MAN-OF-THE-MOMENT James McClean continued his impact on Sunderland’s season with his second goal in only his third start for the Black Cats yesterday.
And the 21-year-old’s decisive second goal for the Wearsiders must have been all the more galling to FA Cup hosts Peterborough because the Northern Ireland winger came within a whisker of signing for the Posh in the summer.
Manager Darren Ferguson revealed: “We had him watched many times in Ireland and in the close season we flew him over here with a view to him signing
“I thought we had the deal done, but then Sunderland came in for him and we were never going to get him after that.
“It’s a shame for us, because I think he’s going to be a really good player.”
That’s a view that opposite number Martin O’Neill would agree with.
“He’s been absolutely brilliant,” said the Sunderland manager after his side’s 2-0 third round victory at Peterborough.
“I watched him in the Reserves in my first week at the club and he played superbly in difficult conditions.
“We decided to throw him in against Blackburn as a substitute in my first game in charge and he gave us fresh impetus, really energised the crowd.
“That was enough to earn him a start in games and he’s been brilliant in the games he’s been involved in – his goal against Peterborough was really well taken.
“His all-round game is great and you’d think he’d played 103 games, not three.”
McClean’s goal was important, but it was a just reward for Sunderland’s more positive approach generally in the second half.
O’Neill said: “We wanted to allow Peterborough to have the ball in their half and then press them when they came over the halfway line, but I thought we maybe dropped off a bit too much.
“Second-half, we wanted to press them a bit closer to their own goal and we got our rewards.”
Sunderland’s first goal came from a Seb Larsson free-kick and the second from McClean also came from a Larsson centre.
“They were marvellous deliveries from Seb Larsson, but then that’s what he’s capable of,” said O’Neill.
“His delivery against Blackburn Rovers which got us the clincher in the last minute of my first game as Sunderland manager was a big, big moment for us and he’s just continued on from there.”