Aston Villa’s assistant manager John Robertson insists he is happy to remain in Martin O’Neill’s shadow after revealing that he has no desire whatsoever to enter management.
Robertson and Villa’s first-team coach Steve Walford have remained firmly in the background as O’Neill’s trusted lieutenants throughout the Irishman’s managerial career. O’Neill acknowledges the work Robertson, his former Nottingham Forest team-mate, and Walford, a former colleague at Norwich City, put in behind the scenes.
The coaching allies have themselves become good friends on and off the training pitch and play a key part in O’Neill’s football decision-making.
Robertson, who along with O’Neill won the European Cup under the guidance of Forest legend Brian Clough almost 30 years ago, believes the secret of management is simplicity. However, the former Scotland winger insists that he personally is happy to carry on playing a supporting role out of the firing line while O’Neill takes charge of team affairs.
“People might look at me and question my ambition but I know what I’m like as a person,” said Robertson ahead of Villa’s Boxing Day showdown with Arsenal at Villa Park. “Martin has to deal with a lot of things that I don’t particularly enjoy.
“Steve Walford does a great job for us as well. I only met Steve through Martin from their Norwich days but we have hit it off since day one too.”
Both men have picked up tricks of the trade from Clough in Forest’s glory days in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the pair’s relationship is often compared to that of their late boss and his successful assistant Peter Taylor.
“If you look at Sir Alex Ferguson, he is no shrinking violet is he?” Robertson said. “And he has handled those players for 20 years.
“I think Brian Clough would have been the same. Great managers and great people find a way. They don’t make it difficult, it’s not rocket science.
“It was his simplicity. I think he was decisive. If he didn’t think a player was up to it he would have no qualms with getting rid, no matter how much money he had spent. If he had bought them for £1million, he would still sell them for £100,000.”