Former Forest favourite Martin O’Neill targets Premier League return

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Nottingham Forest icon Martin O’Neill is honoured to be returning to the City Ground as manager and wants to end the club’s long exile from the Premier League.

The 66-year-old enjoyed so much success during a decade as a player with the Reds, including winning the old First Division title and two European Cups.

He has agreed an 18-month contract and during that time O’Neill aims get the club back in the top flight, where they have not competed for 20 years.

“It has probably not sunk in yet as things have happened very quickly, but it goes without saying that it’s a privilege and an honour to be manager of this club,” said O’Neill.

“I had 10 years here as a player, and the last five were pretty exceptional,

“It’s a long time since the club has been in the big league and I am going to see if I can rectify that. It’s the only reason to be here. The club has slipped a bit in recent times but hopefully we can rectify that.

“I have to get to know the players in ultra quick time, but that’s OK. This is it, this is what I’m here to do.”

O’Neill takes over a team ninth in the Championship table, four points behind local rivals Derby, who occupy the final play-off spot.

Asked if promotion was possible this season, he said: “I’m not going to rule anything out. Essentially the target is to get promotion. I have to try to do that.

“In terms of the club’s potential, history and support it deserves to be in the big league and if I can’t do that then I will hand over to someone else.”

O’Neill hopes to be joined at the City Ground by Roy Keane, the former Forest midfielder who assisted him during his five years as Republic of Ireland boss.

“I would dearly like him to join us. Since this has happened very quickly he has a number of things to sort out himself,” said O’Neill.

“There’s a spot open for him and I hope it happens. It may not, as he has a few things to sort out himself both personally and professionally.

“He was a great asset to me at Republic of Ireland and we had some really great days. He can be a handful. He was a special player, fantastic footballer who drove Manchester United on for 10 years and you don’t win those things just sitting around.”

O’Neill replaces Aitor Karanka after the Spaniard’s departure last week and he becomes the club’s 11th full-time manager since 2011.

“I wasn’t particularly aware of that,” said O’Neill. “I think in this day and age managers are getting less and less time, you have to get going.”

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