QPR defender Luke Young believes the secret to Martin O’Neill’s success is the knack of fostering a “never-say-die attitude” in his players.
Young spent two years working under the Sunderland boss at Aston Villa after O’Neill paid £5million to prize the full-back away from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2008.
And the 32-year-old, who will come up against his former manager at the Stadium of Light tomorrow, attributes O’Neill’s continued success to his motivational abilities, rather than any specific tactical acumen.
Young said: “He’s not a tactical genius, but under O’Neill a team becomes desperate not to lose football matches.
“He gets players doing the basics well and that’s the key. He has a knack of winning games and turning places around straight away.
“Sunderland looked like a team down and struggling and yet suddenly they’re beating the top sides.
“He seems to motivate squads, get the players all playing together. It’s a never-say-die attitude which he instils in his players and that’s why I think they have done so well since he took over.”
Sunderland could feasibly have employed either incumbent of the two dug-outs tomorrow as a successor to Steve Bruce.
O’Neill and Mark Hughes were the two names at the top of Sunderland’s shortlist, even if the former was always the club and people’s choice to replace Bruce.
But while O’Neill has taken 26 points from his 15 games in charge, Hughes’ impact at QPR since succeeding Neil Warnock in January has been far more modest.
QPR have taken eight points from Hughes’ eight games at the helm, securing just a second victory of his tenure against Liverpool on Wednesday.
“It’s a comparison that people will look at because the facts are there – Martin O’Neill went in and they started winning straight away and obviously we haven’t,” added Young.
“The problem for Mark Hughes is that the players didn’t know each other too well, whereas O’Neill has gone into a squad which has been together quite a while.
“We’re full of new players who have turned up and tried to gel and then more new players have come in. It’s been stop-start since Neil Warnock left.
“If I was honest I would say that Neil Warnock should have been given until the end of the season.
“I think most people out there would say it was probably a little bit harsh at the time. But that’s the way football is at the moment, people seem to make very fast judgements.
“Neil brought me to the club so on a personal note I was disappointed when he got sacked so soon. The club now is a different club to the one which I joined and got used to for six months.”