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O’Neill is in it for the long run
A DEFIANT Martin O’Neill last night reaffirmed his longterm commitment to deliver brighter times to Sunderland – with Ellis Short’s backing.
Short contacted O’Neill on Saturday night in the wake of a defeat to West Bromwich Albion when unsubstantiated claims the Northern Irishman had offered to quit had surfaced on the radio and social network sites.
Tonight Queens Park Rangers, buoyed by the arrival of new boss Harry Redknapp, head for the Stadium of Light looking to make the most of their opponents’ poor run of just two wins from their last 20 Premier League games.
Sunderland have lost four of their last seven Premier League fixtures, which has seen them drop to within two points of the relegation zone.
But O’Neill, talking for the first time yesterday about the rumours of his departure, revealed Short is giving him the time to turn Sunderland’s fortunes around.
The manager said: “The owner has said to me ‘this will take some time to get things together’.
“I don’t intend to do it in ten years, as that would bore the life out of everybody. But I intend to do it as quickly as I possibly can. For one, if you are winning it gives you respite but more importantly gives you a wee bit more time to put your team together.”
He had earlier used a quote from The Sundance Kid to outline his determination to succeed: “I want to fight them, I want to fight them, so let’s stay and fight ‘em.”
In Short’s four years with the club he has already had Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia, Steve Bruce and O’Neill manage under him.
But O’Neill is the first to have held the post following the departure of chairman Niall Quinn earlier this year.
The message from Short, however, is that he is not looking to make constant changes in search of success.
O’Neill said: “I don’t say I know Mr Short fantastically well, but we’ve had some very good conversations and he is the one pointing out to me this will take time.
“He is not expecting anything at the minute and he genuinely wants stability at the football club.
“In the past it’s the teams who have shown stability who have come through it. It is tough, there is no doubt, and like everybody else I would not mind a few more points on the board if we could get them.
“I want to do well at the club. More importantly I expect to do well.”
O’Neill was at home on Saturday night when the calls started to come through to him that he had offered his resignation. He said: “It was a bit of a surprise, although nothing should surprise me in the game. There have been similar claims a couple of times already this season, which stemmed from accusations he is a manager who quits.
O’Neill said: “I quit one job and it was nothing to do with us. We (Norwich City) were third and myself and the chairman Mr Chase and I just couldn’t get on. He disliked me as much as I disliked him.
“So it was not a major problem, my only regret is what happened with Aston Villa but that is a totally different issue.
“If you want to go down that road I spent five years at Wycombe, five years at Celtic and four and a half at Leicester and four years at Aston Villa. I am not sure where the quitting thing comes in.”
Sunderland’s frustrating defeat to West Brom – when they looked pretty decent going forward – has increased the pressure to get a result against QPR.
Skipper Lee Cattermole, struggling with a knee problem, has not been completely ruled out but defender John O’Shea will be missing with a calf problem.
The last thing O’Neill needs is a team arriving on Wearside lifted by a new manager. That, though, is precisely what he will get with Redknapp and Rangers.
O’Neill said: “It is pretty tough. I have chosen the job.
There are as many dark days as rosy ones.
“You have to get through it though and I don’t see it as anything I haven’t done before.”
O’Neill, who claimed the Stadium of Light surface was holding up to the heavy rainfall, also backed goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to bounce back from his first half blooper against West Brom.
The manager said: “He is so, so keen and one of the best trainers I have ever known. He had a problem last week, hurt himself the day before Fulham, he was very uncomfortable during the course of the match but said he would play.
“I thought he was brilliant against Fulham but maybe he felt not doing much training last week left him short.
“That can happen. He made a mistake but I expect him to come good. He is young and he is a very, very good goalkeeper.”