KIERAN Richardson has backed Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill to drag even more out of left wing partner James McClean.
Former Derry City man McClean has been the big success story under Sunderland boss O’Neill, with the 22-year-old grabbing his third goal in eight starts for the Black Cats in last weekend’s victory at Stoke City.
Left-back Richardson has seen first-hand the left winger’s impact on first-team proceedings and believes the contender for the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad can continue to improve as he furthers his Premier League education.
Richardson told the Echo: “There’s a lack of left wingers in the Premier League, but he’s old fashioned, likes to run at the full-back and get the cross in and he does that well.
“He’s done tremendously for us and took his goal very well at Stoke. He’s got a bright future.
“I just give him the ball and leave him to it to get at his man. I don’t want to run past him and take up his space – I just let him attack the defender.
“He’s got a lot to learn still, but I’m sure the gaffer will get the best out of him.”
McClean’s goal at the Britannia Stadium secured a fifth league win in six for Sunderland, with O’Neill now turning his attention to the FA Cup for tomorrow night’s fourth round replay at Middlesbrough.
Richardson admits Sunderland under-performed in the first game against the Boro as the Wearsiders fought back to scrape a 1-1 draw, but the 27-year-old has backed O’Neill’s side to advance and secure a fifth round home tie with Arsenal.
“We want to keep it going, we’ve got momentum and confidence,” added the former Manchester United man.
“There’s a good bunch of lads in the dressing room and a great manager. We go into the Middlesbrough game on a high.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t beat them at home, but we’ve got more than enough to win tomorrow. To be fair, we didn’t deserve to win that game – we didn’t play too well. But we’re still in the competition and I’m sure we can put it right.
“The game was a typical derby and very scrappy and I’m sure it will be the same tomorrow. But I’m sure if we continue to defend as we have done, we can come out on top.
“It would be good to get through to face Arsenal, but we don’t want to get carried away.
“We’ve still got to beat Middlesbrough and I’m sure we’ll do that.”