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Friday, 09 December 2011

Sunderland: Can O'Neill turn the Black Cats into top dogs?

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Martin O'Neill officially marks his return to the Premier League this weekend with a home clash against fellow strugglers Blackburn, but given the former Celtic and Aston Villa manager's past record this result can surely only go one way.

Sunderland fans are buzzing at having O'Neill in the hot seat. And it's easy to see why. O'Neill was the man the majority of the Sunderland fans wanted to replace Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light and the board deserve great credit for getting their man.

O'Neill has been linked with more clubs than Tiger Woods but there was no way the boyhood Sunderland fan was going to decline the opportunity to rescue his beloved Black Cats.

He watched his new side throw away three points at Molineux last week but you can be assured that he has been on the training ground with his players this week motivating them and making them believe that they are great players. If there's one thing you can guarantee from O'Neill it's that the players will give their all for him.

Sunderland fan Tony Ratton was one of the many thousands of fans left ecstatic by O'Neill's appointment.

"I am both thrilled and delighted about our great capture of Martin O'Neill as manager. He had the edge over Mark Hughes for me given his superior managerial record. With MON you get a passionate hard working man who commands respect bringing a certain aura about him and such is his personality he will not take any nonsense.
"Even though we managed to throw away the the three points way against Wolves on Sunday the city is buzzing with the arrival of the charismatic Martin O'Neill and depending upon who he manages to bring in I can see us finishing at least mid table under O'Neill's guidance."
It's amazing how a change of manager can change the fans' outlook. Under Steve Bruce thousands of fans opted to stay away from the ground due to his unispiring tactics and displays. This weekend the Stadium of Light should be packed to watch the vital clash against struggling Blackburn Rovers and welcome their new hero.
Despite being a Newcastle fan, most Sunderland fans gave Bruce the benefit of the doubt because of his track record. It all started ok for the former Wigan boss, but when they lost Darren Bent, Sunderland's fortunes nosedived. Tony Ratton insists the board were right to wield the axe.
"In my view Steve Bruce had to go. He had too many digs at the fans did not appear to have a Plan B. His substitutions were at times bizarre. In two and a half years he failed to sign a left back and he went through centre forwards like some people change their socks."
Bruce spent millions in the summer in an attempt to strenghten the squad but the players just didn't gel quickly enough for him. However, O'Neill will certainly want to bring in his own men and has a reported war chest of £20 million to spend. Tony is in no doubt as to what positions O'Neill should target first.
"O'Neill's first priority in the January window is to sign a proven goalscorer, as in many matches this season we have dominated the play but have been unable to be clinical in front of goal. MON likes to play with wingers and that's good news for Seb Larrson and possibly fellow Derry man James McLean, who has been playing well for the reserves may get his chance.
"The Derry man will definitely have to bring in players. I'd settle for at least one forward, a left back and a goalscoring midfielder, and hopefully he will be able to motivate some of the current team/squad."
Martin O'Neill has a track record of winning trophies, reaching finals and getting the best out of mediocre players. He is regarded as a legend at Celtic and Leicester City, but you won't hear too many good words from Aston Villa fans. Despite guiding the Villains to three top six finishes, a cup final and into Europe, they became frustrated by his style of football. After watching Bruce's sides of late, I think most Sunderland fans would believe a chimp could do a better job.
O'Neill is a Sunderland fan so he knows what this club means to the fans. He will demand results and demand 100 per cent from everyone at the club. Personally, with the table being so tight from eighth place down, I can't see any reason why Sunderland should not be aiming for a top half finish under O'Neill's stewardship.
Calling all Sunderland fans. Do you agree with Tony? Do you think O'Neill is the man for the job? What do you think he will bring to the club? Who would you like him to sign and axe in January? Where do you think the Black Cats can finish this season? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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