Adieu Martin O’Neill: Celtic and Villa star, Sunderland failure

Thanks Jake!
Thanks Jake!

First the official Sunderland AFC statement: ‘The club has parted company with manager Martin O’Neill.
Sunderland AFC has announced that it has parted company with manager Martin O’Neill this evening. The club would like to place on record its thanks to Martin and wishes him well for the future. An announcement will be made in the coming days regarding a successor.’

And now, quickly rattled off for ESPN – the link, once it appears there, will be – and repeated here with its permission, these are Monsieur Salut’s first thoughts on the Martin O’Neill dismissal ….

The decision is right. The timing seems crass.

No one would have been surprised to see Martin O’Neill sacked by Sunderland in a close season that can hardly come quickly enough. Whether the club stays up by the skin of the teeth or, as currently seems more likely, falls victim to yet another relegation, the dream has gone bad.

O’Neill’s record as manager of the club he supported from Northern Ireland as a boy has been lamentable, save for that early, electrifying burst that more or less stopped last season descending into the sort of mess faced now.

Luckily, the mini-revival his appointment at the start of December 2011 inspired brought a decent enough haul of points to stop the subsequent slump proving fatal. But this season has been no better, despite the expensive signings of Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson, and any manager who fails to record more than one victory of any kind in the first three months of the year knows he may be living, professionally, on borrowed time.

But for Ellis Short, the owner, to make the decision at this critical point of a woeful season, rather than waiting in hope of survival and taking the necessary action then, surely means one of two things. He has someone in mind as a speedy replacement who possesses the powers of a magician. Or he is resigned to relegation being such a strong possibility that the interests of stability in such perilous times appear to him to count for nothing.

The statement refers to an an announcement on O’Neill’s successor being made in the “coming days”. In other words, someone is indeed lined up.

My own deeply held fear is that with just seven games left, the disruption caused by such a dramatic turn of events could rebound on the club or, put more neutrally, serve no beneficial effect. I hope against hope that I am wrong and will happily eat my words if Short’s judgement turns out to be spot on.

Jake: 'is that the parting wave?'
Jake: ‘is that the parting wave?’

As for O’Neill himself, I can feel little sympathy. Football, we can safely assume, has given him a splendid living. To a large degree, he has repaid the fabulous rewards available at the top of the game in his previous managerial stints, notably those at Aston Villa, Celtic and Leicester City.

To Sunderland he brought great promise and was welcomed by the vast majority of supporters with open, almost adoring arms. This was the man many of us had wanted to lead the club for a decade or more. Finally he was ours.

And when Seb Larsson’s last-second free kick secured three crucial points in O’Neill’s first game in charge, all the misery into which the club has sunk in the latter stages of the Steve Brice reign was swept away. Good results followed at QPR, at Wigan, at home to Manchester City and in other games. Safety was soon, if not ensured, made probable.

Sixteen months on, relegation poses a real and imminent threat. I said recently that the excuse that this was not really O’Neill’s team had worn thin. Beyond Fletcher and Johnson, there were also Carlos Cuellar, Alfred N’Diaye and Danny Graham. And yet far from making progress, or even showing signs of doing so, the team had gone into reverse gear, dull to watch, bereft of imagination and lacking the least sign of punch.

For all that, my preference for continuity over the big bang persuaded me that we had no proper choice but to see out the season with O’Neill in the hope that, among those remaining few games, there are surely two or three from which the necessary points can be gained.

Short saw it differently. He has evidently taken a gamble on a hunch that whatever follows O’Neill can hardly be worse. The extent of that gamble is that whichever magician or motivator arrives in the Ulsterman’s stead must now work with the same bunch of players who have failed so wretchedly until this disturbingly late point of the season.

35 thoughts on “Adieu Martin O’Neill: Celtic and Villa star, Sunderland failure”

  1. With attitudes like that, you may have to put up with women – and managers – of the simian variety

  2. I’d just like to thank Steve Walford (is he still at the club ?) for his contribution over the last twelve months. His superb coaching skills on the training field have been clearly evident in every match. Thanks Steve. Great value for money.

  3. Hull City fan in peace:

    Not surprised at the decision, but the timing is madness. MON is one of those managers who simply think about it too much; he bores the kegs off me when he does his high-brow punditry and I guess he has the same effect on his team. Your squad could and should have been better, but it is still not a relegation squad. I hope you go for Gus Poyet (or his ilk) who will get the team playing to their strengths. The relegation battle will now be very hard-fought, but I think you will stay up; teams like Fulham can do you favours, but you have to have self-belief. We played dire yesterday and won 1-0, you played better than that and lost 0-1; life’s a bitch. Good luck for the rest of the season.

  4. I always knew this would happen. Such an unbelievably overrated manager. If you’d looked closely at what he did at Villa you wouldn’t have touched him with a barge pole. Wasted a fortune on mainly awful signings. Big mistake us not sacking him in 2009. First of many mistakes by our owner that brought us to where we are now. As it stands one of us might just escape the drop. Good luck Black Cats, another great club that shouldn’t be in this positon.
    RIP O’Neill myth (as propagated by the pundits and media).

  5. I like my managers how I like my women. Young, vibrant and hot. Unfortunately at my age I can only get old, disinterested and past their sell by date. So will it be the young and vibrant Gus Poyet or Steve McLaren?

    • I am sure that McLaren and Hughes are both excellent coaches but both are very

      uninspiring.Like you I am hoping for someone young and vibrant like Poyet or Ole Gunnar Solskaer.

