Manchester United Soapbox: O’Neill gone but where do we go from here?

Thanks Jake!
Thanks Jake!


Pete Sixsmith
asks the question, but the answer is anyone’s guess on this bleak day for Sunderland supporters ..



This seems
to be something we ask from time to time, usually as we sleepwalk into a relegation position. Now, instead of looking at tweaking the team and making the odd change in a desperate attempt to bag the nine points we need to stay up, we are thinking about a new manager.

There’s not much to say about the United game. We didn’t play badly, we weren’t hammered and I baled out at half time. I had a far better option at Shildon, where there was an FA Vase semi final to watch.

The 45 minutes I did sit through did nothing to persuade me that we could win another game this season. No movement, no creativity and little real passion, as United strolled through as easy a game as they have had all season.

I listened to Barnes and Bennett on the way home and it sounded as if things were a bit better in the second half, but at no time did David De Gea’s goal appear to be under siege. In fact, our forwards were as effective at besieging his goal as those led by Graham Chapman as his knights searched for the Holy Grail.

The game at Shildon was the exact opposite of those that I have watched this season involving Sunderland. It was engrossing, exciting and entertaining, it had an unwanted twist in the tail and it was involved players who seemed to believe in what they were doing.

Needing to overturn a 2 goal deficit from the first leg, the Railwaymen were 3 up early in the second half and the trains and hotels for a jolly weekend in London were being booked. Then Tunbridge Wells got one back, took it to extra time and grabbed a second four minutes from the end to bring the Wembley dream to an end.

A few hours later, a text from John Penman told me that the dream we had harboured of success under Martin O’Neill was also at an end. Texts were sent, phone calls were made and received and web sites were consulted. Pete Horan said that this was the worst footballing day of his life while others on Salut and elsewhere wondered about the timing and the sanity of the decision.

I watched a few minutes of Match of the Day, marvelled at how well Alan Shearer reads the script that has been written for him but found myself agreeing with the writer as he made it crystal clear to all and sundry that here was a team with as much movement and flexibility as a copse of trees. When Hansen said we looked a relegation team, it was very difficult to even raise a tiny snort of derision.

So, the O’Neill period comes to an end. Too short to be an era and a little longer than a hiatus, it started with such promise and ended with the worst team I have seen at the Stadium of Lights and not far off being the worst one I have ever seen in a Sunderland shirt.

Why? My idea of him being too old to manage at this level was shot down in October. I still believe that has a lot to do with it. Maybe he missed John Robertson, but whatever the reason, as a manager, he stands or falls by his results and for twelve months the results and the performances have been awful.

Anybody who sat through the mind numbing goalless draws against Wolves, QPR and Swansea and witnessed the humiliating Cup defeats to Middlesbrough and Bolton would have realised that the ideas and tactics that had proved successful at Leicester, Celtic and Villa, were no longer relevant in a game that relies on quick passing and quick thinking.

Given money to spend in January it was wasted on N’Diaye and Graham, both decent players, but neither likely to add anything to a team struggling for creativity and goalscorers. Those purchases may have convinced the owner that he needed a change.

The timing isn’t perfect, but fans rather than pundits know that this team was heading for the Football League weeks ago. We have 7 games left and need three wins to stay up. In 1996 we sacked a dyed in the wool Sunderland fan in Mick Buxton as we plunged towards Division Two. He was replaced by an out of work Peter Reid who came in and saved the club from what would have been a terminal relegation. Bob Murray took a gamble then and Ellis Short is taking one now. Gambles, when they come off, leave one feeling exhilarated and excited – things that have been in short supply at Sunderland for the last twelve months.

Gamblers live their lives on the edge of a knife. Short is an astute businessman who has made money by careful research and plotting rather than gambling. Welcome to the casino, Ellis.

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47 thoughts on “Manchester United Soapbox: O’Neill gone but where do <em>we</em> go from here?”

  1. Just posted this reply to a mate’s email entitled ‘Madness’

    Madness is the right word. I was very surprised on Sat evening, mostly by the timing, things haven’t been right for a long time. I know it’s a cliche but ‘lost the dressing room’ seems appropriate, especially since motivation was supposed to be his strong suit. The team weren’t playing for him, or at all really. Think he’d lost touch with the modern game, missed Robertson as his right hand man. I don’t go along with the squad not being up to the task, think there is quality there but players need good management to get the best out of them.

