MARTIN O’Neill has returned from Seoul to Sunderland determined to take the positives out of the trip.
The manager failed to retain the Peace Cup trophy he won the last time it was held – seeing off Juventus in 2009 when he was boss of Aston Villa.
And the trip hasn’t been ideal in terms of injury either – Wes Brown a real worry with a knee injury but Carlos Cuellar, Simon Mignolet, David Vaughan and Blair Adams also picking up injuries too.
But after the last gasp win over Groningen gave Sunderland third place in the competition and a share of the prize money, O’Neill preferred to be upbeat.
“I think that for those who were able to stay on the field for the vast majority of the 90 minutes in the two games we played in South Korea, the benefits will be significant,” he said.
“And from that viewpoint, that’s one real bonus to come from the trip because all of the players have worked hard, be it in training or in the games.
“I think you saw that work ethic come to the fore in the game against Groningen in particular. We worked exceptionally hard at the end of the game to get back into it and I have to say that I was very impressed by Ryan Noble.
“From the moment he came on, with 15 minutes to go, I could tell he really wanted to make something happen.
“He took his goal brilliantly but he was also trying to hold on to the ball too, which is something he’s trying to learn, and if he can do that part of the game more, he’s going to have a real chance.”
O’Neill is at pains not to read too much into pre-season.
“I think there’s a danger that you can over-analyse at this stage – and I maybe should include myself in that, “ he said.
“But we’ve taken a very youthful squad over to South Korea, we’ve had very little in the way of pre-season before flying out and I think that overall we haven’t done too badly.
“Fitness is very important and I think in that direction it has been really good but I was glad that the lads got the win in the final game because they were buzzing afterwards and rightly so.”