Martin O'Neill

MON one year on

by Andrew Lisgo

Manager looks back on almost 12 months in charge.

It is almost one year to the day that Martin O’Neill took charge of the Black Cats and Sunday’s game against Norwich City will see him take charge of Sunderland for the 38th Barclays Premier League game.

O’Neill took over at the helm on December 3, 2011 before leading his side to a 2-1 home victory over Blackburn Rovers in his first game in charge.

Looking back on his first year at the club, the manager says it has been a tough but enjoyable year on Wearside:

“I have enjoyed it, I have enjoyed it immensely,” he said. I was asked the question not so long ago ‘how did it feel when you were starting out in management’ - of course that was a fairly lengthy time ago, but yes it’s been very enjoyable and almost exactly what I thought the job would be.

“It hasn’t disappointed in that aspect but it’s been tough since day one. Maybe things will be a little bit smoother in the not-too-distant future.”

In his first month in charge of the Black Cats, O’Neill was rewarded for an impressive start with December’s Barclays Manager of the Month award but he admits that despite a magical start to his reign, things were always going to take time:

“I think that it was interesting what Harry Redknapp said the other day, that he didn’t deliver magic wands," he explained.

"I think that people are now expecting QPR just to rise from the ashes but it’s just not as simple as that.

“I came in here last year and spirit was still pretty strong, results hadn’t been great but that said there was still plenty of light at the end of tunnel.

“We got results early on - good results that tended to maybe gloss over one or two of our weaknesses - and I think that we just need a little bit of strength in depth and we’ll be perfectly alright.”

O’Neill’s side have notched 47 points in the top flight since his arrival, which equals the Black Cats’ best return in one Premier League season since Peter Reid was in charge.

Fast forward to the present, though, and the manager admits he had hoped for a few more points at this stage of the campaign:

“We would have obviously liked to have a few more points on the board, that’s pretty obvious,” he said.

“It’s been tough for a number of teams - most managers in our positions outside the top six or seven football teams do have different agendas.

“They have certain targets. You reach those targets as quickly as you possibly can and I don’t think you can ever rest comfortably at all until you have reached the 40-point mark.

“I think that’s almost a given and there are a number of teams there separated by very few points. It’s a tough old business.”