    As for Di Canio…………..I’m really concerned. At first I thought okay he had success at Swindon, younger and more in touch with the modern game, even though he’s a loose cannon. He’d kick a few backsides that need kicking. A gamble for sure ‘tho. BUT I’d forgotten/didn’t know about his fascist beliefs. I do remember the fascist salute in Italy but didn’t know the ‘I’m a fascist but not a racist’ bit. I’m gonna check it out more, see if he’s seriously a fascist. If he is I’ll have to think long and hard as to whether I can continue to follow the team. Probably not, hard ‘tho it would be.

    Further it might really set us on the road to decline ala Blackburn and others if we go down. I know Miliband’s resigned. Can see a lot of possible controvery ahead, none of it good.

    The above was the email. I’m now going to check out the links above re Di Canio’s politics but if he really is a fascist I just can’t support a team with him in charge. Politics informs every area of life for me.
    I’m

  2. Yip agree politics should be left out of this.If it makes your conscience feel better then don’t go by all means…but who is that hurting exactly?

    From the Sun today Matt Ritchie,who sale by Swindon led to Di Canio resigning says he does not suffer fools gladly .I reckon he will be like Roy Keane on steroids.Not sure if it will work with our lot of precious premier tenderhearts….but I will at least feel he will give them the boot up the derriere I have wanted to apply most of this season.

  3. Excellent posts all round . Personally I couldn’t care a hoot about a person’s political leanings – what on earth has that got to do with his football ability ?
    If you want to say – that’s it I’m fed up with this dross being served up week in week out and i’m finished watching sunderland – then fair enough – be big enough to say that’s the reason (and mainly MON’s fault ) But please dont say you are going to stop watching because of some newspaper article which may or may not be correct .
    Give the guy a chance , we were doomed under MON – we may still be doomed – but at least we should have a fighting chance now .
    As for Milliband – now there lies a true, self indulgent , self promoting political animal

  4. After 12 hours to think it over, and being particularly influenced by Bill’s post of the Indy article + a post from a Swindon fan – I am sort of starting to look forward to the upcoming rollercoaster ride. At least there may be some significant ups as well as downs, unlike the repeated downs of recent weeks and months.
    Is he really as ‘right wing’ as is suggested? Do we know anything about the politics of other managers & players apart from Fergie’s admirable left wing views? Do we care?
    If he does beat the Mags and celebrates in the way he has done in the past with Swindon, no-one will care what his political views are (and I don’t actually know what they are because I have never met him and listened to him).
    Fully endorse Phil’s last post.

      • As I have as well.

        Politics has no place in football or any where else for that matter. If you need an operation do you check the political leanings of the surgeon, his sexual orientation or religion, nope. You put trust in his professional ability to do the job properly.

        Will the surgeons political, sexual or religious leanings make a difftrenece to his skill or the outcome of the procedure, nope.

        The old addage of not discussing religion or politics with friends rings true here, and if they are not friends then you should not pre-judge.

        I went on record earlier that I didn’t want Di Canio, not because of his politics but because he is such a loose cannon and therefore a gamble. However I have since had the realisation that in our current position gambling is all we have left. I also said that Mr Short would make his own mind up without prevailing wisdom (that got us Kean, Bruce and MON who all failed unfortunately) and that may be a new approach was neede…well we have certaily got that and for the next seven games the Club will have my unqualified support for this underachieving bunch of supposed professionals.

  5. I was never in favour of the Milliband appointment, not because of the man, but there is no place for politics in sport. Milliband has stepped down because of Di Canio, does everyone have to agree with his political ideals? Short is a capitalist I doubt if he holds left wing ideals but what does it matter, McClean is a Republican sympothiser, does it matter. These views are not illegal. Di Canio is what he is, he has broken no laws and is entitled to his views what ever they are. He doesn’t seem like a political animal. Milliband is and believes he has the moral high ground, this from a man whose party openly negotiated and conducted business with Gadaffi. Let’s not judge a law abbidding man on what we believe are strange principals. Tom Cowie was atory peer did anyone protest at him owning the club. Milliband is not being honest he has stepped down as South Shields MP and is now pulling this stunt for publicity. Living in Africa I hate extreme right wing views but defend a man’s right to hold them peaceably.

