New Ireland boss O’Neill blasts Sunderland mess

MARTIN O' NEILL ... says he would have kept Sunderland up.

MARTIN O' NEILL ... says he would have kept Sunderland up.

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MARTIN O’NEILL believes Sunderland would not be in the mess they now find themselves in if he was still at the helm.

O’Neill penned a two-year deal to become the new Republic of Ireland boss this week, with another ex-Black Cats boss, Roy Keane, joining him as assistant.

But his sacking as Sunderland manager eight months ago, still rankles with the 61-year-old, particularly as the Wearsiders lie second bottom in the Premier League table with just four points from 10 games.

O’Neill insists he would have achieved the feat of his successor, Paolo Di Canio, in keeping Sunderland in the Premier League.

And he believes his first three months at the helm - where he won seven out of 10 league games - masked owner Ellis Short to the deficiencies of the squad, with that restructuring only taking place under Di Canio.

In an interview with The Guardian today, O’Neill said: “In the whole debacle, it gets forgotten that when I first joined, they were third from bottom with 11 points from 14 games.

“Because I won a number of games to start with, everyone, including the owner, started to think we had cracked it.”

O’Neill, who made seven permanent signings during 16 months at the helm, added: “Di Canio was allowed to bring in 15 new players at a time and then didn’t last six games into this season.

“Since I left, Sunderland have won three Premier League games. Di Canio, coming in, disparaging about everything, won two of 11 games. They’ve taken 12 points from a possible 51 since my time.

“I wouldn’t have minded the opportunity to be signing 15 players.

“Nothing is certain in this game but my record in management over 20 years would suggest that we would have got the five points needed to stay up.”