Manager and team-mate explain exactly why John O’Shea remains crucial to Sunderland’s survival hopes

Sunderland defender John O'Shea.
Sunderland defender John O'Shea.
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There was much about Sunderland’s capitulation at Sheffield United that will have concerned Chris Coleman.

Having made much progress in implementing a more patient, passing approach, the Black Cats boss could only watch on in horror as simple passes flew into touch and the team lost their composure in every department.

He will have been equally concerned about Sunderland’s defensive errors, with Sheffield United scoring three goals and perhaps deserving more for their dominance of the game.

The time to correct those errors has been brief and a drastic, instant improvement is required to ensure Sunderland don’t enter the new year in the bottom three of the Championship.

With midfield options limited after a raft of injuries, the Black Cats boss may have to change things for tomorrow’s trip to Nottingham Forest, and he is considering moving Marc Wilson into midfield.

Coleman also knows that ,with Barnsley visiting the Stadium of Light less than 48 hours after the clash with Mark Warburton’s side, he will have to balance his selections carefully to avoid the risk of burnout or further injuries to his depleted options.

Whatever he decides, Tyias Browning and John O’Shea will likely be partners in defence at the City Ground, and Coleman is thrilled to have a man of O’Shea’s experience in the ranks.

“Every day he is one of the best trainers,” he said.

“Eats well, trains well, recovers well. Talks brilliantly.

“If you’ve got over 100 caps for Republic of Ireland and played over 250 for Man United, that’s not a coincidence, is it? You are cut from a certain cloth clearly.

“He’s been great with young Tyias, because it’s not easy in that position when you are where we are.

“I think people get carried away sometimes with what makes a good leader.

“Just because you’re a ranter and a screamer, that’s fine, but some lead from their performance, their presence and their decision making.

“You need more than one. John deserves the armband but we’ve got a few (leaders).”

If Coleman does change the system, O’Shea will be one of those tasked with ensuring that the new instructions are implemented well.

“He’s been very good. You need your captain to be your extension on the pitch, but it does have to come from more than one,” Coleman added.

“Everywhere I’ve been, with a good dressing room, it has been about the plural, leaders not leader.”

There were many Sunderland supporters who, after years of toil, were keen to see the squad overhauled last summer and, as such, veteran O’Shea released at the end of his contract.

But an extension was signed and. after initially being kept out of the side by Lamine Kone, he has become a regular again.

Whether his career will extend beyond this season remains to be seen, but, with Kone’s future the subject of continued speculation and Wilson struggling to find consistency, O’Shea looks set to be crucial to Sunderland’s hopes of beating the drop in the second half of the season.

Fellow defender Browning is grateful for his presence and the Everton loanee admits that many in the game told him that a spell playing alongside the captain could bring his game on leaps and bounds.

Browning has not been disappointed and said he would not be surprised if O’Shea went on to have a successful coaching career.

O’Shea recently completed his UEFA A Licence and is expected to seek a management career when he retires.

Browning said: “He’s been very helpful.

“A lot of people told me it would be good for me to play next to him, because he’s very vocal and he’s done it all.

“Because he is so vocal, he has taught me to be more vocal too. Marc Wilson as well, even though he is over the far side, he is vocal too and helps me.

“Both have them been helpful, mainly positionally and encouraging me to more vocal.

“It works both ways, I help them out too – their legs have gone!

“Seriously though, they remind you of things, sometimes you think ‘I wouldn’t have thought to be there’. Sheasy doesn’t get caught out often.

“He is very clever positionally and he is vital. There is still a bit of life in him – mind, I have to be careful what I say!

“He could be a very decent coach – it looks like it could come naturally to him.

“I couldn’t ask for much more working alongside him and the gaffer during my loan spell.”