REPUBLIC of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has appeared in court to give evidence in the £390,000 lawsuit against Bolton Wanderers and a sports agency.
Agent Tony McGill is accusing Wanderers, their chairman Phil Gartside, former manager Sammy Lee, club secretary Simon Marland and Whites director of football at the time, Frank McParland, of colluding with The Sport Entertainment and Media group (SEM) to complete the £1 million transfer of Gavin McCann from Aston Villa on June 11, 2007, behind his back.
And Mr O’Neill, Mr McCann’s manager at the time of his disputed move to Wanderers, has told the High Court, sitting at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, that the only person outside Villa he disclosed his £1 million asking price to was Mr McGill.
Mr O’Neill said he had been “pestered” by Mr McGill over the future of Mr McCann for weeks before he discussed a move to Bolton with the agent.
In the face of strong cross examination from SEM’s lawyer, Lisa Walmisley, Mr O’Neill said he felt as if there was an innuendo that he had colluded with Mr McGill over the matter.
He told the court he first met Mr McGill at a Sports Personality of the Year contest in the 1980s, when he was introduced to athlete Steve Cram, but added their dealings were purely professional.
Mr O’Neill said: “I do not socialise with any agents and have never asked for or received any kind of favour from them.”
It was put to Mr O’Neill that he also disclosed the transfer fee to Villa’s chief executive at the time, Richard Fitzgerald, six or seven weeks after he had spoken to Mr McGill.
Mr O’Neill admitted this and said it was a “surprise” to receive the call from Mr Fitzgerald as the American did not normally get involved with transfers.
The court heard how Mr McCann had made it clear to Mr O’Neill that he wanted a move and that Mr O’Neill had mentioned contacting the “busy little customer” Mr McGill.
So, he told the court, he had no reason to suspect Mr McGill was not the midfielder’s agent.
Mr O’Neill said he alone was repsonsible for transfers at Villa as the club had recently been bought by Randy Lerner, an American with limited football knowledge.
Earlier in the case Ricky Sbragia, a former coach at Wanderers, told the court that chief BWFC scout Dave Worthington had told him “Gillie was representing Mr Mcann”.
The trial continues.