Yet, the Irishman - still impish even at the age of 70 - also confesses to a peevishness over how the club and the city have embedded themselves in the psyches of his family. It has been a whole 17 years since his tenure at Celtic ended. An outstanding period - he guided the club to a first treble for 31 years and a first European final for 33 years and claimed seven major honours in all - it remains the longest unbroken stint by any Celtic manager since Billy McNeill’s first spell almost 40 years.
Yet, the curiosity about the march of time is that when it comes to those who have occupied the post, it is the current incumbent Ange Postecoglou that is now the biggest deal for his offspring. “I have two daughters and one of them is a bigger Celtic fan now than when I was manager, which is a major disappointment to me…” he said, in his typical, half-joking full-earnest, fashion. “She’s running around, Ange, Ange, Ange. She’s got a three-year-old who is in front of the TV shouting, ‘come on Celtic.”
O’Neill’s affection for the club, and his exhilarating stretch at its helm, was stoked with television analyst duties that placed him pitchside on the afternoon last month of raucous celebrations as that the cinch Premiership spoils were presented to Postecoglou’s champions. The trigger for so many memories to come flooding back, so too are the undimmed feelings his wife Geraldine continues to hold for Scotland’s footballing capital. In spite of the fact that his career post-Celtic has taken him to a number of different stop-offs.
That period was formed by spells in charge of Aston Villa, Sunderland, the Republic of Ireland - former employees that will be hosting his old home in Saturday’s Nations League encounter - and, for a brief period in 2019, the club with which he famously won the European Cup as a player in Nottingham Forest. None of those postings, though, would appear to have impacted on the pair as profoundly as their stay in Glasgow.
“I’ve honestly missed it so much. Seriously,” he said. “My wife, who hated every place she’d been to in her life, absolutely loved it in Scotland. If she ever goes to heaven – which she won’t – she’d complain about that as well…But she loved it here and I was the same. It was great. You’d wake up and look out the window and not know if it was June or October. But that didn’t matter to us coming from Northern Ireland.
"I came up to do the Motherwell game with Stiliyan Petrov and the atmosphere and the singing, it brings it all back to you. I had great days, the torch is passed, the manager is going great and it all looks rosy. I did five years – it was like five minutes. I do miss it, absolutely. You will always do that. I think the dying breath will be, was there a game on Saturday?”