Life is sweet in Sunderland for Martin O’Neill

Martin O'Neill in his shop Sweet Home Alabama.
Martin O'Neill in his shop Sweet Home Alabama.
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MARTIN O’Neill is already hard at work in Sunderland – in a sweet shop.

The new Black Cats boss is being welcomed to Wearside by his namesake, owner of Sweet Home Alabama, in the city centre.

Dated: 24/11/2007'Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill salutes the travelling fans after his sides 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside stadium. #NorthNewsAndPictures/2daymedia

Dated: 24/11/2007'Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill salutes the travelling fans after his sides 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside stadium. #NorthNewsAndPictures/2daymedia

And the businessman hopes the new Sunderland AFC manager can bring the “sweet” taste of success to the club, giving O’Neill’s appointment the thumbs-up.

Martin, 55, who is originally from Dublin, said he has often been mistaken for the Northern Irish football boss.

“I lived in Scotland for a few years when he was manager of Celtic up there, and I used to get phone calls saying ‘is that the real Martin O’Neill?’”

He added: “One of the things it will hopefully do is clear up the spelling of my name, because a lot of people seem to think O’Neill has only one L.

“I believe he was called Martin, like myself, because there was a big cult for calling boys born in Ireland in the 1950s after the Peruvian saint Martin de Porres.

“I’d imagine that’s why he’s called Martin too.”

Martin, whose shop scooped an Echo Portfolio Business Award last year, also said he expects Irish interest in Sunderland to be reignited, following the days when former boss Roy Keane was at the helm, with tourism in the city set to benefit from an influx of visitors from the Emerald Isle.

“He’s such a high-profile manager and I think it will be like when Roy Keane took over to be honest,” said Martin.

“It’ll make headlines all over the world.

“It’ll also revitalise the interest in Sunderland in Ireland.

“The sport is just nuts over there, and I expect that there’ll be a few more people coming over from Ireland to the games like there was a while ago.”

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