SUNDERLAND owner Ellis Short admits he had doubts over whether Martin O’Neill could be lured to the Stadium of Light.
O’Neill was Sunderland’s number one choice to replaced the sacked Steve Bruce, but the former Celtic boss had not been short of suitors since leaving Aston Villa 16 months ago.
The 59-year-old was appointed within three days of Bruce’s dismissal though, with Short hoping O’Neill can consolidate the Black Cats as a top 10 Premier League club.
Chairman Short (pictured) said: “After deciding that Martin was the ideal choice, I was initially worried that he may not want to come to Sunderland.
“This concern was allayed immediately upon meeting him and seeing his enthusiasm for this assignment first hand.
“As we looked at the potential candidates for our new manager, Martin O’Neill stood out as the obvious choice – he is a proven winner and an outstanding motivator.
“The fact that he is a boyhood Sunderland supporter enabled him to know that the club should be better than its current position indicates.
“Martin is a top manager and our hope is that he can elevate our team to the level that our supporters deserve.
“I’m not going to make promises, but simply what we would like is consistency, regular top-10 finishes and to cement a place amongst the established members of the Barclays Premier League.”
Bruce was sacked after two-and-a-half years at the helm, with Short describing the club as “underperforming”.
Last month’s home defeat to Wigan saw fans turn on the Tynesider, who mustered just two wins in the opening 13 games of the season.
“It wasn’t specifically the last home game against Wigan that determined we would change our manager, because we outplayed Wigan for most of the game,” added Short, in his programme notes prior to yesterday’s victory over Blackburn Rovers.
“However, once again, things didn’t go our way and, ultimately, we were left to reflect on the fact that, over a long period of time, we have been underperforming.
“We believe the club should be in a better position and consequently the board took the action we believed was necessary for the good of the club.”