Sweeney’s Cut: how Martin O’Neill is eliminating cynicism

A bit early for a mid-term report on Martin O’Neill, but these are potentially exciting times for Sunderland supporters who suddenly see their team written and spoken about in glowing terms, even in defeat, by the Londoncentric media. Eric Sweeney sees further progress ahead and, unlike M Salut, believes MON when he says he hasn’t yet thought about specific transfer window targets.

Despite what it says on the photo, you cannot click from this page to “look inside” the book. You can, if you wish, buy it for under £11 at this Salut! Sunderland Amazon link. Let’s hope there’ll one day be an updated version with a chapter recording great achievements at the Stadium of Light …


Sometimes
life can as a Sunderland is challenging to say the least. This season that is particularly true with defeat to Newcastle, knocked out of the Carling Cup to Brighton and players leaving the club for no valid reason except money. To think that things could change so quickly with a managerial change is astonishing.

Even Martin O’Neill must be surprised by what he has achieved in a short time frame. He has the same players Bruce had at his disposal but somehow is able to achieve excellent performances with surprising results.

The greatest achievement besides his renowned man management skills is the consistency of the performances.

Under Bruce we beat Chelsea at the Bridge three-nil but it was his inability to create stability that left fans frustrated. Who can forget the annual “bad run” where our league position would drop like a stone?

When MON, the man I and everyone else wanted as manager, was appointed I cautioned against expecting too much too soon, believing personnel changes in January would be key to his success.

I am still in a stake of shock just how much of an impact he has made. We are playing very well, scoring plenty of goals (except vs Chelsea) and picking up points.

The defeat on Saturday was extremely unlucky, Bendtner and others missing a number of good chances. I hope it isn’t the end of the honeymoon period we are enjoying.

The emergence of James McClean is a major plus, I agree with Catts that it has saved the club millions in transfer fees. I am still hopeful that players like Meyler, Campbell and Wickham can step up and make a similar contribution. We have plenty of young emerging talent to keep the senior guys interested.

Questions remain about how MON plans to move this club forward. Most people concede we need to find a goalscoring machine like we had with Darren Bent but MON estimated that could cost £35m. Do we finally bring in a specialist left back and perhaps another centre back.

Just how much money is available is also unknown and I honestly believe him when he said he hadn’t even thought about transfer targets. He was known for bringing in British talent to Villa and I presume that is what he’ll continue to do, hence the media’s tendency to link English players with possible moves to the club.

I was so used to a randomly awful performance such as against Wigan at home that I was waiting for the same under MON. It just hasn’t happened and my cynicism is starting to fade, I am believing in the club much more and excited about where the new manager can take us. It really is a roller coaster ride of emotions and transition supporting this club!

Hopefully we can rein in Newcastle now especially as they look a different side without Ba due to the African Nations Cup. But whatever MON decides to do, I am fully behind him. I took a look at the upcoming fixtures and see promising signs that we can continue this run well into April.

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20 thoughts on “Sweeney’s Cut: how Martin O’Neill is eliminating cynicism”

  1. For 99% of footballers who they play for is irrelevant. It is their job and there aren’t that many who put loyalty first. Add to that the majority of owners see the club as an extension of their business life it is unrealistic to expect them not to take daft money for players like Carroll, Henderson etc. I’m not saying I’m happy with that but that’s how it is. I don’t want to see Gy£n back at the club simply because his performances at the start of the season were sadly lacking and his heart wasn’t in it.

  2. CSB – I for one wouldn’t want Gyan back since he never wanted to play for us – we were purely a stepping stone and he made no attempt to disguise that – at least most players have the decency to pretend they want to be at the club or say nothing. But more than that, I really don’t want to see that stupid dance again, even if it meant he’d scored…

    • Is Gyan not just a by-product of the modern game in the same way that Bent is. Are all players mercenary and are they any less mercenary than the Clubs.

      Clubs cynically bring in big name players for the shirt deals all this is nothing new. Additionally in both Bent’s and Gyan’s cases we do not really know how much Steve Bruce was a factor in their desire to bail out. Out of both players the Club financially has done well.

      Are we expecting loyalty in a period where money rules the game. Will only home bred players show this loyalty. Henderson, Sunderland born and bred sold for a very tidy sum, were the Club being mercenary there.

