Rids’ North End aim
ARTIN O’NEILL is a football genius… apparently. The speccy Ulsterman has been linked to just about every top job going since that day, 17 months ago, when he spat the dummy and walked out on Villa.
That, let’s not forget, was five days before the season kicked off. Aston Villa have stumbled along like a Saturday night drunk ever since.
Now the jumpy leprechaun is being billed as the man to guide Sunderland to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Why? He won promotion and a couple of cups at Leicester. And he was pretty good at Celtic too (although Gordon Strachan’s record was better).
O’neill also clocked up three sixth-place finishes at Villa Park.
What puzzles me is why this qualifies him for God-like status.
He was backed big-time at Villa – to the tune of £120million.
That’s the stuff of dreams for David Moyes, who spent half that figure during O’neill’s time in the Midlands yet he’s taken Everton to fifth place and an FA Cup final during his Goodison reign.
Perhaps expectation plays a part for old Marty. O’neill has been great when he’s managing the underdog and fans with lower expectations don’t mind his hoof-ball style, either.
Does that include Celtic? Yes, yes it does. O’neill smashed a situation which had allowed Rangers to clock up 12 titles in 14 years. No-one was too arsed about style. Handy, as teams coached by O’neill generally have very little of it. he general rule is: sign man-mountains. Play it long. That’s it. It seems bizarre Sunderland have replaced one manager blasted for being backwards when it comes to tactics with another who doesn’t seem to know much better. O’neill’s approach has hardly changed since Matt Elliot was lumping it up to Emile Heskey (below).
Attendances at the Stadium of Light have slumped to 40,000 – 9,000 below capacity. Will O’neill’s bird-bothering football bring them back? Probably not.
And let’s get this straight, Sunderland fans are demanding.
As they’re just one point off the relegation zone, task one will be Premier League saftey.
But soon after it will be Europe and trophies. Expectations will be as high as the balls O’neill will be instructing his centre-halves to play.
The small matter of hated rivals Newcastle flying high doesn’t help matters.
But the word is Black Cats owner Ellis Short won’t be shelling out much dough after backing Bruce with big bucks.
That said, a glance at O’neill’s transfer track record suggests that could be a blessing.
This is the man who blew £10m on Curtis Davies, £8.5m on Nigel Reo-coker and £4m on Marlon Harewood.
Old-school O’neill has been a “play your best 11 every week” boss. Unfortunately for him, it’s not the 1970s. Football is faster and the schedule is relentless.
O’neill’s Villa sides burnt out in the second half of the season time and again. Throw in the squad O’neill has inherited and you can see why Sunderland fans should leave the champagne on ice.
Seb Larsson – a right winger – is their top scorer with four.
“Every single game is important. The Premier League has become the holy grail of football,” said O’neill at the weekend.
Let’s pray for Sunderland fans’ sake that Martin O’neill is the messiah, rather than the myth. PETER RIDSDALE claims Preston should be in the Premier League after being appointed as chairman of the League One club.
He takes over from Maurice Lindsay, who stood down from his role at Deepdale on health grounds.
Ridsdale received plenty of criticism during his spells at Leeds and Cardiff and was most recently at League Two Plymouth.
He said: “Preston is a club that has an incredible heritage, a large and loyal supporter base and a club that, frankly, ought to be competing to join the Premier League rather than playing in League One.”
WEAR WE GO: Gibson and Corluka are among O’neill’s targets