On the managerial spectrum, they could barely be more different.

Martin O’Neill is renowned for barely speaking to his players. But when he did, they hung on his every word.

Ian Holloway would probably take his team out for a pint. And tell them to bring their families along too.

On the pitch, if the Irishman’s style was more pragmatic, the Englishman was regarded as gung-ho.

But whatever their approach, O’Neill and Holloway have been hugely successful in their own right.

And if Stephen Crainey can have a fraction of the careers they’ve had as a coach, he’ll be a top boss.

The former Celtic, Southampton, Leeds United and Blackpool defender is currently in charge of Fleetwood Town’s Under-23 side.

After a 19-year playing career that took him from Parkhead to the Premier League, he’s taken the first steps to becoming a gaffer.

And as far as Crainey is concerned, he couldn’t have learned the trade from many better than O’Neill and Holloway in their prime.

He served his apprenticeship under the former at Celtic, alongside the likes of Paul Lambert, Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton and Henrik Larsson.

Whenever O’Neill walked into the dressing-room, a young Crainey could feel his aura.

But the best years of his career were at Bloomfield Road under Olly.

The rollercoaster ride he took the Seasiders on, all the way to England’s top flight, wouldn’t be out of place at the Pleasure Beach.

Holloway’s unique personality and methods played a huge part in getting them there.

So as Crainey embarks on a new life in the dug-out, it’s no surprise to hear that both men had a huge impact on his career.

He told MailSport : “In terms of managers, O’Neill and Holloway have been the biggest influences.

“They’re totally different types of managers. With Martin, it’s all about his presence. And the things he’s done in the game.

“You respect him – and when he talks you listen. Obviously, I was younger when I had him at Celtic.

“But the grounding I got back then was incredible, when you think of the players I played with.

“In a managerial sense, you’d take things from Martin, like the way he conducted himself around the place. When he walked into the Celtic training ground, the intensity was ramped up straight away.

“Martin wouldn’t speak to you a lot but when he did it meant something.

“Before I left Celtic, I spoke to Martin and told him I felt as if I could play regularly for him.

“He didn’t disagree but called me later on when I only had a year left on my contract.

“He said he’d love me to stay but wanted to let me know that I had an opportunity to go to Southampton.

“It was the Premier League and I wanted to try and push on so decided to take that step.”

After three years at Leeds, Blackpool was Crainey’s next port of call.

And he couldn’t have envisaged the journey Holloway would take him – and fellow Scots like Charlie Adam – on to the Premier League.

Crainey said: “Holloway was different. He was totally hands-on at training.

“He’s a manager players loved to play for, you’d do anything for him. It’s an old saying but we’d have run through a brick wall for him.

“And his motivational talks were unbelievable.

“In the season we got promoted to the Premier League, we drew with Bristol City on the last day of the season to reach the play-offs.

“He got us in the changing room before the lap of honour. He ordered us up to the players lounge with our strips and boots on to get our kids and families.

“We were wondering what was going on. We crammed all the families into this changing room and
everyone was silent, it was so quiet.

“He got up and told the players: ‘These are the people we’re going to do this for’. The hairs on the back or our necks were standing up.

“Just a little thing like that went such a long way.

“And his philosophy was terrific, we played some brilliant football. His mentality was that if the opposition scored four, we’d get five.

“We’re actually still on a group chat with that Blackpool squad. That was a special group of boys and we had a special three or four years. He will always be at the other end of a phone if I need him.


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“Those years at Blackpool were the happiest of my career. We had a lot of under-rated players.

“I had been released from my previous club, Charlie was trying to prove himself after leaving Rangers.

“O’Neill and Holloway are at different ends of the coaching spectrum. And as a young coach, you have to do what you believe in.

“But you can still take little bits off the managers you’ve worked with.”

Crainey has no regrets about his career – and why should he?

In five seasons at boyhood club Celtic, he was on the losing side in just ONE domestic game – a League Cup defeat to Hibs.

He played in Old Firm derbies and European ties before moving on to Southampton.

Crainey also won 12 caps for Scotland and feels he made the most of his talent.

He said: “I wasn’t aware that I didn’t lose a single league game while at Celtic.

“I was only a bit-part player there. Despite playing against Rangers a few times and Valencia in Europe, I normally got the shout for games against so-called lesser sides when Celtic were expected to win.

“That was hard for me because I’d play two games then be out for six. And you’re expected to be ready, so that’s tough.

“But the grounding I got with those lads at such an early stage in my career was unbelievable.

“It was a difficult decision, as a Celtic fan, to leave. But you get to a stage when you have to look after your career.

“Celtic signed Ulrik Laursen from Hibs, who was a left centre-back in Martin’s system – which is where I played.

“It felt like the writing was on the wall.

“But I don’t have any regrets. Playing for Celtic was brilliant but I couldn’t let my heart rule my head.

“I wanted to play as much football as I could. I didn’t want to sit somewhere and not play.

“I felt I had to maximise what I had. So that was the right move at that time in my career.

“I’ve played in the Premier League and also for my country – so I can’t complain.”