MARTIN O’NEILL was delighted for everyone connected with Sunderland after getting his career as the Black Cats’ boss off to a winning start yesterday.
Delighted for Ellis Short and Niall Quinn, delighted for the near-40,000 fans who relished the 2-1 victory over Blackburn, delighted for his coaching staff, but, above all, delighted for the players themselves.
“It’s only one win, but, in terms of restoration of confidence, it’s important,” he said.
“If the players feel half as good as I do right now, then they’ll be very happy and that’s great going into our next game.
“We’ve got a difficult programme coming up this month and we are where we are in the league, so we need to pick it up.
“We have a fight on our hands.
“But the boys look as though they’re up for it.”
O’Neill had his doubts about the suggestion that the confidence of his players ebbed and flowed throughout the game – Sunderland falling behind to a 17th-minute Simon Vukcevic goal but rallying to win with late strikes from midfielders David Vaughan and Seb Larsson.
“I didn’t feel that,” he frowned.
“I think it is just hard to ignore the feelings of frustration from the terraces.
“Having said that, I thought the crowd were terrific.
“I thought they stuck with us, tried to back us and when David Vaughan equalised they really roared us on.
“There was just a period, about 10 minutes before half-time, where I was getting concerned, where we had started to put the ball into the penalty area and it was a bit too much like heading practice for Blackburn.
“We turned it around, though, and even in my wildest dreams I didn’t expect a debut like that.
“Just to get three points on the board is immense.
“I’m delighted for the players – having lost to Wigan in the circumstances in which they did and then go to Wolves and lose – this was great for them.
“I think the players are really genuine.
“They want to go out and play and I think they were playing under a bit of pressure to try to get the result and to please people.
“And I thought they did really well to get the win.”
It was only Sunderland’s fourth win at the Stadium of Light in 2011, and the second against Blackburn, following the 3-0 New Year’s Day success.