O'Neill appointment adds a touch of Clough


Newly-appointed Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill insists he will do everything in his power to bring success to the Stadium of Light, and spoke of his desire to push the club he supported as a boy, away from danger in the Barclays Premier League table.

The former Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa boss returns to the English top-flight with the Black Cats - a league he describes as the 'Holy Grail' of football - after signing a three-year deal to succeed Steve Bruce on Wearside.

"It's a nice feeling to be back in football," O'Neill told SAFC TV. "I would like it to be a successful period and I'm going to try my best to achieve it. That's what I've come for.

"I'm very excited about joining Sunderland. When the Stadium of Light is rocking it really is intimidating for other teams coming up. I have managed on a number of occasions against Sunderland, in particular when I was in charge of Leicester for the League Cup semi-final in 1999.

"Sunderland at that stage had a really strong side. We did well to win the game; they gave us a torrid time and could have easily have gone through. I think the move from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light was done well; the club have settled in.

"The lights shining at night make the place a bit special. In recent times I have been up with Aston Villa and it's still an intimidating place; a great place if you can win your games."

O'Neill took his place in the stands at Molineux yesterday to watch his Sunderland side surrender a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 against fellow strugglers Wolves.

The loss leaves the Black Cats in 17th place in the Barclays Premier League table, just one point outside the relegation zone having won only twice all season.

But following O'Neill's appointment there is already a renewed sense of optimism on Wearside - a feel-good factor that has been echoed by Sunderland favourite Jimmy Montgomery - who says the arrival of the Irishman will bring 'a touch of Brian Clough' to the club.

Montgomery was a teammate of both men – Clough at Roker Park and, briefly, O'Neill's at Nottingham Forest, when 'Old Big 'Ead' was in his heyday, winning European Cups - and he says that there's no doubt that the pupil has learned from the master.

"I liked Martin's attitude to the game at Nottingham Forest," Montgomery told the Sunderland Football Echo. "He was hard-working and he wanted to succeed – and he took the same qualities into management.

"I think when you work under someone outstanding in football management, it's hard not to pick things up. I think Martin learned a lot from Cloughie and Cloughie learned a lot from Alan Brown when they were both at Sunderland in the 60s."

The 59-year-old built his managerial reputation at Wycombe Wanderers before successful spells at Leicester and Celtic. O'Neill joined Villa in 2006 and led them to three straight sixth-placed finishes in the Barclays Premier League and the Carling Cup final before resigning prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.

O'Neill officially took over first-team duties this morning, and will be on the Sunderland bench for next weekend's clash with Blackburn Rovers.

"You want to get yourself established," he concluded. "We had a great season last season, finishing 10th, and a wee bit of a disappointing start this time, but we hope that with a little bit of luck we can turn things around."

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