MARTIN O’Neill wants to make Sunderland’s fanatical supporters trip to The Hawthorns worthwhile tomorrow after some lean years for the Black Cats.
Despite a dismal record against Albion in recent years, Sunderland fans have sold out their entire allocation for the ground and O’Neill observed: “The tremendous following we have is something we have got used to but will never take for granted.
“We get used to selling out at so many grounds and that just underlines what sort of club and fan-base we have.
“But, as a manager, what I want is to give them a side they can enjoy watching.”
O’Neill hopes that the week-long trip to Dubai for warm-weather training and morale-boosting work will have a lasting impact on the remainder of the season and the benefits will start to be seen from this weekend.
“I’m hoping the players are much more refreshed and with 12 games to go I feel it was very beneficial.
“I’ve been on these sort of trips before with mixed degrees of success.
“One of them we came back and couldn’t stop winning, another time it was a bit more stop start.
“But I’ve been a big fan of the idea of a winter break for some time and I feel right now that it has been a benefit to us.
“We’ve got slightly less than a third of the season to go and there’s a lot of points to play for.
“We’ve got a interesting challenge tomorrow.
“Albion were flying at the start of the season and went on a great run before stuttering a little.
“But just when it looked as though the wheels might be coming off a little bit they had a fantastic win at Anfield against Liverpool earlier this month so I think they’ll feel confident going into this game.
“We’ve not got a great recent record against them.
“We went there last season and were in good form but got well and truly beaten and they beat us at our place this season so we’ve got to go out there and look to turn it around.”