  6. That should have read LMA League 2 manager of the season 2012.

    Something else I’ve come across, that I found interesting, is this extract from his BBC blog.

    “I’ve already proven my ability in League Two and League One, where there are many arrogant and average players,”

    “I was able to turn their mentality and help them become better footballers. The club needs to have set rules, which are discipline, desire, passion, work ethic and a determination to get the right results to make everybody happy, namely the board, the fans and the club’s players and staff. ”

    Those words seem to, accurately, reflect the feelings of our supporters in relation to the current squad and also what they feel has been missing from our performances!

  7. My view is that in future years the appointment will be seen as a stroke of genius or an unmitigated disaster.

    I cannot, for the life of me, see as being anything other that an open and shut case, one way or the other.

    The one thing I do not think anyone will be able to say was that “It was boring”!

    Leaving aside his politics (as I think we should, especially having read the Independent article with an open mind – thanks for that Bill) then it has to come down to one basic question “How good a manager is he?” and I think, in that regard, he appears to be far from being a dummy!

    He was in charge of Swindon for 95 games during which his record was as follows:

    Won 53, Drew 19, Lost 23, Goals for 155, Against 76.

    Win % 56.84% – Alex Ferguson’s is 58.14%

    In addition, he was the LMA manager of the season in 2012 and took Swindon to a Wembley Cup Final.

    Club employees, whether they be Managers, players etc will come and go and IMHO anyone who allows a personal dislike of an individual to come before their love of the club needs to take a long, hard look at themselves!

    • Sorry, so you did. for me i’m interested in his running.of a team rather than his political views and his love of this country is a huge positive. Its a brave move alright and here’s to him winning you and others over. Shame about milliband though.

  8. I just heard Di Canio is now our new manager.
    I hope I am wrong but this has the makings of a pigs-breakfast of a disaster.

    1) He has not got the experience at this level to get us out of the mire
    2) At some point, whether it be 2 months or 1 year, he is going to lose the dressing room because he is so volatile

    The best scenario for me is this: we scrape home and stay up. And then sometime next season we rid ourselves of PDC and get a top manager.

  9. Alan, unsurprisingly a glib comment. You just don’t get it. Sad really. Tribalism masking inadequacy. Feel free to think before you traduce life long supporters

  10. I think I have just heard that Miliband has stood down on hearing of Di Canios appointment. Says it all really. I think I would rather be a sound and caring community focussed Championship club rather than a barely surviving team who are a bit short on morals – that is assuming that we do survive.
    We are a club with a strong ethos and a culture. Losing that would be a greater tragedy than losing our Premiership place. At least it is possible to regain a Premiership spot quite quickly but a culture rebuild would take years.
    If we lose our next two fixtures – especially the second one, the stuff will really hit the fan. If we win them – relief heavily tinged with concern at a loss of moral purpose.
    Not sure which I would prefer.

    • Alan, I really think you need to engage your brain before you come on to this site. Your posts resemble the rantings of a madman, your spelling and grammar (or lack of it) does you no credit whatsoever, and as for suggesting that Neil should go to watch the Mags after 45 years loyalty to Sunderland shows a total lack of respect for your fellow fans. Grow up.

  11. Alan, I accept your proposal. Been going to SAFC games for 45 years. Never been ashamed of my club. I am now. We treat an honourable man in a shabby way and promote a fascistic peacock. You label me a hypocrite ( note the spelling) …. Accusations often say more about the accuser than the accused. I have a huge amount of respect for this site and the opinions of those who contribute….unlike you. Hence I will not retort with school yard name calling. What I will do is honour my father (royal Marine Commando) and grandfather (DLI) both of whom fought in WWII against fascists. Hence I will not see one minute of SAFC with this vile man at the helm.

