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Defeat by Wolves shows O'Neill the size of his task

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Phil McNulty | 16:28 UK time, Sunday, 4 December 2011

Martin O’Neill’s allegiance to Sunderland resulted in many a boyhood scrap in the schoolyards of Northern Ireland. He will have driven through the gates of The Academy of Light on Monday morning knowing he has another fight on his hands.

O’Neill – appointed Sunderland manager on a three-year contract on Saturday – chose a vantage point high above his familiar territory in the technical area to observe the squad left behind by sacked Steve Bruce.

It was a view that allowed him an aerial – and perhaps sobering – view of the task he has taken on at the club that captured his imagination as a boy because Sunderland boasted the great Irish defender Charlie Hurley.

Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill was appointed as the new Sunderland manager after former boss Steve Bruce was dismisssed from his job at the Stadium of Light. PHOTO: Getty

O'Neill revealed it was support he literally had to battle for as a youngster in the face of opposition from Celtic, Rangers and Manchester United fans. It is this combative spirit he will now attempt to inject into a Sunderland side that is too much of a soft touch.

And if Sunderland were willing to hand victory to Wolves after taking the lead through Kieran Richardson and wasting Sebastian Larsson’s dubiously earned penalty, they were unwittingly obliging to their new manager.

In conceding two late goals to Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, Sunderland provided O’Neill with a razor-sharp snapshot of their season. It was the perfect picture of why he has been summoned from a 17-month exile since leaving Aston Villa.

O’Neill was not the frantic figure that has become so familiar. There was the odd twitch when a chance was missed and a pained expression when disappointed at a passage of play. But expect the full range of body language when he makes his bow at The Stadium of Light against Blackburn on Sunday.

Sunderland effectively produced a list of the reasons why O’Neill has replaced Bruce. In allowing Wolves to win the game, they showed they are shorn of confidence and punchless in attack.

They are also lacking authority in a defence comprised entirely of former Manchester United players and badly in need of direction and structure.

Bruce’s final match in charge was the 2-1 defeat by Wigan after they had gone 1-0 up.

The manner in which they let another winning position be transformed into defeat was a classic symptom of the malaise O’Neill must cure.

Faced with the sudden prospect of defeat, all self-belief visibly drained away from the players.

The new manager witnessed it all for himself – so it is to be expected that chairman and owner Ellis Short will be asked to fund the early stages of a serious reconstruction in January.

O’Neill told Sunderland fans who gathered early at Molineux to welcome their new leader: “Without promising the earth, moon and stars, I will do my utmost to bring a bit of success to Sunderland.”

He added: “You want to get yourself established. We had a great season last season, finishing 10th and a wee bit of a disappointing start this time. But we hope that, with a little bit of luck, we can turn things around.

“I would like it to be a really successful period and I'm going to try my best to achieve that. That’s what I’ve come for.”

At this stage, “a bit of success” will simply be avoiding relegation. The nature of the January transfer window means O’Neill may have to wait until next summer to really go to work.

There were some shafts on light on a grim day for Sunderland. Richardson’s superbly fashioned goal just after half-time will have been right up O’Neill’s street, showing pace on the break and a direct approach.

Larsson was lively and, despite a dreadful dive to earn his penalty – which he missed with the air of a man with a weighty conscience – the Swede has the sort of ability O’Neill can nurture.

O’Neill’s most-pressing problem is finding an effective striker and a measure of creation. He has a penchant for a big man up front – whether that big man continues to be Nicklas Bendtner is open to question.

He is not known as a man to massage an over-blown ego and he has plenty to get his hands on with the Dane.

One incident in the second half, when Bendtner failed miserably to show urgency in a dangerous Sunderland attack, would surely have brought a combustible reaction – and perhaps the toe end of O’Neill’s boot had he been in closer proximity.

The South Korean Ji Dong-Won shows no sign of being the answer to O’Neill’s most pressing problem, so expect scouts to be dispatched in search of a reliable marksman.

On Sunday’s evidence, he would happily take the bustling work-rate and goals of Wolves’ Fletcher ahead of anything he currently has at his disposal.

Wes Brown has been an accident waiting to happen in recent weeks and he was guilty of slack work again when he allowed Fletcher to escape for his equaliser.

He will need to show some of his former powers to survive what may well prove to be a brutal cut.

O’Neill is unlikely to ease himself in at Sunderland. He will need to work quickly, so it would be no surprise if some stark messages are delivered to his new charges once he gets them behind closed doors on his first day on the job.

He will arrive at his new home well-prepared – but, in the unlikely event of this not being the case, Sunderland filled in plenty of the blanks for O’Neill at Molineux.

Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    First...
    That's something Sunderland will never achieve...

  • Comment number 2.

    Can't see any reason why he wont be a success...he's done ok everywhere else he's been. After watching the game at the weekend I think survival would be deemed "success"

  • Comment number 3.

