Soapbox: a provisional welcome to Martin O’Neill. Heart 1 head 0

It is not quite official. But all the signs are that Martin O’Neill, famously a boyhood supporter of Sunderland, will soon be confirmed – and not for the first time of asking – as our manager. Pete Sixsmith climbs on to his soapbox to offer a hearty, if premature welcome; Salut! Sunderland readers will probably beat M Salut to the news when it formally comes ..


So it looks as if
the heart has won and we are going to appoint Martin O’Neill as the 28th Sunderland manager (including “caretakers”) in my 50 years as a supporter. He joins an auspicious group alongside the likes of Bob Stokoe, Peter Reid and Alan Brown – and also those who had less auspicious times in the Roker/SoL hot seat in Mick Buxton, Ian McColl and Howard Wilkinson.

For many Sunderland fans, it is an appointment made in heaven. Pete Horan texted “I can feel the buzz coming back” while friends at the Brandon v Thornaby game last night were enthusiastic about bringing a top class manager into the club for the first time since 1985 and Lawr .. well, let’s forget that one.

What are we going to get for Ellis Short’s money? O’Neill is a motivator, a man with European experience and a man who has won trophies and guided his teams to the upper echelons of the Premier League. He has a reputation for being animated, for being touchy with journalists and TV reporters and for not suffering fools gladly – so bang go my chances of an interview with him.

He has principles as his walk outs from Norwich City and Aston Villa show. Short may well find him pricklier than Bruce, who came across as a manager who knew what was good for him in potential conflict with the owner. Would O’Neill have let Gyan go at the last minute? I doubt it. Would O’Neill have really pushed for the money to bring in a winger? I think he would.

He now has Bruce’s squad to work with until January. The always reliable Pat Murphy (who must double as O’Neill’s agent) has said a number of times that O’Neill does not need a shed load of money and will work within reasonable financial parameters; something which he felt was missing with Randy Lerner at Villa Park.

There are some decent players to work with, but there is an imbalance. There are too many hard working midfield players; we have insufficient flair. No out and out wingers to get the ball across to the one genuine forward we seem to possess.

The defence seems solid, although O’Shea will need to get out of the comfort zone he appears to inhabit. He has been the most disappointing of the summer signings as I expected a lot more from him both in terms of ability and leadership. I am as sure as I can be that there will be no comfort zones under O’Neill.

He has a chance to assess the squad on Sunday. They need to impress. Keith Scott reminded me of the situation when Keane was appointed after the Southend/Bury debacles. Players who had been disinterested and offhand suddenly gave themselves a shake and beat a team that were near the top of the league. Keith said that they had been cheating Quinn and that if they could play as well as that when a new manager was watching, why hadn’t they done it previously?

Should we perform at Wolves, Steve Bruce may well be asking the same question.

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14 thoughts on “Soapbox: a provisional welcome to Martin O’Neill. Heart 1 head 0”

  1. If MON can’t do something at SAFC, then no-one can. While there are others who have the potential to take us into what we all strangely believe to be our rightful place in the highest echelons of the Premiership – they are either unavailable or highly unlikely to come here. MON, I believe, has all of the abilities and aptitudes (tactical awareness, leadership, determination, passion and, best of all – intelligence) to take us as far as possible.
    The worry therefore is that if he can’t, who on earth is there out there who possibly could, and where would this leave us. Everything hangs on this appointment being given the support and time to achieve.
    Incidentally, in the ongoing ‘Sixsmithisation’ of this site, we now have Mrs Sixsmith waving at St Niall and MON. Sixer’s cat christening the centre spot for MON’s first game?

  2. Heart 1 Head 0? I don’t think so. For the first time in my 35 years of supporting Sunderland we’ve appointed a manager who has actually achieved succes in his career, by which I mean winning a trophy or two and qualifying for Europe, as opposed to avoiding relegation. A manager with a real track record of achievement. I’ve wanted O’Neill as manager for years now, for so long that I still can’t quite believe it’s happened. If this one doesn’t work…

  3. My wife has just seen Niall Quinn and MoN at Durham station- apparently our new manager waved at her and then went on to sign a 3 year contract.

  4. The excitement continues-got my Bruce Sprinsteen tickets. I hear the announcement of the appointment of the other boss, will be on Monday. Oh joy and more joy !

  5. The last Kate Bush album I listened to Billy Elliott was our (caretaker) manager.

    I’ve said for a while that the new manager has to be someone to restore some of the self respect that seems to my mind, to have been lost during Bruce’s reign. One of the few British managers to have won trophies (although the last one we had with that achievement was Sgt Wilko).

    I have always liked Martin O’ Neill and this gives us cause for optimism. A better man for the club, than Hughes I feel and I share Hilary’s sense of excitement.

  6. Tigers in peace – great news for you guys; he will shake it up and give you all something good to talk about. This guy is a very good football manager and passengers will not be getting their tickets renewed – players have to start playing for the manager again. Enjoy – now we have to get promoted to meet you again, but slowly, slowy, catchee . . . .

  7. Lest hope MON signs on the dotted line. However, if he does and ,for whatever reason, cannot turn us around we might as well give up and apply for admission to the local Sunday league.

  8. I could live without the Kate Bush album, young Michael. Maybe O’Neill’s arrival will get you back to watching regularly.

  9. Not my first choice but I have no reservations about cheering this appointment. There’s definitely something to look forward to now. I hope the team puts on a stellar performance for O’Neill on Sunday to show him the basically excellent material he has to work with.

  10. The heart has won over the head, and I have to admit that I feel really excited. It will be fascinating to watch his impact on the squad and it will be great to look forward to match days again. The prospect of winter suddenly seems less bleak.

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