Sunderland boss O’Neill: It’s not about the money

New Sunderland manager Martin O Neill speaking at a news conference at The Stadium of Light.
New Sunderland manager Martin O Neill speaking at a news conference at The Stadium of Light.
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MARTIN O'Neill insists he accepted the job of Sunderland manager without a single mention of the transfer kitty he can expect in January.

The 59-year-old saw the team he inherited from Steve Bruce slip to within a point of the Barclays Premier League drop zone with a 2-1 defeat at Wolves on Sunday.

A lack of goals is proving fatal in the wake of the departures of Darren Bent in January and Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck during the summer.

However, while much of the discussion since O'Neill's appointment on Saturday has centred around what he may or may not be able to do during the winter transfer window, he is adamant neither he nor owner and chairman Ellis Short raised the issue during their negotiations.

O'Neill said: "I had discussions with the owner of the football club. They weren't very long and that wasn't discussed, genuinely never discussed.

"Despite our discussions about things, that was never talked about.

"I am excited about taking the job, wanting to do something about it, and that's not a discussion at the moment.

"We will see what develops like everything else, but that was genuinely not discussed.

"At the moment, it's not the most important issue to me."

O'Neill, who took his first training session this morning, is thrilled to be back in management 16 months after leaving Aston Villa.

He admits he had no intention of staying away from the game for so long, but is relishing the chance to re-acquaint himself with it.

Asked if he has missed football, he said: "Yes, very much so. I hadn't thought about it, but to be out for about 16 months is not something I had envisaged at the time. The last thing I wanted to do was get lazy.

"But I am back here and I couldn't emphasise enough, back with enthusiasm and determination and ready to put heart and soul into the job.

"It's a really exciting job, really exciting. I am privileged to be here and absolutely delighted to be here.

"I know sometimes you look and you think, 'Does he look really excited?'. Let me tell you, I am, I am really excited about it.

"I have got enthusiasm for it - I have got enthusiasm for about 15 people, I think - and hopefully I have got enough determination to see it through."

O'Neill, whose time at Villa Park famously ended in a difference of opinion with American owner Randy Lerner, was impressed during his talks with Lerner's compatriot Short at the chairman's passion for the role after replacing Niall Quinn at the helm earlier this season.

The new manager said with a smile: "I don't know how it's worked in the past, but I would hope that would be a close relationship.

"I think he takes defeat not too well, which is always a good sign, so the sooner he gets back into a half-decent mood, the better."

O'Neill's mission will start in earnest when Blackburn arrive at the Stadium of Light on Sunday hoping to extend the Black Cats' dismal run of just three wins on their own pitch this calendar year.

However, asked if Sunderland are engaged in a relegation fight, he said: "Nobody likes to hear the word - we just need to win.

"We can only go from this day forward and our situation is insecure. We need to win some football games for a start.

"The sooner we can do that, the better for everyone. Nerves start to get frayed a little bit - and I might be the world's worst for that - but the sooner we start winning, the sooner confidence returns and the sooner people feel a wee bit better.

"Outside that, the rest of it, hopefully, will take care of itself."

It is well-documented that O'Neill, who held preliminary talks with then chairman Quinn over the job in 2006, supported Sunderland as a boy growing up in Northern Ireland, and his arrival has answered the prayers of many fans.

However, he is conscious that all that will count for little if he does not get it right on the pitch.

He said: "I wouldn't want to play too much on the Sunderland boyhood hero thing - it might give me two games' grace. We are in a results business."