    Unfortunately, I think the position with the league is that even with O'Neill's acumen and with the sort of money that has been made available at Sunderland in the last couple of years, I don't think they can achieve anything above about 8th really. There are just better teams/squads/clubs in the league and they can attract players in the way that I don't think Sunderland can.

    So, if that is right, O'Neill is likely to go down the same route as he did at Villa. Will this be enough for O'Neill or is he using this as a stepping stone to get back into management and maybe a crack with a bigger club if he proves that he has still got 'it'.

    Such is the inevitable situation which arises from the skewing of competition in the league.

  • Comment number 4.

    Cue wins against the sides in bottom 15, a 20m january transfer splurge, and reporters will be "praising" MON for the instant turnaround.
    What will happen to the ex man utd contingent over there? Who will be cut out of the first team duties...remember reo coker celebrating when MON left villa...

  • Comment number 5.

    Almost a certainty that they will be safe. Purely because the players are not as bad as the results suggest. Their work rate will increase dramatically, that is a prime factor in any O'Neill side. They will gain confidence, team spirit will grow, another O'Neill factor. Anyone rocking the boat will be history.

    Will he ever get them to be anything out of the ordinary? I doubt it, his teams rarely look special. If he stays the long term, cup runs and a fairly good league position is what he will give.

  • Comment number 6.

    I really hope O'Neill can dispell this myth that Bruce was a victim of circumstances.

    The squad does have talent, but it's an absolute shambles because Bruce seemed to be trying to mould himself into the next manager of Man Utd.

  • Comment number 7.

    I had a feeling they might have gone for Lee Clark from Huddersfield, really promising young manager... Then again, the Newcastle connection may have been too much to swallow for the Sunderland fans.

    O'Neill is undoubtedly a good manager, and I think that Sunderland will easily avoid relegation. But they desperately need a new striker in January, losing Bent, Gyan and Welbeck, plus Campbell to injury really has knocked them. I might put a pound on Heskey going there... Wouldnt be a surprise.

    Should be a lot tighter at the back, Brown and O shea are good players. More penalty practice for Larrson too i reckon.

    I think there'll be a fair clear out should they stay up, as a lot of their players either look disinterested or just not good enough.

  • Comment number 8.

    Too many average players made to look good around better players at former clubs... No leaders, other than a thug in midfield - O'Neill will need all the luck he can get. Maybe Sunderland have already had it in that Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn are just so much worse than everyone else this year...

  • Comment number 9.

    #7 jwl86

    I might put a pound on Heskey going there... Wouldnt be a surprise.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    If I was a Sunderland fan and he brought in Heskey I would be very annoyed. The lummox wasn't great when he was at he's best, let alone now.

    How good is Wickham? The answer to Sunderland scoring more goals might be to have a system that supports Wickham more.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just looked at their fixtures, not a bad run of games till march, only City at home, Spurs and Chelsea away appear to be no wins. It's lucky their at home to Blackburn on Saturday.

    I do feel, that the last few months teams have found they will always have a great chance against them but now for the lower teams, I would not want to face them.

    They do have a striker problem but they will be organised and hard to beat. O'Neill will ensure that.

  • Comment number 11.

    Pleeeeeeeeeease come back MON get rid of this useless get in charge at Villa Park! Good luck Sunderland (from your newest fan!)

  • Comment number 12.

    MrBlueBurns
    @9

    Thats interesting you mention Wickham and the need to change to incorporate him more.

    It's not really in O'Neills makeup to change the way his teams play their football, his teams have all shown the same albeit with different quality of players. If Wickham shows the passion to play, then he's halfway there with O'Neill.

    For me, he is one of those managers who knows what works and is as much about man management as he is about tactics. His teams always put a shift in and every game is important, Sunderland will certainly never do a Blackburn and fore go a possible cup semi final purely for the league.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sunderland fans need to lower their expectations, outside the top 6 the rest are pretty much of a muchness. A run of a couple of wins can make a lot of difference.

    Bruce seems to have hamstrung himself by his reliance on Man U squad players and players he has worked with before (Wigan / Birmingham), ie risk averse approach. Sunderland are now stuck with Man U squad players earning more than likely overinflated wages due to where they have been signed from...

    There seems to be a preconception from managers that Man Utd reserves / squad players are better than other premier league players, when was the last time that someone left Man U and made a real impact at their new club (ie people who left via the backdoor rather than the front door)? Phil Neville maybe? Fergie doesn't let these guys go for no reason...

    Watching Newcastle v Chelsea on Saturday, kept willing Obertan on to do something but that guy has no footballing brain whatsoever. He probably got off the train at the wrong station, was meant to be heading to Sunderland.

  • Comment number 14.

