MARTIN O’Neill admits that this weekend’s game against QPR is a crucial one for Sunderland.
But he is hoping that the Black Cats can get the same result this Saturday as they did on his last trip to Loftus Road, when Wes Brown scored an 89th minute winner to give O’Neill his first away win as Sunderland manager.
That was December, 2011, and Brown’s career since then has been pretty much wrecked by injuries.
But as O’Neill prepared to take his squad down to London today he was hoping for a similar type of performance from his players.
He said this morning: “Wes did particularly well to get the goal and it’s a shame he’s not been involved this season.
“We seem to have a weekly conversation about Wes, or a fortnightly one about how he is doing.
“It has been a really frustrating time for him and he’s desperately trying to do successive week’s work in training.
“So far he has not been able to do that but there are some encouraging signs so we just have to wait and see.”
While Brown will once again be unavailable and skipper Lee Cattermole’s return from a knee injury remains weeks away, Sunderland should be boosted by the return to fitness of Danny Rose while Matt Kilgallon is also available again.
That’s some good news for O’Neill who says he will need the strongest squad he can call on to face a rejuvenated QPR in a game of vital importance to both sides.
“It’s a big game for us,” he agreed.
“We are entering the final third of the season with plenty of games to go, a lot of points to play for and we are one of a bunch of teams pushing for 10th place but conscious of the fact we’re not safe from the bottom of the table either.
“QPR have strengthened in the January transfer window, they’ve got an able manager and their recent form has been good.
“They’re also at home and they’ll fancy their chances and this is not a game we would ever take lightly.
“I don’t know whether or not we’ll be favourites, I certainly think their work in the recent window has greatly helped their hopes of survival.
“But we go there still very much in a positive frame of mind.
“We’ve not had a great run of late but I think you have to take the performances into account and from my point of view I don’t think we should have lost any of those games.”