MARTIN O’Neill has predicted a tough hard end to a difficult Sunderland season, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
But he insists the current situation comes as no surprise to him, given how close the league is for so many of the teams outside the elite group heading the table.
He pointed out: “I said before the QPR game that I didn’t believe we were out of the relegation battle.
“It’s just a strange situation with things so tight in the division at the moment.
“You’re only a couple of points away from getting into the top half of the table, but, similarly, if you have a couple of points less then you’re right in the middle of things at the bottom.
“I’m not surprised to be where we are. I knew from the off that it was going to be very, very tough.”
Sunderland are still very much a work in progress and, given that fact, O’Neill always had it the back of his mind that this could be the most exacting of seasons, especially on one of the smallest squads in the Premier league.
“It is going to be hard for us in these last nine games, but, to be honest, it was hard for us from day one of this season,” he shrugged.
“We’ve hit a bad run and that has been disappointing because I have my own views on that – and that is that we shouldn’t have been beaten in those games.
“But the reality is we have been beaten and we now need to get some good results more than anything.
“We have to win a game or two, it’s as simple as that.”
The big frustration for O’Neill at the weekend was that Sunderland were unable to get back on level terms after going 2-1 down to QPR in the 70th minute.
Much of that might well have been down to the fact that the Black Cats had ONLY David Vaughan on the bench who wasn’t a defensive player.
O’Neill agreed it might have been a factor. “James McClean was ill in the build-up to the match and only got out of hospital on the morning of the game having spent two days there,” he said.
“It meant we only really had defenders on the bench.
“And that was an issue because maybe we haven’t really got enough goalscorers in our team.”
Asked whether those were issues he and the club would look to address in the summer, he replied: “First things first, we have to try to stay in this division; that’s what is really important to us.”