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O’Neill believes he deserved chance at Sunderland

Martin ONeill: Pretty disappointed. Picture: SNS

Martin ONeill: Pretty disappointed. Picture: SNS

  • by COLIN STEWART
 

Martin O’Neill believes he should have been given the chance to replicate his achievement of last season and save Sunderland from relegation.

The Ulsterman was sacked from the Stadium of Light post last Saturday evening, hours after the Wearsiders’ 1-0 home defeat by Manchester United.

Sunderland had gone eight games without a win in the Premier League under O’Neill before chairman Ellis Short opted to dispense with his services and make the controversial decision to replace him with Paolo Di Canio.

It was a bold move given the former Aston Villa and Celtic manager had inspired a team bereft of confidence and languishing in 16th place when he took over in December 2011, guiding them to a 13th-placed finish.

O’Neill told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I am still pretty disappointed, frustrated as much as anything else, but life goes on.

“I’m in the business now where I think very little shocks you about professional football especially in the last ten years. You can lose a job in management if your tie doesn’t fit your suit.

“With the experience I have had over the years ... also coming into the football club at a time when the club was pretty well on its knees. I believed I saved it from relegation last year and I thought that opportunity should still have been afforded to me.”

Sunderland are 16th in the Barclays Premier League table and face a tricky run-in, starting tomorrow with a trip to face European champions Chelsea.

Di Canio says he is relishing the challenge that lies ahead. And the Italian has happy memories of playing at Stamford Bridge – a venue where he scored a spectacular long-range volley when playing for West Ham in 2006.

“As a manager it is my first time at the top, I mean the very top level,” Di Canio said. [We are] away from home against Chelsea, where obviously I have good memories and scored when I was a footballer. But I’m not a footballer now, I’m a manager and now I hope my players will score there and give us some points. It’s fantastic. The players will be motivated on their own; they live to play on the big stage. Obviously we are going to give them extra motivation to try to get a very good result.”

Di Canio’s only other spell in management was at Swindon, whom he led to promotion from npower League Two after his first season in charge, before resigning in February following off-the-pitch problems and financial difficulties at the club.

The 44-year-old is now keen to make an immediate impact in the Premier League. He added: “Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – what can you say? I can’t wait for it and I expect the same desire and determination from my players to make sure they do a good job.

“To go to Stamford Bridge and make a big impact – we always have to remember that the main protagonists are the players, but with my help and my staff’s help we can go there and get a result. I’m not worried about the big stage. We will do everything straight away to try and get a big result at Chelsea and then in the other games. This is a fantastic achievement for me and my staff and it is a consequence of what we have done in the past.”

Di Canio has several injury worries ahead of the match and only has a threadbare squad to choose from. Midfielder David Vaughan (groin) and defender Carlos Cuellar (ankle) are both doubts while captain Lee Cattermole (knee surgery) and striker Steven Fletcher (ankle ligaments) will both miss the rest of the season.

However, there is some hope for long-term absentee Wes Brown (knee), who is continuing to train without suffering a relapse.

 

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