    Another stepping stone for MON. Great motivational manager, Sunderland will survive this season and finish in the top half next (at least). Needs one or two key signings: a big forward (Bendtner doesn't count!) and will probably also make a pitch for Stillian Petrov at Villa (ex-Celtic) if he needs a leader on the park.

    Weaknesses: likes a smallish tight squad, sometimes suspect signings but sends players out to win games and gets them up for it.

    Wouldn't read too much into the 'club I supported as a boy' line. When he came to Celtic from Leicester it was 'walking over burning coals to get here'. He'll be there no longer than 3 years, or until a bigger job comes along.

  • Comment number 15.

    Defensively under bruce they weren't that bad at all this season, they were unable to score but who could blame them when they had a guy who thinks he's better than he is (bentdner), and untested player (dong-won) and a rookie (wickham) as their key strikers. Yes Bruce should have bought better or a decent striker but look at the signings and it suggests he bought the best he could get.

  • Comment number 16.

    Martin O'Neill didn't grow up in Belfast he's from Kilrea County Derry/londonderry were members of his extended family still live

  • Comment number 17.

    #12 Londoner in exile returns

    I was really just being pragmatic as to what might be possible with what he has got. The comment I was responding to mentioned Heskey!

    Still, what do I care. Sunderland fans seem happy with the appointment and I think with O'Neill you know what you are going to get. Good luck to 'em.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ 13

    Obertan is woeful! Pace to burn but that is it. Constant step overs, no end product and like you mentioned, a very poor football brain. I was delighted we managed to get anything for him from newcastle!

  • Comment number 19.

    The problem Sunderland always seem to be plagued by is that they clearly want more success, but then they sell players like Darren Bent and don't find adequate replacements. Its consistently watering down the quality of the squad and that will make it hard for any manager, O'Neill included.

    As we have seen with Manchester City, it costs hundreds of millions to move a club to the 'next level' in the modern game. Its very hard to see how clubs like Sunderland will be able to move forward without similar levels of funding. With the 'fair play' rules just around the corner, the middle bank of clubs might just have to accept their lot. A depressing thought.

    Martin O'Neill is clearly a talented manager with the capability to get the best out of the players at his disposal. I would be surprised if Sunderland went down now he is in charge but I can't see them finishing in the top ten. Not unless they sign better players in January.

    Sunderland are a big club with great traditions, a large stadium and a solid fan base. There is the potential there to really achieve something. But with financial fair play imminent, I can't see how they can increase their revenues to compete and climb the league. The new rules will produce the exact opposite outcome of the desired one. The top clubs will be insulated, the leagues will stagnate and Sunderland, along with many clubs across Europe, will be forced to endure their current position. Another bright idea from the idiots running the European game....

  • Comment number 20.

    @11. Had to laugh ;-)

  • Comment number 21.

    @9. Spot on about Heskey. Re-motivating Bendtner would be a better bet.

  • Comment number 22.

    #19 Barca500

    You're right that one of the fatal flaws of the Financial Fair Play rules is that if they work, they will largely maintain the status quo.

    However, I personally don't see them being properly implemented and I think many share that opinion.

    So, the financial inequity in football might prove to be useful!

  • Comment number 23.

    firstly, I can't say I'm looking forward to seeing yet another Premiership manager stalking the touchline so am thankful that at least Sunderland have already been to United. as far as the appointment goes, only time will tell. people seem to be certain of his success but I'm not so sure. Sunderland have a very long history of mediocrity and failure. that can't be an accident, and you only have to look at the way Steve Bruce's strikeforce was stripped away from him to realise that the priorities up there are not necessarily geared towards what the manager wants.

    O'Neill has a decent chance of gaining a bit of momentum over christmas looking at he fixture list, but it could just as easily go the other way which would see them in deep mire by the turn of the year, with Fergie junior's Peterborough lying in wait in the FA Cup 3rd round! Speaking of which, interesting to see the United/City stats on the BBC site make absolutely no mention of the relevant stats, namely FA Cup meetings. Then again, if they'd done that they'd have had to get 6-1 into the text a couple more times because it wouldn't have showed up in the stats themselves. Doh.

  • Comment number 24.

    I wonder what the odds are on MON being the next Spurs manager if 'Arry takes the England job in Autumn 2012?

    I think Sunderland will survive this season in 14th due to motivation of a new gaffer and then will end the next bewteen 15th to relegated with NUFC between 14th to relegated the next. MON at Spurs and Pardew sacked under pressure by Xmas in season 12-13 after summer sales.

  • Comment number 25.

    They are also lacking authority in a defence comprised entirely of former Manchester United players and badly in need of direction and structure.

    --------------------------------

    Wow, didn't realise that.

    Was Bruce really that limited, that he couldn't think of any better players for Sunderland than United rejects? Or was he merely doing Fergie a favour?

    MON always gets clubs punching above their weight, all his previous clubs like leicester, Celtic and Villa collapsed after he'd gone.