      Steve Bruce’s much repeated mantra that ‘every player has his price’ was unfortunately true, are we being harsh on the players who jump and are using double standards on those we choose to sell/ push because it suits the Club, Henderson a case in point.

      I don’t think we will see Gyan again in red & white, he was a bit of a luxury, just like Bendtner, and never really proved he cut a season in the PL. Onwards and upwards

  3. Good posts above with some strong points, but only one mentions Gyan……. are we all assuming that there is no way back for this prodigal son as this could be instrumental in what type of forward, if any, we sign in the January window.

    Does Gyan figure in MON’s plans, has even thought about him.

    How would the support react if he made a return, personally as long as he did the business I could forgive him his venal sin, but he would have to do the business and some.

    Or maybe we should just cut our losses an off load the money grabing bas*%#d in the summer,its a real dichotomy for MON and the supporters.

    • As the said mentioner of “the name that shall not be spoken”,I used it merely as an example of the talent we had lost and nor really replaced yet,I wasn’t really advocating his return.

      My view is you never go back…….like old realtionships,once its over it would never be the same again,just move on.Resentment would only be bubbling beneath the surface ready to pop up at some future point.

  4. Dearest Birflatt.

    Perhaps my post was a little ambiguous. I said that we would have been fortunate than to take more than three points. Possibly draws against Blackburn, QPR, Everton and Wigan would have been seen as a success with the injuries and the old guard. Two or three draws and the same old excuses at best. Or maybe just one win.

    My point is (and I have been consistent on this) that the measure of a manager is making the best of the players at his disposal. MON is doing that. His predecesor didn’t.

    Hell – I am just waiting for Angeleri and El Mohamady to start doing the business. And bring back Riveros!

  5. 7 points more than if we’d still had Mrs Doubtfire, says Malcolm. Mmmnn…………….not sure that I can agree with that assessment as I couldn’t see Bruce getting points from any of the games that we have won since MON took over. We may have managed a draw against QPR. Does he really think we’d have beaten Man City or even Blackburn? Far more pessimistic assssement from Malcolm than I could have predicted.

    In fact I’m not even sure if we’d have won the toss more than once had Cribbins still been at the helm.

  6. I am in no doubt that we have at least 7 more points than we would have done had O’Neill not taken over and we would have been fortunate to take any more than 3. What O’Neill has brought is organisation, some astute thinking and the ability to actually get the players thinking about what their role is on the pitch. We are suffering a lot with injuries, especially at the back but instead of it being an excuse for poor results we are seeing a team with players stepping up to the mark.

    Before MON we looked a tired, jaded side selected by a tired, jaded manager. We now see players reaching and surpassing our expectations of them. I will concede that there are those who will say Bendtner isn’t. I disagree. He isn’t the finished player and he isn’t a 20 goal a season centre forward but he’s doing a job for the team whilst we wait for an alternative.

    Colback, Gardner. McClean and Kilgallon have all benefitted from MON’s faith in their abilities and Cattermole is proving that maybe he isn’t the liability he was in danger of becoming.

    I have two main concerns at the moment though. The first concerns the defence. No sooner do we seem to get one player back than another one becomes unavailable. We need Brown, Turner, Bardsley, and Bramble fit and able to play and now we can add Kilgallon to the list.

    My second concern is that maybe expectations of what McClean will bring to the team are premature. I hope I am wrong because we need someone who can do what he has done so far on the left of midfield. I hope he learns fast because opponents will be hearing his name and sussing him out quickly.

    Funnily enough, I am not so concerned as others about bring in a goalscoring forward. Since O’Neill we are creating many more chances than we were before. It will of course remain a priority for next season but I feel reasonably confident that Wickham and maybe Noble will play a part this year and whereas six weeks ago I felt we would get sucked into the relegation mire, I am fairly certain that we should be well clear of that and in or near the top half of the table come Cup Final day. Hopefully we’ll have a fixture on that day too! If Campbell can prove his fitness that’s another option.

    Mignolet is (dare I say) looking more assured since his return though Westwood would still be my first choice.

    The intial euphoria surrounding MON’s appointment is being replaced by a realistic appreciation that the club is going forwards again.

    Before the home game against Wigan I was suffering from the cynicism that Eric speaks about. I just knew it would be a dismal performance and a disappointing day out. Now I can’t wait for Saturday. Whichever 11 players take the field and whatever the result I feel sure that I will see an organised competitive side that will not let the fans down. Keep the Faith is an oft used phrase but it’s a lot easier to relate to now, than it was a mere six weeks ago.

