Top Ten: Martin O'Neill's Magical Moments

Stu Forster

In an effort to get some positivity on Wearside, we count down our ten most magical moments which have came under the reign of Martin O'Neill at Sunderland. Join us, and see if you agree or disagree...

Monday brought up a year in charge of Sunderland for Martin O'Neill. It has been a twelvemonth that has seen the scales balanced out - his impressive start offset by a run of just two wins in the last 23 league games. What better way to take a break from current frustrations than to recap some of the finer moments in his tenure so far.

10. Sessegnon Vs Swansea

As O'Neill took over the reins from Steve Bruce, a number of players looked as if a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. Stephane Sessegnon was no different in this regard, but the form that followed put him on a different level to most of his team-mates. The only thing more outrageous than taking this shot on - and scoring it - was that it was omitted from the Goal of the Season nominees.

9. Fraizer Campbell's Renaissance

It was flicker than blazing inferno, but Campbell's return to the Sunderland first team was the culmination of 18 months of injury hell. The England call-up took the feel-good element of the story a bit far, but the reaction to his goal against Middlesbrough was an incredibly passionate moment.

8. Mignolet's Save Vs Everton

With a Cup run almost in full-swing, a trip to Goodison Park was the last thing we wanted, or needed. Yet, Phil Bardsley put us in front before Tim Cahill routinely scored against Sunderland. With Everton edging into the ascendancy, the Belgian made a brilliant double save to take the tie to a replay. Alas, it only prolonged our suffering.

7. Vaughan Vs Blackburn

With O'Neill's first game in charge drifting towards a home defeat, up stepped Vaughan to whack home an equaliser from the edge of the area. It was a fitting way to begin a run of games that featured a number of wonderful long-range efforts, with the little Welshman scoring another soon after away to Wigan Athletic.

6. Stephen Fletcher's Finishing Ability

References of O'Neill's desire to land the Scottish striker can be found as far back as May. Despite widespread sniggering at the price quoted by Wolves Chief Executive Jez Moxey, O'Neill stuck to guns belligerently; going into the first game of the season without a centre-forward of his requirements but eventually landing Fletcher. The quality of his finishes against Swansea, West Ham and Fulham has justified his pursuit and his faith in the front man.

5. The Introduction Of James McClean

There is no getting away from the fact that McClean is currently in a sophomore slump, but O'Neill's decision to bring him on in his first game against Blackburn Rovers uncovered the roughest of diamonds. His first action - squaring up his full-back, taking him on and whipping a ball into the box - galvanised a home crowd that were witnessing more of the same timid attacking approach that had been on display since August. Finally, Sunderland had a left winger capable of getting to the byline. We need to find a way of getting him back.

4. Signing Adam Johnson

A statement of intent this summer, Johnson was the key to Sunderland transitioning from a counter-attacking team to one that could start to dictate its own terms. Such a plan is yet to formalise, but the long-time coveted winger is starting to find his feet.

3. Larsson Vs Blackburn Rovers

Having already flaunted his free-kick prowess earlier in the season, there wasn't many game-winning situations available to Sunderland better than Sebastian Larsson standing over a dead ball.

An anxious Stadium of Light crowd erupted as the Swede curled the ball over the wall and beyond Paul Robinson to give O'Neill a first win in his first game in charge.

2. The FA Cup Win Over Arsenal

From a personal perspective, this was the moment I realised we were on to something good (I still think we are, for the record). Having just lost to the Gunners at home in the league, facing the same opposition in the Cup was as much a test of character as it was ability, and the Lads passed with flying colours - advancing to the quarter-finals in the process. The passion that was on display that day needs rekindling to get us out of our current league position.

1. Jiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

The staunch defence, the counter, Seb Larsson collapsing in a heap in the centre circle after leading the break out, a one-two with Sessegnon, the marginal offside and the composure from an extremely raw young striker against the eventual champions; all soundtracked by a bewildered and delirious Martin Tyler. It had everything.

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