getting a bit itchy about things, even forming theories that there's no money to spend and Ellis Short's pulling the plug and so forth. Personally, I don't believe that for one second, but I wouldn't mind seeing some new faces come into the club some time soon, and I think O'Neill will do that. The reported bid for Steven Fletcher should confirm this,

But all we can do is wait, so in the mean time we've decided to look at O'Neill's transfer history, or to the best we can anyway, and see if we can identify any trends in who he'll sign, where they'll come from and how much they're going to cost us. Here it goes...

So to start off we'll get the disclaimer out of the way; looking through every Martin O'Neill transfer from his days as Wycombe Wanderers through to this summer with Sunderland was some task, and after spending hours on the Transfermarkt website all the names seemed to merge into one.

However, we've done our best, so while this might not be 100% officially official nailed-on accurate, it's about as comprehensive as we could do. We looked at over 90 transfers in made by O'Neill since he began his managerial career, and we'd like to think that what we've concluded would be a relatively accurate summary of things.

Also, we didn't count loan moves, just permanent signings regardless of cost and stature. Everything from the vast sums paid for the likes of Ashley Young to free signings from non-league sides, so let's get into things properly with the numbers.

Martin O'Neill Sticks To The British Isles

He does, we all know that. It's something that's been noted consistently whenever people mention who may be a "Martin O'Neill type player" by fans, journalists and people like ourselves who fall somewhere in between.

What turned out to be quite surprising is the numbers however. O'Neill does indeed tend to stick to British or Irish born players, but as we found out, this was only 58% of the time, while the other 42% of the time he bought foreign players.

Despite this look at foreign players, O'Neill does tend to stick to English speaking countries, signing American players such as Eric Lichaj, Brad Guzan and Brad Friedel, or Australian like Zeljiko Kalac or Steve Corica.

Martin O'Neill Doesn't Always Stick With Who He Knows

Much talk has been of who he will 'raid' the likes of Aston Villa for, what with journalists all over the country quick to tell us that O'Neill sticks with players he's worked with previously. We've found that this isn't the case at all really, as it turns out O'Neill has bought players he's never worked with before 88% of the time, while the other 12% are players he's worked with before.

Some of the players O'Neill clearly had a fancy for having signed them on numerous occasions. The likes of Paul Hyde were signed during his time at Wycombe Wanderers, and again at Leicester City. Similarly Steve Guppy followed him to Leicester City and later Celtic. Others O'Neill has worked with as they've already been with him at a club and later he signed them - this is where the likes of Emile Heskey, Darren Eadie and Chris Sutton come into play.

Still 88% suggests he's not only going to be looking at former teams. The only instance he did that was his first season at Aston Villa where Stilyan Petrov, Shaun Maloney, Dider Agathe and Chris Sutton were brought in. Away from that, it's a rare occurrence for O'Neill.

Martin O'Neill Tends To Sign Domestically

This is a saying about O'Neill that has proved to be true looking at the numbers, as 68% of the time, he's signed players from the same domestic country. For example if at Aston Villa he bought from Blackburn Rovers, that would be a domestic transfer. Equally if he bought from the lower leagues such as when he picked up Fabian Delph from Leeds United, this also counts.

However, 32% of the time O'Neill will look abroad for transfers, which indicates he does still look around the world - and it is a far net he casts. Players have been brought in all corners of the globe - from Greece and Spain to the USA and Australia - if there's a player to be had, O'Neill won't turn his nose up at them.

Martin O'Neill The Bargain Hunter

Much has been made of O'Neill's high spending at Aston Villa, and he did on the likes of Ashley Young and James Milner, who both turned out pretty good for him. He's not without his flops either though with the likes of Curtis Davies and Fabian Delph.

O'Neill's been at various clubs where he's had very different transfer budgets. At Aston Villa he spent quite wildly, but if the money's there then why not? At Wycombe Wanderers and Leicester City things were a little more subdued, as you would expect.

Overall though form the transfers we analysed, O'Neill's average transfer spend comes in at a very low £1.9m per transfer, which isn't too bad at all really. Of course it's balanced out by the varying budgets available to him, and of course it could be adjudged he's overspent on some players, but he's also vastly underspent on others.

The figure of £1.9m comes from all transfers in (in our study anyway), including free transfers. To narrow it down to just transfers where money exchanged hands, the figure is still a relatively low £3.3m. To get even more recent, at Aston Villa where he was often accused of over spending, his average was £4.4m per transfer.

Martin O'Neill And Two Banks Of Four

Looking at where the money goes, O'Neill has tended to focus on building from the back and moving forward we've found. This could of course just be from an unfortunate string of being at clubs that required such needs constantly, but the numbers seem to suggest O'Neill likes to build and move forward, leaving little focus on attack.

34% of O'Neill's transfer dealings have been signing defenders, while another 30% have been on midfielders. This leaves only 20% for strikers and 16% for goalkeepers.

We've begun to see that trend realised at Sunderland already with the January loans of Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Wayne Bridge, followed up this summer by Carlos Cuellar.


Well to combine some of the points and trying to identify trends in O'Neill's shopping habits we can see some of the myths justified (buying British) while others well and truly busted (sticks with what he knows).

There's also a few other things that don't really fit into any categories, but are perhaps worth noting, and this seems like it could be the place to put them.

For example, O'Neill has brought in at least two keepers at every club he's been at barring a fleeting stay at Norwich City, and Wycombe Wanderers. So perhaps the recent talking up of Jordan Pickford will see him loaned out with a more veteran presence brought in.

Another thing on the average spending, and putting it to our most needed area - a striker - O'Neill's average spend on strikers is a paltry £1.1m, and this despite bringing John Hartson to Celtic for a fee over £7m.

Fees of around £12m which has apparently been quoted for Steven Fletcher would be a big step for the Northern Irishman. Previously he's only spent more than that on one occasion - to bring James Milner in from Newcastle for £13.2m - and has only dipped over the £10m mark on four occasions.

If indeed the transfer of Fletcher goes through, the fee could be considerably less than what's been quoted.

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