O'Neill: Sunderland need to start winning
Newly-appointed Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has said he will try to revive his squad as they look to climb away from the Premier League's relegation zone.
O'Neill, who replaced Steve Bruce, watched from the stands on Saturday as Sunderland squandered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The defeat meant the Black Cats had gone five games without a win and left the north-east side just one point above the relegation zone.
Former Celtic and Aston Villa manager O'Neill took charge of his first training session with his new club on Tuesday and afterwards he told reporters: "Obviously we are in a little bit of trouble at the moment. We have been losing games and we could have had a few more points on the board.
"Sunday's game (against Blackburn Rovers) is very important for us. The players are aware of that and we just need to start winning some matches. The sooner we can do that, the better."
But despite Sunderland's poor run of recent results, O'Neill, who played for the successful Nottingham Forest teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, has been encouraged by the attitude of the squad. "Among the players there is very good spirit," the 59-year-old former Northern Ireland midfielder added. "We had a training session today. I would have expected them to be positive and they were just that."
O'Neill has been out of management since ending his four-year spell in charge of Aston Villa last year by resigning from the Birmingham club. Now he is particularly happy to be resuming his career with Sunderland, the club he supported as a boy.
"I don't really want to make too much of it, but I was a genuine supporter," O'Neill said. "Where I was brought up, there were two teams you could support - Celtic or Rangers, and everyone else had an English team as well. Other kids my age chose Leeds, Manchester United or Liverpool and I took Sunderland because Charlie Hurley was playing at centre-half, he was a big Irish centre-half.
"Like I said, I don't want to play too much on the boyhood hero thing as it will probably only give you a two-game grace. We are in the results business here. I want to make it a success if I can. I felt I was ready to come back.
"I am ready. It is a fantastic football club. The opportunity arose and I wanted to take it," said O'Neill, who has signed a three-year contract.
Sunderland had their moments against Wolves, but the match turned when, with the Black Cats 1-0 up, Sebastian Larsson had a penalty saved and less than 30 seconds later, Wolves equalised through Steven Fletcher, who later scored the winner.
"I think (caretaker manager) Eric Black summed it up well after the game when he said that type of performance where we played well and gifting them some goals was probably symptomatic of the season so far," O'Neill said. "Confidence is not at its highest at the moment. It has ebbed away and I will try to address that."