    It's amazing that Villa fans wanted him out, preferring Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish instead. They've since turned against those managers too; fickle bunch.

  • Comment number 26.

    "I might put a pound on Heskey going there... Wouldnt be a surprise."

    Didn't you say they needed a good striker? Heskey's goal scoring ability will really put fear in opponents. (not)

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 24

    I can see that happening, redknapp is almost a shoe in for the england job, and I wouldn't put it past MON jumping ship to spurs if the offer came along.

  • Comment number 28.

    Get another Man U player. Michael Owen would bang in a few goals.

  • Comment number 29.

    MrBlueBurns

    No, I think your right regarding Wickham, to incorporate him I do think the style has to change slightly but that is the problem O'Neill never has changed, not even from his Wycombe days.

    Personally I did not think the move to Sunderland was right for Wickham, it was a case of going to a team at the wrong time for him and possibly the wrong team as well. Surely a kid and that is what he was, is better off going into a team that has confidence, something Sunderland were not showing at the time of his move.

  • Comment number 30.

    25: umpteenth, I think you're being a touch unfair there! Wes Brown is flirting around England class most of the time although he has been a bit hit and miss in the last couple of games. I would also say that Richardson is more of a winger/wing back than an out and out defender. The one I don't understand is O'Shea. He was a utility player for Man U and can play quite well in a few roles. For me he shouldn't be a first team player.

  • Comment number 31.

    @MrBlueBurns...

    Not saying that Heskey would be a good signing, just that with his Villa/ Leicester links, Sunderland's lack of firepower and Heskey not really getting as much game time at Villa as he used to, wouldnt be surprised.

    As for Bendtner, he just believes his own hype. Awful player, awful attitude. If only he was as good as he THINKS he is, Sunderland would be top of the league now!

  • Comment number 32.

    #25 umpteenth_time_user save 606

    It's amazing that Villa fans wanted him out,
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Did they? If they did, maybe it was the frustration of two or three times being in excellent league positions in February/March only to see a dismal run of results knock that on the head each time.

    Seeing a season out is as important as seeing a match out.

    Alternatively, it may be the story that Villa fans tell you now as a reaction to O'Neill walking out days before the new season last year.

  • Comment number 33.

    @Lorus59

    I said they needed a new striker actually! haha! never said anything about the required quality! Heskey would do a job there, not many goals in him but could be a great foil for Fraizer Campbell whenever he gets fit... Just a thought, and not one I would expect to happen, just speculating thats all

  • Comment number 34.

    The financial fair play rules, would never work short term. It is going to take many years maybe even 20 years for the balance to be addressed. Even then there will always be clubs who are gauranteed a place at the top table.

  • Comment number 35.

    Those 'United rejects' have won more league medals and played more Champions League matches than the back four of most Premier League clubs put together. The problem at Sunderland isn't the defense, it's as good as if not better than most of those in the bottom half of the table. There is no one at Sunderland who is going to score enough goals to lead the team out of a relegation struggle and the midfield are never going to chip in with their fair share of goals. Martin O'Neil will have to find a very good goal scorer in the transfer window, probably at an over inflated price, to get the club to safety with a few games in hand.

  • Comment number 36.

    @13

    Diego Forlan maybe? I know his success came in La Liga but after leaving United via the back door he did develop into a fantastic player his potential suggested he could be

  • Comment number 37.

    I know O Neill is well liked by the media for his blarney and his willingness to indulge them, much like Redknapp. but face facts, hes hardly a great boss, hes tactically stuck in the 80s and represents a recipe for a bit more mediocrity of a different type to what SB offered maybe, but mediocrity all the same. He'll bolster Sunderland, but wont raise their bar to any great heights. Hes in a transfer market for the same type of players as SB shopped in. Always amazes me at the hype when one of the clique (O Neill, Allardyce, Hughes, Bruce, Schhteeve and Co gets a new job. all pretty much of a tedious muchness.

  • Comment number 38.

    For all of those mentioning strikers, remember that Bendtner is without a doubt the best striker in the world, it's not his fault that his teammates aren't of the same calibre. Forget Wickham, the team should be built around Bendtner, in fact he would probably do better without most of his team mates around him.

  • Comment number 39.

    dan_thomp
    @36

    To be fair Forlan was special before he went to UTD, the Prem just wasn't his game and he never really had an oportunity to prove himself.

    He is not an out and out striker despite the number of goals he scored in Spain. For Uruguay he is more of a provider, often playing deep, he has a marvellous range of passing skills and is an intelligent player.

  • Comment number 40.

    There are few managers better able to inspire a team with confidence and passion than Martin - that to his credit is almost a given. The attack was pretty toothless last night and it was hard on Steve Bruce to lose the 3 class strikers he had at his disposal last season. I doubt that NB has the ability or the application to solve the problem. However, it was interesting to learn of the recent outstanding form in the reserves of Ryan Noble and as the commentator said at the time: "Why was he on the bench then?"
    There were positives to take from the game and had the pen gone in, they may have made it over the line. The opposition showed great character and that is something that the team Martin inherits, seems well short on, as well discussed in this article - especially when they go behind and this is remarkable for a team with so many ex-Man United players.