      What concerns me though is who is advising the owner on football matters

  6. For your sakes I hope your next manager does not have the same problems as we at Villa had. MoN’s training methods at Villa was to kick the ball about a few hours a day a few days a week, check our results, we never won games at the end of the season.
    When GH came in and implemented his training methods there was uproar, half the team couldn’t be bothered and even a team bonding session ended in a drunken brawl, all documented so not BS. It was only buying Bent from you guys that saved us that season

    If all this sounds bitter believe me it is, but not towards Sunderland FC but the myth that is MON.

  7. As someone has pointed out we attempt counter-attacking football but with no pace ,thus being condemned to failure.Disappointed yet an awful inevitability about the whole situation.

    • When do we attempt counter attacking football? There is no movement off the ball – no-one seems to want it and when we do have it there are no options. Yesterday when Bardsley went to take a throw in every player within range had his back to him and was walking away. Sums us up.

      Also have you noticed that during the warm up (and subs at half time) they play a short passing game in a two metre square. Maybe it’s just me but might that not have something to do with the fact that our off the ball movement has been so dire and we either play short passes or hoof it long and aimlessly.

      I have said all season that I don’t see the problem as being with the players but with coaching methods and style of play. I hate to say it but it looks as if all those Villa fans and Gooners who came on here earlier in the season have been proved right.

  8. Like Brian Cohen, MON wasn’t the Messiah, but he wasn’t a very naughty boy either, more like a manager out of his time and out of luck.

    MON may be gone but we are still left with the current squad of gross/dross underachievers (one or two exempted) to try to salvage survival from this dire season. I only hope to god that Mr Short has already identified his replacement, either temporary or permanent and it is not any of the names currently being mentioned by the press.

    We wait with baited breath for the next instalment of this increasingly sorry soap opera and when his replacement is announced we can claim him as the next Messiah, and I should know I’ve followed a few!

      • He’s the main character and lead role in Franco Zafferellis ‘Jeasus of Nazereth….or did I just make that up and he’s actually a fictional contemporary of Jesus Christ who gets mistaken for the real saviour in series of humorous situations including insulting the Roman Empire, intergalatic planetary warfare and an amorous dalliance with a welsh tart……however I digress, he ends up being crucified which as Sunderland fans we all know what that feels like, right…in Monty Pythons Life of Brian, guaranteed to break the ice at boring parties or in our case bring gallows humour to a dire relegation battle.

  9. It had to be done for me or we were down, the fans and players had given up. My one hope now is that its not Steve McLaren, the ‘football’ we currently play would just continue under the Dutch coach. Di Matteo is viable and can provide a lift to just about keep us up. Nothing wrong with the timing either, was convinced O’Neill was going to walk after the mags or Everton games.

  10. Well it had to come ,we are certain relegation fodder,should have been done weeks ago.Sorry it ended this way it should have been a dream ticket.He tried his best and failed but the club lives on.

    Please God not McClaren.

  11. Too little, too late? We shall see but to continue on blindly was not an option, Man Utd were woeful yesterday and any sort of committed effort would have reaped reward, yet we tamely went about our business. As for a successor we need idea’s, there is a reason there are very few British managers, look ar Southampto bring in Di Cannio at least he will try something different. MON failure was due to his predictability he couldn’t change things when his plan didn’t work, never a genius substitution. Sorry Martin we all wanted you to succeed it just wasn’t to be, retire and relax

    • I agree about Man U , Keith. They were there for the taking. We would not have scored if we had played till Christmas. O’Neill had to go. He had clearly lost the dressing room.

      I would bring in Peter Reid until the end of the season. He just might fire people up enough to secure safety. Long term is anyone’s guess. However not Di Canio please. He is a basket case, and in my opinion would very swiftly fall out with Board.

      David Moyes would be brilliant, but no chance I fear.

  12. Would like to see David O’Leary or Roy Keane installed as the new manager. Sunderland deserve a winner.

  13. Hughes , absolutely NOT….Please!!!. Mclaren, NO, and the rest of the names such as Di Canio, NO. The only one that might (and theres a slim chance of it) do an escape act for us is Di Matteo, and he is untested with non-stellar squads such as ours.

    Mind you, having said that, if MON had remained in charge I predict we would have definitely gone down.
    MONs players have let him down. They have underperformed badly.

    Where I think MON went wrong though, is being a bit defensive and simply not getting enough players in the box.
    Time and time again I watched every Sunderland match and see one forward in the opponents box surrounded by 5 players. No wonder we’re not scoring goals.
    We’ve got to get players breaking quickly into the box and getting back quickly in numbers too.

    That tactic is going to be exhausting. But, I tell you this for nothing, if I was getting paid £35,000 a week, I’d be giving 1000% and getting stretchered off at the end of the game. Heck, if I was good enought I’d wear the red and white shirt for nothing and still put the shift in.

  14. And the favourites are: McClean or Hughes. As a wise man once said, ‘Be careful what you wish for…’
    So, where do we go from here? If someone is lined up it must be a manager who is currently unemployed, given the lack of media speculation which inevitably comes with official approaches. That gives us the fantastic list of: DiMatteo (rubbish at WBA and allowed the players to run the team at Chelsea); Hughes (Please God, no); Di Canio (unproven); McDermott (see Hughes).
    This decision smacks of desperation rather than careful planning, not a particularly inspiring thought.

  15. Obviously results have a lot to do with this decision and the loss of income that will be the outcome of relegation, but I also wonder how many forms have been returned by supporters asking the club not to renew their season cards and if this may have just tipped the scales.

  16. The really worrying news is that the “Wally with the Brolly” – Steve McClaren is all set to be installed on Monday – according to most bookmakers it is a done deal – God help us ‘cos McClaren won’t!!!

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