Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Gary O’Neil has reflected on the ‘incredible’ introduction he has enjoyed during the first year of his Premier League managerial career.
The former Middlesbrough and Portsmouth midfielder was appointed as caretaker manager of Bournemouth during the first month of last season and his progress was rewarded with a permanent role just three months later.
Despite helping the Cherries preserve their Premier League status, O’Neil was dismissed this summer but returned to the dugout with Wolves after they parted company with Julen Lopetegui in August. Saturday’s win over O’Neil’s former club continued the solid start Wolves have made to the season - and the 40-year-old has revealed he is keen to continue making the most of facing some of the best managers in world football.
He told Sky Sports: “I think that the speed of learning I’ve had since stepping into the hot seat at Bournemouth last season and having to prepare for Premier League games every week when you’re new into it, it’s a relentless and ruthless league.
“You have to be tactically spot-on, you need the lads to be mentally spot-on, physically spot-on. I have only been doing it for 12 or 13 months and to be up against Unai Emery, Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta, Jurgen Klopp, all of these guys, where if there is a flaw in what you’re doing, it gets exposed in front of the whole world.
“It’s an incredible way for me to learn and progress - but so far I’m not doing too bad.”
The Wolves boss singled out Emery for special praise as he assessed the ‘very impressive’ progress the former Sevilla manager has overseen since he succeeded Steven Gerrard last November.
Since taking charge at Villa Park, Emery has transformed the squad he inherited into European qualifiers and there are high hopes a top four push could come to fruition after his side embarked on a fine run of form during the opening two months of the season.
Ironically, O’Neil’s Wolves are one of just three sides to take points from Villa this season after they battled their way to a 1-1 draw at Villa Park earlier this month - but the Bournemouth boss has praised the job Emery has done over the last year.
He said: “With Unai, I think the Arsenal spell, where he went in there at a difficult time for Arsenal, a really difficult job, maybe that takes attention away from what an incredible managerial career he’s had because his managerial career has been top. Wherever he’s been, he has managed to achieve and the job he’s done at Aston Villa, to reinvigorate the club and to give everyone the belief and the energy around the place has been very impressive.”