  • Comment number 41.

    #35 Mongo

    Those 'United rejects' have won more league medals and played more Champions League matches than the back four of most Premier League clubs put together.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    What's the old saying? Past performance is no guarantee of future success?

    Opinion seems to be that they are past their best, regardless of what their best may have been.

  • Comment number 42.

    Bergysdeftflicks
    @37

    O'neill is a safer bet than Steve Bruce ever was but your right they will end up mid table. The one thing you will always see from an O'Neill side is energy.

    Sunderland will never ever be a top prem club, no matter who managed them now. Sad but true. Who wants to go there for a start.

  • Comment number 43.

    I don't envy Martin O'Neil, taking over that side which contains so many sub-standard English players, like Brown, Richardson and Cattermole.

    Yesterday's match was like watching ''The Frog and Ferret'' against ''The Red Cow'' on a Sunday morning.

  • Comment number 44.

    The MON effect is does alright then storms off in a huff when not given billions (save Celtic I'll grant you). His track record proves that and if it didn't why is he never anywhere near a Man City, Chelsea or Liverpool post which have been vacant when he has been out of work/ And it can't be British manager issues because they've all had them. His record bears no scrutiny he'll keep them up and then leave before he's found out, he is the most over rated manager I can think of. Good luck Conor this fool may end your career.

  • Comment number 45.

    40.At 11:09 5th Dec 2011, redkentrent wrote:
    The opposition showed great character and that is something that the team Martin inherits, seems well short on, as well discussed in this article - especially when they go behind and this is remarkable for a team with so many ex-Man United players.
    ========================

    This is an interesting point. But I wonder whether it has anything to do with the club theyve come from? I bet Wes Brown and John O Shea have already lost more games this season than they did in the whole of last season at Man Utd. Add to that the fact that they were surrounded with genuine class players at Man Utd and this may explain why they are struggling.

    You can just imagine Wes Brown looking round and seeing Titus Bramble and Kieron Richardson lining up alongside him, when he's been used to Vidic and Evra! HAHA!

  • Comment number 46.

    #41 MrBlueBurns

    Look at the facts. Sunderland's defense is better than every team from Liverpool down in the Premier League bar Fulham who have let in one goal less and Everton who have conceded the same amount of goals. Those 'United rejects' are still performing at a good level, it's the players in front of them that are not up to it, particularly away from home.

  • Comment number 47.

    Redkentrent
    @40

    especially when they go behind and this is remarkable for a team with so many ex-Man United players.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Maybe you have hit on a point, those UTD players have never known what it is like to have to fight. At UTD they were always a part of success.

    Maybe Steve Bruce would have been better off buying players who were hungry for the game. Instead of buying players who could see nothing after leaving UTD.

  • Comment number 48.

    39. At 11:08 5th Dec 2011, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I agree.

    Forlan is a class act, even when he was at Manchester United. He was also shamefully treated by the English football media and fans.

  • Comment number 49.

    "United Rejects"? I'll quite happily have John O'Shea back if he isn't wanted at Sunderland...

  • Comment number 50.

    41. At 11:11 5th Dec 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:

    Opinion seems to be that they are past their best, regardless of what their best may have been.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    And even at their ''best'', the likes of O'Shea and Brown were little more than pub standard plodders.

  • Comment number 51.

    jwl86 - agreed but harsh I feel on KR who did well last night and took his goal well and hopefully he will not be stuck at LB too long. He looked such a talent when he broke through, but his career went sideways. Maybe Martin can help him rediscover his self-belief and sharpness. Btw I noticed that despite what looked like a very impresssive warm-up from Sunderland, the team seemed to run out of legs in the last 15 minutes and that may have cost them the game.

  • Comment number 52.

    43

    Is that because you were an unused substitute?

  • Comment number 53.

    #43 The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa

    My GOD you're tedious aren't you.

    Still, in other news:-

    Spain and Barcelona striker David Villa insists that he is "very happy" and "settled" in Pep Guardiola's side, amid reports linking him with a possible move to Liverpool.
    Full story: El Mundo (in Spanish)

  • Comment number 54.

    He will never set the world alight but he will suit Sunderland. He will make them more competitve for a start and won't roll over and have his tummy tickled when they play Utd.
    Sunderland fans can expect top 10 finishes and decent cup runs, along with a fighting attitude and he will be backed by his chairman I'm sure.

  • Comment number 55.

    53. At 11:27 5th Dec 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:
    #43 The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa

    My GOD you're tedious aren't you.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Comment number 56.

