Sunderland’s O’Neill: No fear in tough run of fixtures

Sunderland's Manager Martin O'Neill.
Sunderland's Manager Martin O'Neill.
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MARTIN O’Neill says he has not set his players a survival target – but can not agree with Harry Redknapp’s view that 37 points will be enough to guarantee Premier League safety this season.

The QPR boss has set his players the titanic task of getting 14 points from their final eight games, saying 37 will keep the Londoners – and anyone else who reaches it – in the division.

That scenario would mean 31-point Sunderland needing six more points from their remaining eight games, but O’Neill reckons that speculating on a survival figure is futile and he would prefers his players to simply focus on steadily accumulating points.

“I’ve not set a target and I don’t think you really can,” he told the Echo.

“Harry may well be right – 37 might be enough. Or it might be 35 or 36 ... or it could be higher. It could be 39 or 40 – it all depends on the results of others as well as your own.

“The usual figure mentioned is 40 points and I think we have a more than decent chance of reaching that.

“But the most important thing is to take it game by game and just concentrate on trying to get as much out of every match as you can.”

The next four games are as tough a group as Sunderland will face – Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton – but O’Neill insists the fixtures hold no fears for him.

“The difficulty of the four fixtures coming up doesn’t concern me at all,” he said.

“You have to play everybody twice each season and the challenge in front of us remains the same – we need to try to win a match.

“It doesn’t matter if it is Norwich or Manchester United, I would still go in with the same attitude of trying to get something out of the match and maybe look to win it.

“Regardless of the opponent you face, you can’t predict the outcome of the game.

“I was disappointed to lose to QPR but I’m sorry, I didn’t see it as this amazing shock – the games are tough and everyone is fighting for their lives.

“And let’s face it, QPR spent £20m or so in January and have a massive squad to choose from.

“Had we been playing them three games into the season you would have thought it was going to be exceptionally hard.

“Either way, you can never say this is a definite win, or that is a definite loss.

“We have beaten Man City this season and lost to QPR; Norwich have beaten Man Utd and lost to Luton – it is never straightforward.

“As for our own part, we have been able to win games this season that were very, very important at that moment in time. And hopefully we’ll do the same again.”