Sunderland must collect points before next break, says O’Neill

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
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MARTIN O’Neill insists Sunderland must keep their points tally ticking over while the Premier League is waiting to hit top gear.

Sunderland only played two top flight games before the international break brought a premature halt to the league programme and will face just four more before another fortnight’s hiatus for World Cup qualifiers.

The stop-start nature of the opening few months hardly proves conducive to building any rhythm or establishing a pattern for how the campaign is likely to pan out.

But O’Neill says Sunderland cannot afford to put their season on ice until the second international break concludes next month and believes the next four games could be crucial for the Black Cats.

“If you start thinking the season only really kicks off in October, you’d be in serious trouble,” said O’Neill.

“Unlike say Manchester United, who could say they were only kicking on from January onwards, we’re not in that position. Every point is important for us.

“In the meantime, we have big games coming up – Liverpool, West Ham, Wigan and Manchester City.

“We must concentrate on these matches before you even think about another international break.

“Every game is important at this stage of the season and you’d just like to try to accumulate a number of points early on so you can get a bit of confidence out of results and performances.

“It seems a fairly long time now since we finished the game against Swansea.

“But that’s the nature of it. Certainly, it’ll remain like this for a couple more weeks yet before the end of the next international window.

“After that, people settle down, get on with it and we can see how we are between then and Christmas.”

Despite a first Premier League win of the season eluding Sunderland during the first two games, the Black Cats have still enjoyed an encouraging start with draws at Arsenal and Swansea.

In contrast, tomorrow’s opponents Liverpool have mustered just a solitary point from three games – albeit against Premier League champions Manchester City – in their worst start to a league season in 50 years.

But the Sunderland manager believes no conclusions can be made on teams until their games total reaches double figures.

O’Neill added: “A pattern will develop after about 10 or 11 league games and then you’ll be able to make better judgements on things.

“I just hope by then, that we’ve got a number of points on the board that we’re reasonably happy with.”