    Mongo
    @46

    Look at the facts. Sunderland's defense is better than every team from Liverpool down in the Premier League bar Fulham who have let in one goal less and Everton who have conceded the same amount of goals. Those 'United rejects' are still performing at a good level, it's the players in front of them that are not up to it, particularly away from home.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It's not as simple as that. Sunderland have scored more than QPR who are 12th. More than Stoke who are 8th. In fact Liverpool have only scored one goal more than Sunderland and there 7th. That would suggest the defence has a problem.

    They are certainly conceding, to say the defence is not part of the problem is way off mark

  • Comment number 57.

    @52 - I'd be surprised if wet patch even made it as a sub for either pub.
    I heard that there is a place on the bench for wet patch at the British Bulldog in Benidorm!

  • Comment number 58.

    And even at their ''best'', the likes of O'Shea and Brown were little more than pub standard plodders.

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Yawn

  • Comment number 59.

    @8 thug in midfield - Aha!

  • Comment number 60.

    @ redkentrent...

    perhaps a little harsh on KR but just trying to make the point that after years of winning trophies left right and centre, a relegation battle will seem a bit alien to wb and jos... i think richardson could have been a great player, but seemed to me like he, like bendtner, believed his own hype for such a long time.

    By the way is david vaughn injured, because he looks a really good player but didnt play yesterday! he'd make a difference in the middle

  • Comment number 61.

    #25

    MON always gets clubs punching above their weight, all his previous clubs like leicester, Celtic and Villa collapsed after he'd gone.
    ------------------

    Huh?

    Gordon Strachan steered Celtic to three consecutive championships after MON left and a place in the last 16 of the CL.

    Best to speak about what you know.

  • Comment number 62.

    @ 25
    umpteenth_time_user save 606

    Think you need to check your facts pal, the fans were not calling for O'Neills head at Villa, and I can't think of any who would of preferred to have brought in Houllier or McLeish over having O'Neill stay.

    It was the manner and timing of his departure that annoyed people, 5 days before the start of the new season, whoever came in had to deal with the fallout of that and our season was going to a write off before it had even begun eregardless of who was brought in to replace him. I'm sure O'Neill knew that he couldn't build on 3 6th places in a row what with all of the old top 4 plus Spurs and Citeh spending power and so rather than attempt to give it a go, walked to save his reputation.

    I'm sure he'll do a decent job at Sunderland but don't expect any major fireworks, his record in the transfer market is average at best, for every James Milner and Ashley Young he signed theres a Steve Sidwell and Habib Beye (gave him a 4 year contract of 40k a week!!) 7th-10th is about the best Sunderland can hope for, he'll set them up to be difficult to beat playing direct, counter-attacking football.

  • Comment number 63.

    52. At 11:25 5th Dec 2011, EazilyGrizly wrote:
    43

    Is that because you were an unused substitute?
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Merely an interested spectator.

  • Comment number 64.

    As a villa fan, one thing i can say is that MON brings a 'feel good' factor to the club, be it him jumping around on the touchline or enthusiastic press conferences. This is something that people forget, its not just about league positions, cup runs etc its about a general feeling around a club. At Villa we got to two cup finals and high up in the table during his time.

    The only danger is that he takes the mediocre up a level, but when it comes to moving onto the next level after that the clubs tend not to be able to match the expectation (money trouble).

    To Sunderland fans enjoy the ride, you'll do better, but with better performances comes higher expectations and the real question is does Ellis Short have the pipeline of cash to match the expectations.

  • Comment number 65.

    @LondonerInExile,

    It is as simple as that. The defense have proven they are good enough for a mid table team, which is what Sunderland are and always will be at best. Sunderland have scored less goals than all their relegation rivals and will not score enough with the current squad. Do they need a new back four? No. Do they need a new front two? Yes.

  • Comment number 66.

    Forlan is a class act, even when he was at Manchester United. He was also shamefully treated by the English football media and fans.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    is, being the prominent word. apart from a few memorable goals against our friends on the Mersey, he had more than his chance but didnt come good. But he went on to score goals for fun in Spain, and properly announce himself in last years world cup, and qualifying campaign.

  • Comment number 67.

    They are certainly conceding, to say the defence is not part of the problem is way off mark

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yesterday was another example of the defence failing to shut up shop, it's seemingly a big part of the problem. If the defence could keep clean sheets they'd be laughing as they always seem to score at least one.

  • Comment number 68.

    With regard to his record in the transfer market, I was always impressed by MON's foresight in investing in young English talent, understanding that the League would start restricting the number of foreign players for the sake of our national team - which is exactly what is happening. As a country, we seem poor at developing strikers which is not surprising when you see at close quarters how all the youth coaches are pre-occupied with physicality and ignore first touch, playing with your head up, being two-footed and able to go past defenders and finish.

  • Comment number 69.