    • Neil how did we treat MON in a shabby way, he was given funds and allowed to pick his own staff unfortunatetly he did not give return on investment, this is what is expected for the huge personal wealth which is accumulated from the Club. O’Neils record at Sunderland is poorer than Bruce’s but no one defended him:. MON was on the way to relegation and would been relieved of his duty at the end of the season. Di Canio maybe the right man who knows but we needed a change of that it is difficult to argue

  12. BONKERS……this is going to be a roller coaster……and not a nice one I feel.

    That said he may just give them a kick enough to save us this season….its like electric shock therapy…lets hope it doesn’t give them heart attacks.

  13. Told you 1st PDC gets the job on two and half year contract to all the losers that don’t back him and the team piss off and don’t come back coz you lot are hipocrits …

  14. I just saw the Sheilds Gazette with a picture of P.Di Canio at Sunderlands Traning Ground.
    Please, let this NOT be true. I can’t think of a WORSE choice. I’d rather have Mclaren than him. He has NO prem experience as a manager, is volatile and just simply the WRONG person for the job.

    When I first saw his name mooted, I thought, “you’ve got to be kidding me!”
    Di Canio is an absoulte no-no for me, Who is advising Short? My word…. I just can’t believe it!!!!!

    • Wouldn’t appointing someone like McLaren just be a continuation of everything we’ve ever done? Surprised at some of the responses on here, folk need to give the guy a chance, starting by reading the independent article titled ‘my life speaks for itself’. Sorry I don’t have the link i’m on my phone

  15. Agreed, ifos. Obviously, I say this from a distance that precludes my attending games anyway but, while Sunderland will always be my team, I won’t actively support them during his tenure. I’ll confine myself to reading their results, wishing them well and wishing Di Canio away.

  16. Several concerns about the above posts and DiCanio’s appointment. The players do indeed need to take a look at themselves; in a time when football is about speed of thought we have a team of plodders – the majority bought by Bruce – who were unable to produce decent football over a prolonged period. MON had them playing above themselves at the start of his time, and his biggest mistake was not offloading even more of them. Why were O’Shea and Gardner suddenly charging around like men possessed, challenging the referee over decisions and actually working hard against Man U when they have been turgid for weeks? Conclusion – they have been cheating the manager and the supporters, them and most of the squad.
    As for DiCanio I will struggle to continue to go to the SOL under a manager who idolises Mussolini, admits he is a fascist and has been part of one of the most violent and unpleasant groups in football (albeit in his youth). I hope his first press conference includes a statement distancing himself from these views; if not I won’t go to a match until he’s gone, regardless of any on the field success he may have. And it kills me to say it.

  17. Good post John and a true reflection of what has happened at safc this season a lot of those overrated players on overrated wages should be disgusted at the way they have performed for MON and the fans and the club take a long hard luck in the Mirrow at yourselves ..

  18. Pete sums up not only our feelings about the recent performances but the turgid dross we have suffered for most of this season.

    Yesterday was the usual predictable, stale and uninspiring dross that has become the norm for us in our spiral towards the trapdoor.The sad reality is that Man U didn’t even have to get out of second gear to comfortably get the win and we had the usual assortment of woeful individual perfprmances.

    Ellis Short is a very astute man and I am sure his decision to sack MON was not taken lightly. He is aware that on current form and performance we are heading down and has done what he believes gives us the best chance of survival.The proof of the pudding will be in the eating for this one.

    I was hopeful that MON would be a success when he was appointed. Everything appeared to be in place for the dream ticket and the initial results gave us hope that we could maybe reach the promised land of the top 6 was within our reach. Sadly during the tail end of last season and virtually the whole of this season it has become obvious that something was not quite right. MON’s purchases in the transfer market have been disappointing, apart from Fletcher.

    So it looks like Di Canio according to all the reports.Might be a stroke of inspiration appointing a true maverick manager or a misguided moment by giving the job to an unpredictable man with no top league experience.

    Whatever becomes of it we were heading down under MON and I can only hope that this appointment will give the club the ‘bounce’ that will render enough points for safety.

    Finally a word for the players, some of whom really need to take a long hard look at themselves in the wake of their boss’s sacking.A holiday in Dubai and a helicopter trip to Cheltenham races are hardly reward for the dirge they have served up to the fans this season. It is time for this spineless lot to deliver.

