MARTIN O’Neill hailed every one of his players yesterday after a victory which was as welcome as it was unexpected to the Black Cats’ cause.
The Sunderland manager was absolutely thrilled at a result – 1-0 at home to table-topping Manchester City – which squeezed every ounce of effort out of so many of his players.
And just about everywhere he looked, he found something to praise.
“It was a remarkable performance and to win the game was extraordinary,” said O’Neill, whose men were depleted by injuries and illness.
“It was a fantastic effort, but there are a few things I need to pick out.
“Simon Mignolet, for example, who had a face-mask attached a few days ago and who has been training with that on in a few small-sided games.
“I wasn’t expecting him to be back for another three or four weeks, but, when Keiren Westwood called in ill, he said he’d play.
“I said to him not to worry about it, that even if things don’t go well, no blame would be attached to you – but he took confidence from it and was terrific.
“Seb Larsson was in bed all day yesterday and I didn’t think for a minute he would play.
“Then, on the morning of the match, he said he would try and I only expected him to last half an hour, but there he was at the end still going.
“And I think our whole performance was probably epitomised by our captain. Lee Cattermole was really fantastic.
“I was asked a question earlier whether he is now a more disciplined player, but I think it’s far too early to make a call on that one!
“I was delighted with him, though. He was brilliant.
“There was the young Irish lad, James McClean, who made his full debut for us and was fantastic.
“And in all this after-match confusion, I shouldn’t forget to mention my full-backs, two midfielders playing at full-back, Craig Gardner and Jack Colback, and I thought they were brilliant.
“Craig has played at right-back one or two times for me at Aston Villa and I know he doesn’t really like it, but he did it for the team, and Jack did likewise on the left.
“Jack said to me before the match that he would try and do a job for me, but he did more than just a job. He was terrific considering he was playing against a top-class player in Adam Johnson.
“And then finally there’s Matt Kilgallon. I’m sure that not for one minute did Matt think he would get a game so soon, but, in the end, he came and did remarkably well for us.
“Even trying to get to the pace of the game when you come on midway through a half is difficult, so he acquitted himself very well.”