Despite a 2-0 home loss to Everton that prevented an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, Sunderland fans still have a lot to smile about this season.

Steve Bruce was given his marching orders from the Stadium of Light in November, having won just two games from 13, and languishing in 16th place in the Premier League.

Now, under the stewardship of former Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill, the Black Cats are eighth - two points behind Liverpool - with just eight games remaining.

Looking at the Northern Irishman's history there is little wonder that Sunderland could finish in the top 10 this season for the first time since 2001 - and just the third time in the Premier League. Peter Reid took them to 7th place in 1999-2000, and again the following year.

Sunderland had two good seasons with Bruce finishing in 10th last year and 13th the year before, but their return to the Premier League in 2008-09 season was finished in an unremarkable 16th place. Now, they finally look like establishing themselves as a top 10 side that could push for European football next year.

After losing top goalscorer Darren Bent and the lively Asamoah Gyan early in the season things looked bad but Sunderland fortunes have since turned around significantly.

O'Neill has finished outside of the top 10 just once in the Premier League when he came 11th in his first season at Aston Villa.

His first Premier League post was with Leicester City - who he won promotion from the old Division One with - in 1995. His debut season in the Premiership he finished 9th and won the League Cup.

This amazing start was followed by 10th place finishes two years in a row and an 8th place finish before joining Scottish giants Celtic in 2000. He also won a second League Cup with the Foxes in 2000 and finished runners-up in the 1999 finals.

A successful reign at Celtic Park was rewarded with three SPL titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup. His Hoops side set a British record of 25 consecutive league victories.

The next challenge for O'Neill was to bring stability to a yo-yo Aston Villa side who plummeted in three years under David O'Leary from 2003 to 2006.

Before O'Leary, Graham Taylor was close to relegation finishing 16th. The Irishman took over and started strong but ran out of steam, finishing 6th, 10th and 16th in his final year.

Stability and consistency took just a season under O'Neill as Villa felt there way into 11th place in 2006-07 followed by 6th place for three seasons in a row.

After making their claim on sixth spot in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup final, it came as a shock to most people in football when O'Neill resigned just five days before the start of 2010-11.

The details of his departure remain unfounded but it is rumoured that lack of money available for transfers after James Millner was sold to Manchester City was the main contributing factor.

Millner preceded Ashley Young, Gareth Barry and Stewart Downing away from Villa Park for big money and O'Neill was not offered the profits to put back into the squad.

Villa's loss appears to be Sunderland's gain though. The Midlands club are 15th in the table whilst Sunderland are eighth.

The man that took Leicester and Villa to League Cup finals just managed to miss out on a Wembley appearance with his new employers, but the signs are looking good for the Black Cats under Martin O'Neill.

On 29 March 2012 12:50, Alex Williams <williamz123@hotmail.com> wrote:

Martin the magnificent

Martin O'neill could lead Sunderland to become a consistent challenger for European football in the near future.

by Alex Williams

Despite a 2-0 home loss to Everton that prevented an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, Sunderland fans still have a lot to smile about this season.

Steve Bruce was given his marching orders by Sunderland having won just two games from 13 and languishing in 16th place in the Premier League.

Now, under former Aston Villa manager, the Black Cats are eighth in the league - two points behind Liverpool - with just eight games remaining.

Looking at the Northern Irishman's history there is little wonder that Sunderland could finish in the top 10 this season for the first time since 2001 - and just the third time in the Premier League.

Peter Reid took Sunderland to 7th place in the 99/00 season and again the following year. Martin O'Neill's squad currently sit eighth two points behind Liverpool which is quite an achievement as the Black Cats had just 11 points in 16th place after Steve Bruce's departure in early December.

The Northerners had two average seasons with Steve Bruce finishing in 10th last year and 13th the year before. Their return to the Premier League in the 08/09 season was finished in a very unremarkable 15th followed by 16th the year after.

Now, they finally look like establishing themselves as a top 10 side that could surely push for European football next year. After losing top goalscorer Darren Bent and the lively Asamoah Gyan early in the season things looked bad but Sunderland fortunes have since turned around significantly.

There is no coincidence that Sunderland are bang on track for a top 10 finish with just eight games remaining. O'Neill has finished outside of the top 10 once in the Premier League when he came 11th in his first season at Aston Villa.

O'Neill's first Premier League post was with Leicester City - who he won promotion from the old Division One with - in 1995. His debut season in the Premiership he finished 9th and won the League Cup.

This amazing start was followed by 10th place finishes two years in a row and an 8th place before joining Scottish giants Celtic in 2000. He also won a second League Cup with the foxes in 2000 and finished runners-up in the 1999 finals.

A successful reign at Celtic Park was rewarded with three SPL titles, three Scottish cups and a league cup. His Celtic side set a British record of 25 consecutive league victories.

The next challenge for O'Neill was to bring stability to a yo-yo Aston Villa side who plummeted in three years under David O'Leary from 2003 to 2006.

Before O'Leary, Graham Taylor was close to relegation finishing 16th. The Irishman took over and started strong but ran out of steam, finishing 6th, 10th and 16th in his final year.

Stability and consistency took just a season under O'Neill as Villa felt there way into 11th place in 06/07 followed by 6th place for three seasons in a row.

After making their claim on sixth spot in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup final, it came as a shock to most people in football when O'Neill resigned just five days before the start of this season.

The details of his departure remain unfounded but it is rumoured that lack of money available for transfers after James Millner was sold to Manchester City was the main contributing factor.

Millner followed Ashley Young, Gareth Barry and Stewart Downing away from Villa Park for big money and O'Neill was not offered the profits to put back into the squad.

Villa's loss appears to be Sunderland's gain though. The Midlands club are 15th in the table whilst Sunderland are eighth.

The man that took Leicester and Villa to League Cup finals just managed to miss out on a Wembley appearance with his new employers but the signs are looking good for The Black Cats under Martin O'Neill.

Topics:
Sunderland
Football
Premier League