Sunderland boss O’Neill ignores statistics after ending 12-game winless streak

Stephane Sessegnon
Stephane Sessegnon
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A STATISTIC which says Britain uses more soap than any other country tells you one of two things.

Either Britons are the world’s cleanest nation, because they use most soap; or the dirtiest, because they need to!

So it is with the statistics currently swirling around Sunderland’s season – you pick your stat, you take your choice.

Steven Fletcher became the first player in Sunderland’s history to score the first five league goals of a campaign.

But does it really signify anything? Especially with Craig Gardner and James McClean having scored in the cup?

And, similarly, with Sunderland’s 11-game sequence without a league win, ended by Saturday’s victory against Wigan.

Did it ever mean that much, spread across two seasons? Especially with cup wins in between?

Did it mean, for example, much more than a four-game unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign which stretched to five at the weekend; seven in all when the Capital One Cup is included?

Martin O’Neill has been on the receiving end of the darker statistics – no league win since March; no goalscorer except Fletcher – and has felt somewhat hard done by.

But he has been buoyed by the knowledge that deep down, there’s no escaping the reality that the Sunderland squad which started this season is stronger than the one which finished the last one.

“I’m really not too bothered about these statistics. Really I’m not,” he said after Saturday’s win, though there did seem to be traces of mild irritation in his voice, even as he denied it.

“The 12 games without a league win has gone, I guess, with the win over Wigan, but next it will be only one win in 13.

“And there was me thinking that this was a different season and it should be all about us still being unbeaten!

“I am told, after all, that there’s only us, Manchester City and Chelsea unbeaten in the Premier League.”

A good stat from the manager and a fair point.

But O’Neill was not beyond acknowledging that Sunderland really did need a win against Wigan to ease frustrations arising from failing to hold on to a lead in their three previous Premier League matches.

“It was really important for us to get that win over Wigan under our belts after the disappointment of the previous Saturday’s game against West Ham,” he reflected.

“It has been a good week for us – we’ve won in the cup and the league.

“But I never thought about the statistics, or whether we were under pressure because the crowd expected us to win. I just knew we had to try and win a game.

“We did and I’m delighted about that.

“It was a bit frayed towards the end, but we eventually saw it through and got the three points which we really needed.”

As for Fletcher’s goal-den streak, the manager felt it important to accentuate the postive rather than ask too many questions of the rest of the team.

“It’s not a source of concern that others aren’t scoring at the moment,” he shrugged.

“It may well be in the future – I will be concerned if he stops scoring and others don’t start scoring.

“But I have to say he has been terrific for us.

“I’m thrilled with him.

“He has done everything I could possibly ask for – his all-round play as well as his goals – and the fans have taken to him.

“They’ve enjoyed seeing him come away with the ball in situations where no-one would have blamed him if he hadn’t, and it’s those aspects of his game which are almost as pleasing as the goals.”

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