WILL the real Sunderland please stand up?
That was the call from Martin O’Neill after watching his side produce a Jekyll and Hyde performance against Norwich City yesterday.
Sunderland played as badly as we’ve seen them all season in the first half at Carrow Road and as good as they’ve played all campaign in the second period.
And O’Neill has demanded that his men start producing consistently the sort of impressive display they conjured after half-time, when they could easily have overturned a 2-1 deficit to win the game.
“From the moment we conceded the second goal in the first half I thought we played very strongly,” the manager reflected. “And we have to do that regularly from now on.
“We played very well in the second half and should have had a couple of goals, and it was encouraging that we dominated a side like Norwich City so much on their home ground.
“On another day, one or two of the chances we created would certainly have gone in.
“It is good that we have that level of performance in us.
“If we go on to play like we did in the second half of this season, we’ll be fine; if we play like we did in the first, it will be a real challenge.
“The good side of things is that we rose to the task and should have got something out of the game.
“But there’s no point in taking 25 minutes to warm up.
“We spoke at half-time because the first-half performance wasn’t good enough.
“It’s a battle for us now, just like it was last year.
“But I’m hoping the players will be able to draw on what they achieved last season and the sort of reaction they showed when I first arrived.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are playing home or away, you’ve got to close down and compete and we did that in the second half but not in the first.
“We started to choose more right options in the second half and that was great, but we’d already let ourselves down with that first half.
“I think confidence was restored in the second half, but the fact is we need to win a game right now, we need to win a football match – get ahead and stay ahead.
“And to do that, to give ourselves a chance of that, we have to play regularly to the standard we played in the second half against Norwich.”