    66. At 11:47 5th Dec 2011, The_Hacienda FAC51 wrote:

    and properly announce himself in last years world cup
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Why am I unsurprised at this typically arrogant English attitude? :rollseyes:

    If you think that Forlan only ''properly announced himself'' at last year's World Cup, then you should either switch off Sky Sports or forget about football and stick to Lawn Bowls.

    In fact, perhaps you should do both. :D

  • Comment number 70.

    If i was Steve Bruce i would be dissapointed in Alex Ferguson???.Selling Brown and Oshea to Sunderland really has been a disaster,both at best are Championship standard and Ferguson is not silly he must have known that these 2 were not the answer for Bruce. Being Bruce,s ex manager i would have thought Ferguson would have steered Bruce away from these 2.

  • Comment number 71.

    If you think that Forlan only ''properly announced himself'' at last year's World Cup, then you should either switch off Sky Sports or forget about football and stick to Lawn Bowls.

    In fact, perhaps you should do both. :D
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    well whatever, but he wasnt class when he was here, as simple as that. And how would I watch young Lionel and Diego play unless I had sky sports anyway? seems a bit of silly thing to say, but hey it is coming from you.

  • Comment number 72.

    43.At 11:14 5th Dec 2011, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    Can you leave your xenophobic opinions out of it. What is your problem with the English? Every time you come on here you embarrass yourself because you hatred of the English.

  • Comment number 73.

    71. At 11:53 5th Dec 2011, The_Hacienda FAC51 wrote:

    And how would I watch young Lionel and Diego play unless I had sky sports anyway?
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There are other ''alternative'' options to Sky Sports...

  • Comment number 74.

    I wonder if Liverpool fans would agree that signing Forlan and pairing him up front with Suarez would have been a better investment that AC?

  • Comment number 75.

    Points on the board are what count in the end but a good indicator of whether a team is in big trouble is goal difference.

    Sunderland's isn't too bad which suggests that when they win they win well and when they lose it's only by the odd goal.

    That would suggest that Bruce has been a bit unlucky rather than poor and that O'Neill will be able to turn things around with minor tweaks rather than radical change.

    Yesterday's game may have highlighted many things but if Larsson puts away the penalty, that's 3pts instead of none.

  • Comment number 76.

    Can you leave your xenophobic opinions out of it. What is your problem with the English? Every time you come on here you embarrass yourself because you hatred of the English.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    best thing is I'm not english, so hes really off the mark, but he just reads from a script just like a call center.

  • Comment number 77.

    .

    GET IN THERE, NEIL !!

    . . . Yep, the Sun will shine again in Underland, . . get it ??. . . oh, never mind !!

    I thought Steve was rather unceremoniously turfed out from the North East, but only to be expected as in Newcastle recently.

    You can't buy success, you can cultivate it and that must be given time for Manager and players to take root. . .and for heaven sake, stop off-loading your key players to balance the book; its a sure way to disaster !!

    Learn a lesson, take a good look at Man U and S'ralex. . good aren't they ??. . 25+ years and still no talk of separation, never mind a divorce !!

    further. . .

    Have you noticed T Woods has had his first win for donkeyears; what he should have said to S Williams is "Stick that right up your big W....A** ". . .but he's a decent chap !!

  • Comment number 78.

    72. At 11:59 5th Dec 2011, Patriotism is not racism wrote:
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    How is what I said remotely ''xenophobic''?

    I stated that Sunderland have a lot of sub-standard English players. True or false? :rollseyes:

  • Comment number 79.

    There are other ''alternative'' options to Sky Sports...
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    and those would be? Surely not watching illegal streams online? surely suchy a classy afficionado as yourself wouldnt stoop to such lengths.

  • Comment number 80.

    74. At 11:59 5th Dec 2011, redkentrent wrote:

    I wonder if Liverpool fans would agree that signing Forlan and pairing him up front with Suarez would have been a better investment that AC?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ''12 pints Cyril'', who plays up-front for ''The King's Arms'', would have been a better investment than Andy Carroll.

  • Comment number 81.

    This blogg was on Sunderland i thought, yet again it,s being turned into a blogg for soul patch to vent his views on europe, why do u keep answering him????

  • Comment number 82.

    79. At 12:01 5th Dec 2011, The_Hacienda FAC51 wrote:
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    I cannot offer any comment until I have seen my legal representatives.

  • Comment number 83.

    Anyone saying SUFC have got a terrible defence is talking tripe. Sitting at 17th with a goal difference -1 that is better than all teams up to stoke sitting 8th with -9.
    It's their goals scored that has been their downfall and rotten luck. The game v wigan typifies it. Bruce was correct to say that they have played well and have just been plain unlucky in certain games.

  • Comment number 84.

    @74 - The thing is we can afford all 3, Forlan doesn't fit the youth policy the owners now have though.

  • Comment number 85.

