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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sunderland: Could a QPR defeat signal the end of O'Neill?

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The headline on Saturday evening read “Sunderland deny O’Neill resigns” but chances are that may not be true. It certainly won’t say the same thing if anything but a home win for the Black Cats takes place tonight against what will surely be a revamped QPR, fresh under the guidance of Harry Redknapp.

And if not it may not need O’Neill to offer his resignation to see Sunderland change managers at the exact same time period for a second consecutive season.

But do Sunderland’s recent woes really lie at the feet of the sprightly O’Neill? Well  -yes and no.

Sunderland dejectedThe Irishman can be accused of not blooding young talent (with the exception of James McClean - who now seems one-dimensional as opposed to last season's much-needed rawness he brought to the team); he also {in this writer’s opinion} unnecessarily brings on David Vaughan late in the second half on a weekly basis when certain games are crying out for a second striker to enter the fray, refuses to give Connor Wickham anything more than one minute of play time, and continues to utilize Steven Fletcher as the sole striker with a more than game Louis Saha relegated to cameo appearances.

On the other hand, marquee signing Adam Johnson has frustrated the Red and White Army with his tendency to go backwards and seems devoid of a simple step-over or nutmeg. Stephane Sessegnon hasn’t hit the heady heights of last season when it seemed that no Premier League defender had an answer to his trickery, while Seb Larsson’s crossing has been sub-par for someone who has been such a huge influence until now.

But it’s Johnson that frustrates me the most; he seems uninterested in games, and reluctant to “get-at” the fullbacks. I’ve lost count how many times he has played the ball back to Danny Rose and Simon Mignolet in the away win over Fulham and, while one can argue that he did assist two of the three goals many fans have been left wondering “is this it?” from a player who can be game-changing on his day.

I’m sure Black Cats’ fans are divided on the reasons for their poor start to the season, and end of last one. Only time will tell if O’Neill can turn their fortunes around and finally bring European football to Wearside. I guess we’ll find out in the next few hours.

Calling all Sunderland fans: Who do you blame for your poor start to the season? Why have we not seen the best yet of Adam Johnson? Can O'Neill turn this situation around? What do you think the score will be tonight against QPR? Whatever your views we'd love to hear from you.

Sunderland v QPR: Our pundits give their predictions on tonight's big game

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Colin Illingworth



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