MARTIN O’Neill goes into this weekend’s derby insisting that Sunderland have to approach every Premier League game with the intensity that they’re expected to show at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
The anticipation among fans ahead of the fixture will grow as the week progresses and when the two teams meet, supporters on both sides will expect nothing less than total commitment.
But the Black Cats boss says that Sunderland need to approach every game with that same attitude if they are to continue the improvement they have shown so far under his leadership.
“I know people will talk about the derby coming up and how big a game it is, but I think every game is a big game,” he pointed out.
“I went into the Albion game thinking of IT as a big game. It was a game that I really wanted us to win but we just never got going.
“We have to accept we’ve been beaten in a game, beaten badly. But we have a third of a season left and a lot of points still to play for and that’s the best way for us to look at it.
“If I’m honest, we’ve got more points on the board than I thought we would at this stage of the season. Now we just have to look at adding a few more.”
O’Neill will begin plans for the derby today but with Sunderland having 13 players away on international duty, preparations are naturally going to be difficult.
“We probably won’t have a proper session until Friday when players are back, so that presents its own problems,” he said.
“Having the internationals this week isn’t particularly helpful as regards our game this weekend, but in that respect it’s probably a bit of luck for us that the game is Sunday rather than Saturday.”