The Robson Report: Martin O’Neill’s best man speech

There were a variety of views about just why the team’s performances and results this season have been less than satisfactory in our mini series MON One Year On. Whilst most of our contributors were still behind the manager, Jeremy Robson was not so sure. Now, after the interview on MOTD when his self belief was questioned, our manager has gone public, telling the world he is the only man for the job. Jeremy wonders just why he felt the need to express his opinion so forcefully.

Jeremy Robson

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 are continuing for the next couple of years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then.”

This is the direct quotation from the Sunderland Echo’s interview with Martin O’Neill. Sunderland supporters the world over must, like me, be wondering what to make of these comments.

The consensus appears to take the view that anything other than 3 points against fellow strugglers, Reading will cost him his job. However, Sunderland’s tenure in the Premier League is more important than the manager’s job and far more important than just a single game. There are no “6 pointers” at this stage of the season but that is not understating the significance of this game and the opportunity to manage a win.

There are two ways to interpret his comments. The first is that he has the stalwart support of Ellis Short, and has been told in no uncertain terms that his position is secure. The second explanation is that he is trying to convince himself that the corner will be turned.

The only man for the job?

The very idea that Ellis Short will have made any such assurances to his manager now seems completely absurd. No caveats? No “ifs or buts?” With the team in freefall that is really very difficult to take seriously. If this is the case, will Mr Short be telling Martin the same thing on Christmas Day if we are bottom?

Putting all of the above aside for just a moment, the most puzzling thing is the remark that “it might take us a few months to do that.” Do what exactly?

Does he mean get us relegated? Is he suggesting that we will languish in the bottom 3 ready for the drop until the end of the season, suddenly performing a miraculous escape in the final minutes of the last game of the season, and that we are going to have to simply endure the agonizing torment of another relegation roller coaster?

Relegation dogfights have two possible outcomes. At Sunderland, our dogfights tend to be lost rather than won.

There is a third explanation which is that Martin has just lost any sense of time and the consequences.

We cannot endure another couple of years of this, regardless of what he might be saying here. He seems convinced that he is the best man for the job, despite a string of results that my grandmother, God rest her soul, could have easily achieved with the same group of players. Twelve months ago most of us thought that he was the best man for the job, but how times can change in football.

It doesn’t really matter what I think, or indeed what Martin thinks and he should be in a position to be the better judge. It’s what Ellis Short thinks that is really important. Surely he must have spoken to Niall Quinn about our plight but whether he has or not we may well find out what Ellis is thinking sooner than later.

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10 thoughts on “The Robson Report: Martin O’Neill’s best man speech”

  1. Let’s bee honest this time last year we all believed he was the right man, he actually created miracles, we sold Richardson aand got Rose, let Bendtner go and bought Fletcher, Cuellar has come in for Turner. Should we be better? Yes but only slightly. We have lost Cattermole which is a loss but all in all we havn’t ad much luck, we lost to Everton away when we should have won were luckless against WBA and Norwich and 3-1 flattered Chelsea. We have a very hard run now and we have played most of the bottom teams at home. We need a creative midfielder, lets hope for Bentley, Ireland or maybe even Joe Cole then we will be fine, but let us not get despondant he is the only man for te job

  2. Rose was excellent yes, and I thought young Colback had a much better game tonight. Our ball retention is still poor though. Welcome win. Keep it up lads 🙂

  3. “the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job. ”
    I have wavered so much in the last few weeks, but I think MON is correct in his statement – particularly the ‘only man’ bit because I have no idea who else would come in who has the experience and presence to turn an adrift tanker round in time.
    Usually, after this amount of games without wins (this is by no means an unusual experience for us) our performances were shocking but aspects of the the last two performances v Norwich and Chelsea were very promising. However, I am sure that we were once described by that fateful phrase – ‘too good to go down’.
    I am scribbling this before the latest in a line of ‘must win’ games, this time Reading. Things may well change one way or another tonight. Whatever the outcome, we should support the Lads and O’Neill.
    Had we not performed our typical headline grabbing trick of having an August game postponed (beach ball etc), I believe we would have beaten Reading, maintained confidence, given Johnson & Fletcher more time to bed in and moved on from there. That postponement couldn’t have come at a worse time.
    Hopefully we will survive – is a successful battle against relegation more exciting than sustaining middle of the table safety? – but we need a larger core of Premiership players instead of Championship players trying their best.
    My glass remains half full.

