IT’S a year ago this week since Martin O’Neill first took over the managerial reins at Sunderland and the one thing I’m convinced about, one year on, is that he is absolutely the right man for the job.
After a fairy-tale start for him on Wearside it has fallen away badly and his 12 months in charge has been a bit like a game of two halves – a footballing feast in the first few months followed by a famine which continues to this day.
That’s prompted a few observers to speculate on his position at the club, but can you honestly think of a credible alternative?
I can’t think of anyone who Sunderland fans would want more than they originally wanted Martin O’Neill.
I can’t think of a manager we could attract who could boast a pedigree and CV as impressive as the one that he has.
And I can’t think of a manager who identifies as much with Sunderland fans as he does.
I also can’t think of a brighter mind to have in our corner working to solve the current problems and looking to give the club a stable long-term future.
So can I just say right now that he gets my vote of confidence.
That said, no-one is untouchable and he has to accept a lot of the responsibility for the way things have gone over the last few months.
The Sunderland side he inherited was not a great one, but he worked wonders with it and for that we have to be grateful – we’re still in the Premier League after all.
Where he has struggled is in his efforts to take that side on. He has gone for quality over quantity – £10m on England winger Adam Johnson; £12m on Scottish international finisher Steven Fletcher and a Bosman bargain in Carlos Cuellar.
He’s also picked up a cracking loan signing in Danny Rose, but so far he hasn’t been able to get a winning recipe from the new ingredients.
It’s a depressing time and there’s no getting away for it.
But I don’t think it’s time for U turns or changes of directions. We have to just get behind Martin O’Neill as best we can and keep on giving him our backing in the belief and hope that he’ll get it right.
Long-term, if anyone is going to turn it around, I believe it will be him.
READ the full Gary Rowell column in Tuesday’s Echo