MARTIN O’Neill says that back-to-back wins for Sunderland have been built on the back of a growing confidence in the squad.
And he says that his two wing wonders against the Premier League champions, Adam Johnson and James McClean, are benefiting from that more than anything else.
“Confidence is such a big part of football,” he said. “It alters everything.
“It’s an amazing thing because if a player is full of confidence then he’ll make passes, shots and runs that he wouldn’t think about doing otherwise.
“It gives him the reinforcement to make the contribution that he wants to and it allows him to shrug it off if one or two things don’t work out for him.
“And I think the best example of that is the two wing players against Man City.
“I thought Johnson and McClean were exceptional. Adam has stepped out of Man City where he was playing cameo roles and come to Sunderland where so much more is expected of him.
“He has had to come to terms with being seen now as the key player, almost as a one-man team in some eyes and it has taken time but that confidence is coming back into him.
“James McClean was a real threat going forward in the game but also terrific in defence.
“There was one point where was superb in sprinting back 40 yards to kick the ball off the boot of Carlos Tevez as he threatened to shoot.
“It was a position in which you might Tevez to score and James he had done nothing else in the game, that would have been a major contribution.
“But he and Adam were both in a good place in the game, they both gave us a lot and growing confidence in them and throughout the team has been the key to that.”
The back-to-back wins have spirited Sunderland away from the drop zone and given the club real breathing space from the battle of the bottom but O’Neill is not assuming any corner has been turned just yet.
“Do I see this as the turning point of our season?” he said. “No, I don’t.
“I just don’t view it like that. I just think we have to take each game as it comes because we have such a tough programme in our next few games that we can’t make any assumptions.
“It’s all about not getting ahead of ourselves, it’s about remaining focused on the game in hand.
“There’ll be plenty of time at the end of the season to assess the way the campaign went.”