YOU'VE probably heard this one by now, but it's worth repeating nevertheless: had the Premier League had begun on December 3, the date when Martin O'neill took the reins at Sunderland, the team topping the table would be? Yes, you've guessed it, Sunderland.
Now this is the realm of 'if my auntie had whatsits she'd be my uncle', but at the same time it highlights the importance of the manager in the modern game. For those who scoff at the cult of the manager (and we here at the Week in Sport reserve the right to remain somewhat sceptical) the galvanising effect that O'neill's arrival has had on Wearside has been nothing short of miraculous.
It's pretty much the same bunch of players that looked so listless under Steve Bruce – James Mcclean aside. The addition of Mcclean is indiciative of O'neill's boldness and eye for a player.
Sure he was signed in the Bruce era, but by the same token he was nowhere near the first team until O'neill came on the scene and threw him into the fray posthaste.
A ballsy and brilliant move.