Tuesday 12 December 2017

I'm the only one who can save Sunderland from the drop, insists O'Neill

Martin O'Neill is adamant that he is not just the best man for the Sunderland job, but the only one.

The 60-year-old arrived on Wearside to overwhelming popular acclaim 12 months ago, sparking a revival which quickly hauled the club away from the Premier League relegation zone.

A year on, O'Neill's side find themselves back in the bottom three as a result of only two victories in their last 23 league games and he heads into tonight's home game against Reading with former England and Newcastle captain Alan Shearer suggesting that anything but three points could spell the end of the Northern Irishman's tenure.

However, the former Aston Villa manager continues to enjoy the support of owner and chairman Ellis Short and remains confident he can turn things around at the Stadium of Light.

"So what do you do then?" asked O'Neill (below). "So you go and put someone else in charge, he gets a group of 12, 13 games and can't win any matches? It's the same thing.

"I don't want to sound wildly boastful, but not only am I the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job.

"We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead – it might take us a few months to do that – and then we will see.

"If we continue for the next couple of years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then."

Despite the disappointing results, Sunderland fans have not yet turned on O'Neill.

Indeed, they applauded his players off the pitch at the end of Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea after a spirited, if ultimately fruitless, fightback.

O'Neill was allowed to invest heavily during the summer, with Scotland striker Steven Fletcher and England winger Adam Johnson joining for a combined £22m.

However, Sunderland have won only won one game at home all season, and O'Neill knows that, until performances start to yield more points, his future will be questioned.

"Progress eventually is determined by results on the pitch and we are in a similar position," he said. "It's interesting because it's really the same squad – we still have, I think, about 19 players from last season."

Irish Independent

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