Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Sunderland & Martin O'Neill - A Match Made in Heaven?

(originally written in December 2011)

Much to the deep disappointment of most Newcastle fans, ‘Agent’ Steve Bruce was shown the door at Sunderland last week.  In much as the same way ‘Agent’ Lawrie McMenenmy did back in the mid 80′s, they felt Bruce was taking Sunderland where they wanted them to go, down!

And that is slightly harsh.  Granted the form over the last few months of last season and the beginning of this wasn’t brilliant but having lost Darren Bent last January they were always going to have a fight on their hands to replace him.  They thought they already had at least one striker on the books who was more than capable, record signing Asamoah Gyan had proven a the recent world cup a good goalscorer.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it, the Ghanain departed after the window had closed preventing Bruce from bringing anyone else in.

So eventually his tenure ended and in fairly quick order, Martin O’Neill was named as the new boss.  Can he succeed where so many other big names have failed?

It’s worth saying I’m not a Sunderland fan but I can appreciate that their is massive potential for big things at the Stadium of Light.  They have the ground, in Ellis Short they have a fairly wealthy owner who has got the club on a fairly even footing financially and who is willing to back his manager with transfer funds.  They also have the support, while not selling out at home every week, the fanbase is definitely there.  You only have to look at their away following to realise that.

So can O’Neill bring success to Wearside?  The signs would appear good.  He has been linked with the post on a number of occassions over the last 5 years, his childhood support of the club became public knowledge in the North East some time ago and helped fuel these rumours.  If you look at his previous clubs he has had some moderate success with clubs in a similar or slightly worse position than Sunderland.  Leicester became Premier League mainstays and perenniel League Cup challengers, winning the trophy in 1997 and 2000.  His most recent job at Aston Villa saw them achieve back to back to back 6th place positions along with another League Cup Final appearance and a trip to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

His style of football isn’t for most but has proved to be effective.  Dogged defence, usually with a couple of big centre halves, coupled with hard working midfielders and a single target man, usually supplied with a direct ball.  And effective is probably what Sunderland need right now.

And he’s also got some decent players at the club. Kieran Westwood is a solid keeper, in John O’Shea and Wes Brown they have vastly experienced defenders and Sebastian Larsson is a quality midfielder.  So everything seems in place, all that is missing is that spark.  O’Neill might just be the catalyst.

But as I’ve said previously hindsight is a wonderful thing and only time will tell whether O’Neill can bring the success of Peter Reid back to the club or whether he will go the same way as Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy and Steve Bruce.  One thing is for certain, Newcastle fans will be unlikely to be calling him ‘Agent’ O’Neill.

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