O’Neill admits ‘punishing’ schedule could bring Sunderland’s fringe players to the fore

Ahmed Elmohamady and, below, Ji Dong-won could come into Martin O'Neill's plans.
Ahmed Elmohamady and, below, Ji Dong-won could come into Martin O'Neill's plans.
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Martin O’Neill says he will be making the most of his squad as he prepares his Sunderland players for three games in the space of seven days.

Having successfully negotiated a busy start to his Sunderland career, with four games in his first three weeks in charge, the Black Cats’ boss is now turning his attention to Premier League matches against Manchester City and Wigan Athletic and then the FA Cup tie at Peterborough in the first week of 2012.

04/12/2011 - Barclays Premier League - Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Sunderland - Ji Dong-Won of Sunderland sits dejected - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

04/12/2011 - Barclays Premier League - Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Sunderland - Ji Dong-Won of Sunderland sits dejected - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

“It’s a punishing schedule,” O’Neill told the Echo.

“For that reason, I know I’ll have to make the very best use of the squad we have here.

“It’s not ideal, to have so many games in such a short space of time, but, if we try to look positively at it, it will mean that everyone should get a chance to be part of the squad.

“There’s possibly quite a number of players who were playing under Steve Bruce who might hope the new manager thinks about things a little differently.

“But it’s all about taking your chances.

“Eventually, if you have the opportunity to play, you have to take that opportunity to shine.”

O’Neill has been adept since his arrival at making the most of the players at his disposal.

He had to cope with injuries to Michael Turner and Nicklas Bendtner on his arrival, followed by a strain for Connor Wickham in the game at Spurs and, on Boxing Day, further knocks to Titus Bramble and Phil Bardsley.

But he says that he has enough players in his squad to handle the challenges ahead rather than putting pressure on the walking wounded.

That could open the door to the likes of Ahmed Elmohamady and Ji Dong-won

* Full story in today’s Sunderland Echo