O’Neill says plenty for Sunderland to play for

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
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ALL good things must come to an end, so the saying goes – but Martin O’Neill does not entirely agree.

Sunderland had gone on a remarkable run under his guidance, leading the form tables and winning seven of his first 11 games this year going into the Albion game.

Having only lost to Champions League chasers Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal under the new manager, a loss to lesser opposition by more than the odd goal was surely on the cards at some stage.

But O’Neill refused to take the easy way out offered in the post-match inquest.

“People will say it was a game too far for us but it’s not,” he insisted. “We’ve got a third of a season still to play. We’ve still got a lot to do, a long way to go.

“We thought we were ready for this game. We’d played exceptionally well the previous week against Arsenal and we thought we might win against Albion too.

“But they played very well and we didn’t – that was the simple reason for the defeat, rather than it was too much of an ask of us.”

The manager wasn’t tempted either to brush it off as just a bad day at the office, a one-off. And he will forensically examine exactly who and what went wrong on the day in a determined bid to put it right.

“We all have to look at ourselves on days like these, me included,” he said. “I was positive and made changes second-half but it didn’t do the trick.

“We experimented by putting James McClean at left-back hoping to get an overlap going on down the left flank with Stephane Sessegnon.

“That might have proved dangerous but it didn’t work out and so we changed it again, bringing on Wayne Bridge so that we could get McClean further forward again.

“It’s tough to get beaten by such a scoreline and the truth is we could have gone for damage limitation after the break. But it’s in my nature that I think I can win games and I wanted us to do everything we could to get back into the game.

“It’s hard for me to come up and publicly criticise players who have put heart and soul into the past three months for this club.

“But there’s no getting away from the fact that it was a poor performance, the poorest we’ve played, because even the games we’ve lost previously, we’ve always been in the game up to the final whistle.”