Martin O’Neill said his first game in charge of Nottingham Forest was a “learning curve” after watching his new chargers lose 1-0 to Bristol City in front of a packed-out City Ground on Saturday afternoon.
O’Neill was appointed as Aitor Karanka’s replacement this week with the former Republic of Ireland manager returning to the club where he won two successive European Cups under the tutelage of Brian Clough. A feat like that is someway off for Forest with O’Neill being given 18 months to get the Reds back to the Premier League.
His first game in charge did not go to plan however with Famara Diedhiou’s second half goal sealing the victory for the visitors and speaking afterwards, O’Neill expressed some disappointment in his sides display, especially in the opening forty-five minutes.
“I’m naturally disappointed to lose the game and it’s certainly a learning curve for me,” said the 66-year-old.
“I thought that we could get momentum early on in the game but I didn’t get that at all. I thought that Bristol City settled better. We gave the ball away rather easily at times and that contributed to a very nervy start and I thought Bristol City were in control of the first half.
“The players were anxious to impress, and maybe a little over-anxious. However, I thought there were times, in the first half particularly, where we allowed Bristol City too much room to go and play.”
It’s been a crazy couple of days for the former Celtic and Aston Villa manager since taking over at the City Ground and after the game, O’Neill claimed it will take him a while to properly shape the team in the way he would like.
“The last couple of days have been a genuine whirlwind,” said the Northern Irishman.
“When I settle down, and get a little bit of rest bite, which obviously won’t be until the transfer window finishes, then maybe we can really get down and put a stamp on the team which is obviously what I want to do and what I’m here for.
“When things settle down, when the players get to know me and what I’m expecting of them, and to be perfectly honest, what they expect of me, I think this is something we can work out together.”
As a legend at the club already, there were great scenes before the game when O’Neill emerged from the tunnel to take his seat on the Nottingham Forest bench for the first time and he admitted after the game that the reception from the Forest fans left him emotional.
“It was quite emotional I must admit. It was a great reception and I was very honoured with it. It’s a genuine privilege to be manager of this football club and I want to make an impact here.”