    Ha’way the Lads!

    • Malcolm,

      Good post,whilst I do not disagree in the main, I’d only add that we have lost Gyan,Welbeck and Bent since last year, to be replaced by Bendtner,Whickam and Gi(Campbell’s still not a certain bet),which is a major step backwards with regard to goal scoring talent in anyones book, regardless of MON’s heroic efforts to make do and mend..

      We need at least one quality striker, surley we can afford one having offloaded all that prolific goal scoring ability…it is no more than Sunderland fans deserve.

      • Good debate. I hate to lower the tone but it did occur to me that while MON may be right to say a lumbering full back from four divisions lower would have tucked away some of our chances vs Chelsea, Bruce should resist any temptation to gloat that he did four better at Stamford Bridge last season and reflect instead that we even saw that lesser spotted goal at the weekend, one from Darren Bent.

    • Unusually, I am not as concerned as you about defence. Seems like even Gardner and Colback can play back there and do a job. As long as I don’t see Elmo playing RB then I’m ok.
      I prefer Mignolet to Westwood. Just by a feather. Mignolet flaps sometimes but is brave and has very good positioning. Westwood has done nothing wrong though. He can count himself unlucky.
      McClean I think might be a regular fixture. He may be sussed out as you say, but defenders will always feel uncomfortable with someone running at them. What is good about McClean is that he can get into the box quickly in dangerous positions , AND also do a job coming back and helping out. I agree with Vince that we need a ‘fox in the box’ striker, preferably this window.

  7. Looking at this Cisse,I d say we would do very well to get him,he is a natural goalscorer.Though it is mentioned that 3 clubs have made a move for him.2nd top scorer last season in the Budesliga with 22 golas and is currently on 9 goals in 17 games playing for the team at the very bottom.

    He is the finished article,no waiting or training needed, he should hit the floor running.

  8. The question is, though (or one of the questions): Are we going to keep Sessegnon or does he still want away? I would hate to see him go under any circumstances but especially if there isn’t a credible replacement in sight.

  9. I think it’s definitely an exciting time – we look absolutely great going forward. Maybe one striker of top quality would help – it’s a shame we couldn’t keep Welbeck for another season as I think he’d have bagged a few that we missed against Chelsea. But McClean looks good, and Sessegnon looks awesome – I’ve never seen anyone give Ashley Cole such a torrid time as he did on Sat. Despite the defeat, I was well chuffed with the performance – could have easily got all 3 points.

  10. Reading that Cisse was flattered by S’land interest. Good sign, but big price tag. But if we’re going to challenge top half of the table then we need a ‘fox in the box’ player as a previous poster put it.
    Are Wickham, Campbell, Ji & Nobel going to get us that? In the future, maybe. But in the immediate future (next two seasons), probably not.

  11. Tounkare is the kind of big target man that MON likes. I gather he travelled with the squad on Saturday. Could be another McClean.

  12. Yeah, it’s stretching credence a bit to think that maybe they were JUST about to turn the corner when MON showed up to take credit for Bruce’s months of effort!

  13. Robbo said “But I wonder if the same players might have turned it around for Bruce.”

    They had almost a year Robbo. How long do they need?

  14. Our future cerainly does look brighter under MON. But I wonder if the same players might have turned it around for Bruce. Who knows?….. and not that I am complaining about having MON on board. Cleverer manager, more passionate and much more media friendly.

    I would like to see a couple of signings. A fox in the box striker( e.g. SKP, Pop Robson) and a left back. .Not sure where we will find them though . Just a pity that young Noble isn’t quite ready .Anybody seen Tounkare play? A friend of mine saw him play in a preseason friendly at York and though he looked OK

  15. Yes it has been an amazing turnaround,one none of us had any right to ask of MON.But he has delivered the goods and in short order.

    We are facing a brighter future now no doubt about it.Though the going will undoubtedly start getting tougher as the team settles and those left out in the cold start to wilt away(as they alwayds do)Right now all the players seem boosted,but it will be hard to keep it that way all season.

    As to Newcastle,maybe we should give credit where it is due.They ground out another win yesterday without Ba and Tiote,the players they bring in just keep the results coming in,it wasnt a convincing home win, but they are an effective unit whoever Pardew plays.

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