O’Neill Keeping Things Simple In Sunderland Revivial
We had to hit the lowest of lows for O’Neill to come in.
February 17th, 2012
As anyone with a pair of eyes has been able to see, Sunderland’s season has been somewhat Jekyll and Hyde.
The fourteen games in the dying embers of the Steve Bruce era at the start of the season were atypical of his performance over the last two years. Massive lows such as the home Wear-Tyne Derby defeat to Newcastle United, interspersed with brief joys such as a commendable draw at Anfield and a 4-0 thumping of Stoke City, before coming crashing back down to earth with a humiliating defeat at home to Wigan Athletic.
The way in which Bruce was ousted came under some fire from the mainstream media, mainly those who were chummy with our now deposed manager. Perhaps some of it crossed the line, but in drastic times, drastic measures were required. I don’t feel bad for one word which was uttered. Those who were quick to deride the Wearside faithful hadn’t sat through a calendar year which saw only three home wins.
Bruce was quick to blame anyone and everyone for defeat, and no problem was ever his own, clinging desperately to the fact he took the club to tenth position once and we should be falling at his feet for doing so.
Not only that but there was a clear failure to address needs such as the left-back position, and of course the most damning failure of all, the inability to keep big names at the club such as Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan.
Enter Martin O’Neill. The man we’ve wanted at the club every year since Peter Reid left the club. It’s never been quite the right time for O’Neill to come to his boyhood club, but finally it has happened, and we on Wearside couldn’t be more delighted.
The boyhood fandom is all well and good, and something which is played upon by many perhaps more than is necessary, and it’s not even that which has particularly won us over. It’s the complete rejuvenation of a talented but lifeless squad.
Bruce must be credited with bringing in some top players. Stephane Sessegnon, Sebastian Larsson and Wes Brown spring to mind immediately, but all seemed to be somewhat disillusioned with life under Bruce. There wasn’t the zip or fire which is visible for all to see now.
Its testament to just what a great manager we have in place now that O’Neill is achieving such success with almost the exact same playing squad Bruce had to work with, and saw staving off relegation as a ‘win’ for us.
How has he managed to do it? It’s quite simple… No really, that’s it. O’Neill has came in and immediately been able to identify who is good at what and get them to play that role and that role only. Lee Cattermole is no longer the ‘dirty’ player he once was, breaking up play now rather than people’s legs. James McClean, signed by Bruce but never given a sniff of the first team has shined, Sessegnon as a striker rather than winger has been equally revelatory.
It’s been a case of back to basics stuff at the Stadium of Light, and whilst the wins have racked up, a feel-good factor has most certainly returned. No longer are we scared of other teams, we know we have a man with the tactical nous to break down any side.
We’ve all starting to believe in this club once again.
Perhaps the only wondering among us all is if only we’d got rid of Bruce earlier, how would things have panned out? I believe it happened for a reason. We had to hit the lowest of lows for O’Neill to come in.
Bruce built a decent side, on paper more than capable of leading Sunderland to the promised land of the top ten and perhaps even Europe, but O’Neill is the one who might just actually do it.
Words by Simon Walsh