O’Neill ponders late start to Sunderland pre-season

Connor Wickham and Wes Brown

Connor Wickham and Wes Brown

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MARTIN O’Neill admitted he might have been wrong not to start Sunderland’s pre-season earlier, in the wake of the Wearsiders losing to Seongnam in the Peace Cup.

The Black Cats went down 1-0 to the South Koreans yestedray but were unlucky not to get something out of the game after hitting the woodwork twice.

And O’Neill was left to reflect: “I would love to have played them in a couple of weeks time but of course that’s not an option.”

Seongnam are currently midway through their season while Sunderland had only a week of pre-season work under their belt and the difference showed.

“They were fitter, faster and fresher than us,” acknowledged the Black Cats’ boss.

“There were some positive signs but the biggest disappointment obviously is losing the game. I wanted to be contesting the final on Sunday. My concern travelling out here with just three days work and a couple of players missing was always that we might lose the game.

“When we organised the Peace Cup I was tempted to come back a week earlier. But it is a long, long pre-season and I did not want to drag it out further by bringing them back sooner.

“Because of that, it was always a concern of mine that we might lose the match. It was a good workout but I’m disappointed by the result.”

Despite the fact Sunderland were a tired and spent force by the end of the game, the defeat wasn’t wholly down to the difference in fitness.

The K League side played well and Sunderland did not help themselves by a lack of precision in their play.

“We had a couple of good spells in the game and those were the encouraging aspects but there were disappointing moments too like giving the ball away very cheaply,” said O’Neill.

“From a real sloppy start, giving the ball away needlessly, we improved and looked fine. But those moments of sloppiness, that slow start, those are things we can and will work on.

“It’s not the end of the world but I’m just very disappointed not to reach the final, I don’t like losing any game.”