  4. Yes, it’s a stark contrast to the “coz I’m a Geordie fat bloke who played for Man Utd”, or because he looks like Bernard Cribbins etc.

    Bruce seemed to be looking for an excuse to get sacked.That’s most definitely not the case with MON. The problem with Ji though Bill, while I agree with you, is that he hasn’t been doing it even in the stiffs apparently. That may be because the lad is disillusioned with his current surroundings etc more than anything else.

  5. True enough. It would be very nice to see Ellis Short loosen the purse-strings a bit next month. I’d also like to see MON give Ji 15 minutes on the field at the end of a game to see if he can pull off another of his last-minute goals.
    But I’m glad that he’s still talking like a manager. I’d far rather have him saying he’s the only man for the job than be like Bruce — all negative body-language and outbursts blaming anyone with reach, including the fans. At least O’Neill still sounds like the boss, as I’m sure he does in the dressing room.

  6. Goldy & Bill. To some extent my views on the current situation have cooled since the weekend and when I was writing this piece. The more I think about this whole situation and MON’s comments the more I think that you lads are right and maybe I’m wrong.

    I wonder if the squad is actually a lot weaker than we realised, and perhaps weaker than MON realised. I’m not sure that anyone could come in now and like he says, really change this all around. Our current predicament is probably testament to just how bad Steve Bruce was for our club.

    The second point is that over the last two summers we saw Larsson, Vaughan and Westwood (2011) arrive on free transfers and this summer and beyond, Saha, Cuellar and McFadden. Six Bosmans is a lot for one club in the PL. I don’t think anyone else has taken as many in the same period. Some Bosmans offer good value and others less so. This raises the question of whether O’Neill is operating under a tight budget and the reality is that there wasn’t the money and won’t be the money made available to put things right in the short to even mediium term. No doubt people will point to Johnson and Fletcher as big money signings and that’s correct but that is only two players out of a 25+ squad. Two big money additions to a team that has been floundering on and off more or less since March 2011 if not before that even.

    On current form the only players who have been getting a regular game who are worthy of the shirt make up a very short list. Mignolet, Rose who belongs to somebody else, Cattermole who is missing for months now, and Fletcher. Jury is out on Wickham still but we can hope he gets his chance. The rest of them frankly aren’t worth ten bob. He has a big job on his hands, and continues tonight.

  7. “Relegation dogfights have two possible outcomes. At Sunderland, our dogfights tend to be lost rather than won…”
    Which would seem, surely, to indicate an endemic problem that can’t altogether be laid on the shoulders of a succession of managers.
    Without wishing to jinx tonight’s result, beating Reading would put us just one point adrift of NUFC. They’re having their problems, too. But there don’t seem to be any cries for Alan Pardew’s head to be stuck on a pole outside St. Moneylender’s Park. In fact, an Evening Chronicle poll at the weekend indicated 95% of the fans are behind him.
    God knows, if I wanted to be a Barcode I’d go sit on a supermarket shelf. But maybe a little more of that attitude wouldn’t hurt us.

  8. He gets prompted to respond as such, remember. Press are saying to him ‘Shearer reckons you will be sacked if you lose, are you still right man for job?’. Bound to get a little defensive I reckon.

    Nice to see you writing again anyway, Jeremy. As I’m so pro O’Neill, we can be the devil and angel balanced on each shoulder of Salut.

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