LITTLE that Martin O’Neill did this season paid off.
The campaign was a mundane bore, with precious few highlights, before Sunderland embarked upon the slump which would eventually see O’Neill pay with his job.
But what was the biggest factor behind Ellis Short’s decision to relieve O’Neill (pictured, right) of his duties?
Several of those who commented in the Echo’s survey pointed out that O’Neill was guilty of a combination of shortcomings, rather than just one prime deficiency in his management.
And that prompted a split in the voting of O’Neill’s biggest shortcoming.
Sunderland’s tactics under the former Aston Villa boss were the main problem, according to more than a third of supporters.
Too often, the Black Cats struggled to get sufficient numbers forward or mount a sufficient threat on the opposition goal.
O’Neill’s penultimate game in charge against 10-man Norwich summed up the Black Cats’ troubles for much of the campaign.
It was predictable and lethargic and the Canaries were able to comfortably contain Sunderland.
As Alyson Lynch, from Trimdon Grange, commented: “Other teams knew exactly what we were going to do.”
Barnard Castle’s Ben Raw agreed that O’Neill’s tactics were out-of-date.
“We never got our players far enough up the pitch. Why buy Adam Johnson & never have him up the field? Out-of-touch manager,” he said.
The brand of football O’Neill was trying to manufacture was the second highest factor behind his failure, with just over a quarter of supporters identifying it.
O’Neill’s blueprint was for Sunderland’s creative trio of James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson to support the striker, but the plan never paid off.
Martin Keirl, from Fulwell, said: “There didn’t seem to be any urgency this season when he was in charge. We invited teams to attack us!”
Signings were also to blame, according to a sixth of supporters polled. Colin, from Washington, said: “Only two players brought in could be called a success and one of those was a loan deal. I don’t blame him for Johnson, but he didn’t fit O’Neill’s style. I do blame him for Kyriakos, Bridge, Saha, Cuellar, McFadden, Magane, Graham etc.”
The final category in O’Neill’s shortcomings, that he had spent too long out of football, took just over a tenth of the votes.
That, coupled with the absence of long-term second-in-command John Robertson, was to blame, according to Mount Pleasant’s Nigel Taylor.
“Clearly lacked the backroom support he had always had with him in other jobs,” he said.