Football: Martin O'Neill has come out fighting before tomorrow night’s crucial match against Reading at the Stadium of Light, saying he is the only man to lead the Black Cats to safety.
The clash between the two struggling Premier League sides marks O’Neill’s one-year anniversary in the Sunderland hotseat.
It’s safe to say that most Mackems fans would have hoped for a better 12 months after the Northern Irishman’s arrival.
The north-east club sit in the bottom three following Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea and have claimed only two wins in their last 23 league games.
Tomorrow’s rearranged match against Reading, currently 19th, gives Sunderland the chance to kick-start their campaign, though some pundits, including former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, have suggested that anything other than a home win could spell the end for O’Neill.
That suggestion was given short shrift by O’Neill today, the manager insisting he is the best man for the job.
O’Neill said: “So what do you do then? So you go and put someone else in charge, he gets a group of 12, 13 games and can’t win any matches? It’s the same thing. I don’t want to sound wildly boastful, but not only am I the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job.
“We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead — it might take us a few months to do that — and then we will see. If we are continuing for the next couple of years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then.”
Sunderland’s leading scorer Steven Fletcher (ankle) remains a doubt, so Connor Wickham could deputise.
Pavel Pogrebnyak is a doubt for Reading, who are also missing Chris Gunter (hamstring), Jimmy Kebe (groin) and Jem Karacan (knee).