  19. No, no, no it can’t be Di Canio he is just too left (or in his case Right) of field and would be a disastrous choice, my feeling is that it will be a European…..Dick Advocaat anyone?

    • Either way, I expect it won’t be a consideration for the owner, who is interested in his business but I wonder if any fans will turn their backs.

      I suspect that if he did keep us up – all sins would be forgiven in the sadly shallow world of football.

  20. One of Martin O’Neill’s (he was only M O’N whilst our manager) former teams will now go down. Villa away is absolutely huge. Has the boy from Farringdon done us a favour?

  21. Well bill he has passion and spirt he showed that when he played, and he might kick those lazy gets up the backside and kick the ones out who don’t graft and that what those players want they have had it to easy and need to buckle down and get us safe..

  22. Interesting that Wikipedia (while hardly the most reliable of sources) is already calling Di Canio the “current manager of Premiership side Sunderland.”
    He certainly seems the best of a bad-to-indifferent lot. He’s a relative youngster and hopefully would have young ideas and energy. He’ll need to be fast off the mark, though.

  23. Get on now paolo di canio has got the Sunderland job I bet him with Ladbrokes today at 4/1 he is now 1/3 my mate at safc says he will be unveiled at the ground tomorrow ..

  24. At least O’Neill took his ouster with a modicum of dignity, unlike his predecessor. MON’s not spitting abuse at the fans as he leaves.
    As others have said, I think this is the right decision at the wrong time. I would have left him in place until the end of the season and shopped around for the best possible replacement, rather than being forced into a hasty choice from the handful of also-rans and has-beens that are immediately available. I don’t think any of the prospects so far named have the ability to turn the team around over the next few weeks. On the other hand, this kind unsettlement might just seal their fate. Under MON, I believed we’d stay in the Premiership by the skin of our teeth. Now… who knows?
    This is said, as always, in the hope that I’m wrong.

  25. Bearing in mind Alanj’s analysis and particularly his closing sentence

    ‘Without change, we would have gone down. We probably still will – the question is, how far?’

    Maybe we are all underestimating Mr Shorts reasoning, that in fact he has already accepted that we will not survive and is now moving to install a permanent long term project manager. By brining him in with just seven games to go it will allow the candidate to assess the current playing squad and be better placed in the summer to have a clear view on who to send to the gallows and who to reprieve.

    If said candidate manages to keep us up then all the better but it does not alter the main thrust of his reasoning and that is a total restructuring (yet again) of the playing staff, backroom, scouting system and the academy. Maybe he wants to put someone in who will be for the first time totally his man, not influenced by Nial or the supporters, someone who he can imprint his vision goals and ultimate anbition on.

    Mr Short has spent his time in the driving seat seeing Kean, Bruce and MON all fail to shake the club out of its hibernation, relying on established heads to give him advice. Maybe now he is seizing the opportunity to stamp his own trademark features on the Club devoid of accepted wisdom. He is afterall a self made man and he became that by making difficult decisions. Maybe this is exactly the type of action that is really required at SAFC, a break form the tradition, maybe, a fresh broom definately, a happy outcome….. that’s in the lap of the gods, but I think we will all be along for the journey! FTM

    • Of course if we end up with the ‘Wally with the Brolly’ or any of that ilk then just ignore the above as the ramblings of a deranged mind, because it will be if we get any of them….I only just survived Howard Wikinson……apologies for mentioning him during Easter don’t let it put you off your eggs.

  26. I just hope it’s not the WALLY with the brolly lets get Robertp di Matteo in you never no we might win the champions league in 20 years time here is hopping keep the WALLY out …

  27. Sadly, Pete is – as usual – spot on.Those of us of a certain vintage could smell relegation long ago, and it was obvious at the start of the season that the April fixture list had red flags attached – we needed to be safe by then – and could have been, should have been… O’Neill, like Bruce, seemed determined to disprove the definition of insanity – to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. At least – surely?! – we will try something different now, whover is “in charge”. Without change, we would have gone down. We probably still will – the question is, how far?

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