WOLVES boss Mick McCarthy admits the task of overcoming Sunderland in Sunday's crunch relegation clash at Molineux has been made harder by the expected arrival of Martin O'Neill as manager.>
McCarthy anticipates Sunderland will run around "like scalded cats" if O'Neill - strongly tipped to replace the sacked Steve Bruce - is watching from the stands.
The Wolves fans have vented their anger towards McCarthy - during the recent home clash with Swansea and media phone-ins - after a run of eight defeats in the last 10 games.
The two sides are locked on 11 points, just two points above the bottom three, and the stakes could hardly be higher when they meet at Molineux.
McCarthy, who also managed Sunderland, said: "I can't put any more onus on this game with Manchester United next up for us.
"We are level on points with Sunderland, and both of us having a tough time.
"One of the clubs has lost their manager so we can't dress this up as anything else than a really big, important game.
"Maybe that has been made slightly tougher because of Steve going and there is generally a response if normal service is resumed.
"If Martin O'Neill is sat in the stand, they will be running around like scalded cats trying to impress.
"It has not made my job any easier. Maybe it has put a bit more pressure on my team and us to play well and it might make it a little bit harder.
"But we've got to concentrate on what we do and our performance. That is the important thing, concentrating on the performance, not looking at the result or what anyone else is going to do."
McCarthy is friends with Bruce and O'Neill and has sympathy for the former losing his job but also believes the latter will revive the fortunes of the Black Cats.
He said: "I've spoken to Steve. He is like any one of us who ends up losing a job. You are always disappointed.
"Let me tell you, you've always got a sense it is coming as well. I think if you do get that sense it is coming, and the crowd are on to you, it is almost a relief sometimes.
"Steve wanted to carry on and finish the job he started. Listen, he is a bit like me, he is a pragmatic guy, it's happened, he will crack on and he'll raise his head somewhere else and be a success."
O'Neill looks poised to return to management after a 16-month break since parting company with Aston Villa and McCarthy feels the Irishman is right to wait for an opportunity attractive to him.
He said: "I think for a man and manager of Martin's stature, the right and proper thing to do is to wait for a club that can match his ambitions and desires.
"You don't want to come back in and have a toil and a struggle with no money and Sunderland is a fantastic Wolves fear arrival of O’Neill will make Sunderland tussle even tougher
"Martin, if he gets it, will be very fortunate to manage the club - as I was - and I'm sure he will do a good job as he always does."