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Oh Neill!

Tuesday 3rd January 2012
'Martin O'Neill is one of the finest managers in English Football'
It really doesn't take all that much insight into Martin O'Neill's illustrious managerial career to agree with this bold statement without a moments hesitation. Having transformed Wycombe Wanderers, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa, and now as it would appear- Sunderland, O'Neill's reputation really does know no boundaries. So after such a successful career, why is it we are yet still in stark shock at what he's creating up in Sunderland?

The first thing to point out with O'Neill's new stomping ground, is that it is home to an extremely talented, prosperous squad of players: playmaking wizard Sebastian Larsson, future England striker Connor Wickham, talented midfielder and club captain Lee Cattermole, and the experienced defensive due of John O'Shea and Wes Brown, are just a few to mention. Sure, Sunderland does suffer from the burdens of Titus Bramble and Nicklas Bendtner, but lets avoid getting tied down playing the blame game. The simple fact at the start of the season was that with a squad such as Sunderland's, and a manager such as Steve Bruce, the Black Cat's were monumentally underachieving; flailing around in the depths of the Premier League. So, like had been done at Aston Villa a few seasons previous, and like was done at Leicester City in the early noughties, O'Neill has once again been drafted in to a failing team, with Sunderland chairman Ellis Short safe in the knowledge that O'Neill has never undergone a campaign at the helm of any football league team, which could have been deemed 'unsuccessful' after 22 years of management.

Yesterday's win over Manchester City was no doubt a huge shock; any squad to turn over a team that are capable of demolishing Manchester United 6-1, is an massive achievement, whether you're the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan, or Sunderland AFC. Many will put it down to luck, and say that should City have used the likes of Aguero and Silva in the starting XI, then the result would have slotted in with expectation. This is a ridiculous thing to say though. Roberto Mancini ultimately paid the price for underestimating Martin O'Neill's newly reignited squad, which would seem a bad decision even before the game had commenced, considering that the Black Cat's had won two in three games, and stand well clear of the relegation zone of which they were seemingly flirting with under Steve Bruce's leadership.

All the factors that have made Mancini red in the face so to speak, can be put down to O'Neill's instantly recognisable positive impact on Wearside. Whether it's the Northern Irishman's logical, calm approach to management on the touchline, or his strict stance on squad selection that harkens back to that of his former manager, Brian Clough. Something, if not a culmination of many things, have once again began to turn around a failing football club in the top flight, into a powerhouse of organised football, that from a personal point of view, can challenge for the Europa League qualification come the end of the season.

Good choice Ellis Short, good decision Martin O'Neill, and good luck Sunderland A.F.C.
Joe Diamond
Im Joe- an aspiring Sports Journalist student who likes to rant, rave, review, preview, question, and support all things Football.

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