    #75 Whiteside of 606

    Yesterday's game may have highlighted many things but if Larsson puts away the penalty, that's 3pts instead of none.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Probably what Swansea thought as well.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/15319478.stm

  • Comment number 86.

    @ 82

    I think he just buys the spanish version of sky sports to watch it? Maybe he wasn't allowed sky sports and that's why he hates the company?

  • Comment number 87.

    #82 The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa

    79. At 12:01 5th Dec 2011, The_Hacienda FAC51 wrote:
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    I cannot offer any comment until I have seen my legal representatives.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    By 'legal representatives' I assume you mean 'carers'?

    You haven't been smearing things on the padded walls again have you?

  • Comment number 88.

    84. At 12:04 5th Dec 2011, Reinasbaldhead wrote:

    Forlan doesn't fit the youth policy the owners now have though.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Like 32-year-old ''youngsters'' Craig Bellamy and Doni?

  • Comment number 89.

    @44 Scott McDott - "His record bears no scrutiny he'll keep them up and then leave before he's found out, he is the most over rated manager I can think of."

    A little bit harsh, when you consider his track record as manager managing over 50% on average win rate for all the clubs he has managed. You may say the Celtic job was easy, but keeping up the expectations of the Celtic fans isnt easy. Again, the top 6 clubs overlook the British batch (minus Tottenham currently) and given O'Neill had a top 6 side, I'm sure he wouldn't be a wet fish. Maybe he didn't want to manage Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City? Or the offers didnt go his way. Unfortunately, any team outside the top 6 has a upper limit of attracting very good players, expenditure on finances and expectations. That's why there's a manager merry-go-round currently.

    Sunderland will be safe under O'Neill no doubt. If he can muster in a striker or two over the winter transfer window, then thats a guarentee. As already said, it's the long-term view thats worrying with the Tottenham job possibly appearing next year.

  • Comment number 90.

    Barca hammered levante 5-0 who are fourth in la liga, yet patches claims it's a competitive league!!

    Sunderland > levante

  • Comment number 91.

    @88 - I think you will find they were both free so the age then is irrelevant, but fair do's I should have added the word 'free' somewhere in it

  • Comment number 92.

    90

    Careful with that argument, remember the Man U v Man City score...

  • Comment number 93.

    #91 Reinasbaldhead

    I wouldn't worry. He doesn't point these things out to help the debate. He usually revels in attempted pedantry to make himself look clever.

    Sadly, for him, it fails.

  • Comment number 94.

    @90.At 12:11 5th Dec 2011, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    "Barca hammered levante 5-0 who are fourth in la liga, yet patches claims it's a competitive league!!"

    This season, Manchester City hammered Manchester United 6-1 who are second in the ELP, yet you claim it;s a competitive league!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    The task did not look to large to me, for long periods Sunderland looked the better team against Wolves. No surprise that the sharp end is the problem, Steve Bruce has lost his two most prolific strikers in Bent & Gyan. O'Neill might improve results, but will certainly not improve the level of football. Back to front quick manager is our Martin, his teams have been continually poor to watch. Can't believe how people are getting excited about what he did at Celtic, Rangers were in decline for a few years after having the wage bill cut dramatically. Not difficult to do well in what is effectively a two team league. As stated before, lots of Celtic fans were getting fed up with long ball tactics by the time O'Neill left. I like the people at Sunderland Niall has backed his managers who ever they were to the hilt, the fans keep watching despite limited success. Hope MON actually plays a bit of football for a change for a good set of fans.

  • Comment number 96.

    MON will get Sunderland up to about 7th in the ELP and keep them there. That is about the best you can hope to achieve at a club like that.

  • Comment number 97.

    @95 IBack to front quick manager is our Martin
    ----------------------------------------------------

    As a purist I sympathise, but it's all very well asking your defenders to play the ball out of defence if you have the likes of Pique or Phil Jones in your team. But if you don't, then I can see why you would rather play the game in your opponents' half rather than your own. Several teams have been caught out lately by having their defenders and defensive mids dispossed near their own goal e.g. Wes B vs Wigan, Mikel vs Man United.

  • Comment number 98.

    @ 94

    LOL true, but barca and real have goal differences of 40 & 39, citeh have 35.

    So while there's rugby scores in la liga, I wouldn't say city have been hammering every team they've played.

    Plus look at villareal, 4th last season, 15th this season. A pub league with 2 world class teams there. Even andy carroll would most likely be a 20 goal marksman in that woeful league.

  • Comment number 99.

    @80

    Sell Carroll for Torres?

    Funnily enough, I think Liverpool reclaiming Torres, and Carrol to Chelsea would be great for both clubs. But I'm just sitting on a chair anyway.

  • Comment number 100.

    This season, Manchester City hammered Manchester United 6-1 who are second in the ELP, yet you claim it;s a competitive league!!!

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yeah, I forgot City win the league every year. How uncompetitive it is.

 

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