MARTIN O'Neill yesterday spoke for the first time about how he had lost the unshakable self-confidence that guided him to the top of football as both player and manager.
Sunderland fans look away now. The boss, alas, has folded under extreme pressure.
It happened just the once right enough, some 50 years ago and, in fact, it turned out he had been quite wrong to question his own ability.
“I once really doubted myself, It was before I sat my 11-plus,” O’Neill confessed yesterday.
“I honestly didn’t know whether I was going to pass it or not, but then I was only seven at the time. I did pass it.”
And that’s the last time Martin O’Neill ever thought he wasn’t up to whatever task lay in front of him.
School pupils back in the day were ten when they sat that exam, but we will allow Sunderland’s manager a miscalculation. Maybe his arithmetic has always been a bit dodgy, hence the nerves half a century ago.
When O’Neill is being flippant, that usually means the message delivered in among the jokes is deadly seriousness.
His “I’m the only man for the job” comment wasn’t for show. He sincerely believes it.
No matter what Alan Shearer may think – and we will get on to that in a minute.
O’Neill was noticeably riled by BBC reporter Damian Johnson’s line of question after the Chelsea defeat on Saturday when he was asked whether he had any doubts over his ability.
The Northern Irishman still felt yesterday that was a disrespectful tone, even at a time when the team he managed was in the bottom three of the Premier League.
O’Neill said: “Some fella asked me a question on Saturday, and funnily enough I do know him, because we lost a couple of games at Villa and he asked me the same question then.
“He obviously doesn’t like me – but I’m not bothered.
“I must admit that I refrained from saying to him that I thought he was being really rather cutting.”