MARTIN O’Neill has thrown a protective arm around David Vaughan in the wake of the midfielder’s own-goal howler against Everton.
The Welsh international was inconsolable after Tuesday’s FA Cup quarter-final exit to Everton when he haplessly turned the ball into his own net to hand the visitors their second goal.
It was made even worse for Vaughan as he has been guilty of a dreadful pass that handed the ball to Everton in the first place in that move.
But Sunderland boss O’Neill wants the player and fans to move on from that disappointment – and pointed to one of Vaughan’s goals at the right end as being a major factor in the club’s resurgence.
He told the Echo: “David felt really bad afterwards and that’s completely understandable.
“It was an awful moment for him but of course we have to remember that he didn’t do those things on purpose. It’s just one of those horrible things that can happen in football sometimes.
“He’s an excellent player with great skills and we shouldn’t forget that.
“I spoke to him afterwards and I’ve spoken to him since and he has to accept that it’s just one of those things and there’s not point in dwelling on it.”
The Sunderland manager was in a more philosophical mood days after the cup exit, believing the bigger picture is a decent cup run and having avoided an uncomfortably close relegation battle.
And he says Vaughan has played a vital part in that success.
He said: “We shouldn’t forget that David Vaughan has been injured in the cause of this football club and is just coming back from that now.
“He’s a player who I will always be grateful to for scoring probably the most important goal of my time at the club.
“It was him who scored my very first goal in the game against Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light and you can’t underestimate the importance of that goal. I certainly haven’t forgotten.
“I remember we were 1-0 down at the time and struggling to get back into the game. David hit a thunderbolt that got us back into it.
“You can never tell in football matches just what would have transpired if one thing or another didn’t happen but certainly I think that goal made all the difference and in a way helped kick-start everything that followed.
“Sometimes bad things happen to good footballers and David just has to move on to the next game. He’s a valuable player and there’s still a lot to play for.”