Sunderland’s turnaround is a triumph – Martin O’Neill

DEFENCE PRAISE ... Sunderland Manager Martin O'Neill. Picture by FRANK REID
DEFENCE PRAISE ... Sunderland Manager Martin O'Neill. Picture by FRANK REID
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MARTIN O’Neill hopes Sunderland can return to the top half of the table with victory over Wolves tomorrow.

But he says that wherever Sunderland finish this season, he’ll still regard it as a successful campaign for the club – especially given the plight of tomorrow’s opponents.

O’Neill watched from the stands at Molineux as a typical Sunderland horror show of the time unfolded.

The Black Cats threw away a 1-0 lead in the second-half after Seb Larsson’s penalty was saved and the West Midlanders scored two quick goals to leap-frog the Wearsiders and leave O’Neill taking over a side in the bottom three.

The tables have turned dramatically since then though, with Sunderland now 20 points ahead of the team they were three points behind when O’Neill took over the reins.

And while the Sunderland manager remains desperate for his team to make the most of the remaining five games, he believes that everyone at the club can take satisfaction from the relegation battle avoided.

He told the Echo: “There is still a lot for us to play for this season because the final position we end up in the table is important and the changes up and down can be quite dramatic because of the way the table is.

“We have been eighth and ninth recently with a chance to go sixth or seventh.

“But you can drop down to 15th or 16th very easily on any given week at the moment and we have to work hard to ensure that we don’t

“We want to finish in the top half of the table and a win over Wolves this weekend will help in that direction.

“But wherever we finish this season I’ll look back on my time here in this campaign feeling delighted.

“That first day I took over we had 11 points from 14 games – not even a point a game – and the first job was to get us to that point where we had parity in terms of games played and points scored.

“We achieved that quicker than I expected but I was still mentally prepared to be fighting a relegation battle at this stage of the season.

“I would have settled for having parity with games and points played and the chance to get up to 40 points with the five games remaining.

“But to do it as quickly as we did was fantastic because, as other teams have found, it is not easy.

“I’m still very, very keen to see us pick up more points and I want us to go out looking to win every game.

“But I’m delighted with what the players have given me this season and delighted that for a long time now we’ve been looking up the table and not down it.”