Martin O’Neill has backing of fans already – Dennis Tueart

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
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DENNIS Tueart believes his former team-mate’s Sunderland affiliations will give Martin O’Neill an advantage that Steve Bruce never had, should the Irishman become the club’s next manager.

The 1973 FA Cup hero and O’Neill were team-mates and room-mates during the Irishman’s single-season stint at Manchester City in the early 1980s.

And the former Sunderland winger is convinced O’Neill is the right man for the job in the wake of Steve Bruce’s dismissal.

Talks between O’Neill and owner and chairman Ellis Short moved into a third day today, with confirmation of the appointed expected soon.

“I’ve watched Martin’s success over the years as a manager and there’s no doubt he’s a fantastic talent who gets the best out of his squads,” said Tueart.

“Sunderland is exactly the sort of challenge he would relish and I can see the club going from strength to strength if he takes charge.

“But I think he’s on to a winner in the fact that he’s made no secret in the past about his affection for the club.

“You don’t have to have an emotional connection to the club but I think it helps – especially if things are not going well.

“If Sunderland are going on a bad run I think Martin will be shown a bit more patience than they might reserve for another manager and that might be all the time he needs to get over any difficult spells.”

Tyneside-born Tueart does not subscribe to the view that Steve Bruce was doomed as Sunderland manager simply because he was a Geordie.

But he says it is important to find an affinity and connection with the fans.

He told the Echo: “I remember when Bob Stokoe came to Sunderland and he was very much seen as a Geordie – he had played for Newcastle for years and won trophies for them.

“And when his first few games didn’t go well there were some fans giving him stick and telling him to get himself back to Newcastle.

“But he changed it around – he changed the shorts we used to wear from white to the traditional black, which was a popular move.

“He got the clock in the clockstand working again after years of not working and he got the timing of midweek games changed so that workmen on nightshifts could make it.

“They were small things, but they were important things and showed he thought like they did.

“And then when the club did well in the cup run, there was a moment when they saluted him from the terraces and he knew they’d taken him to their hearts.

“Steve never had that moment at Sunderland, but for Martin he’s halfway there because fans already know how much time he has for the club.”