The Sunderland landscape has been irrevocably changed since Martin's seemingly inevitable arrival on Wearside. As well as the much improved form and results there seems to be a sweepstake going at the Academy as to who can score the best goal, boy have there been some beauties! Which leads us nicely on to this week's Top Ten where I will try and put all of the goals in an order of greatness, no easy feat I can assure you!
So without further ado...
10. David Vaughan vs. Blackburn
What better place to start than with the first goal of the O'Neill era and an incredibly important one at that. Sunderland had fallen behind to a Vukcevic goal after our defence allowed Samba time to get a shot away on goal from a Blackburn freekick. Keiren Westwood was only able to palm away the stinging shot straight onto the head of the Montenegrin midfielder who couldn't miss. As the game wore on Sunderland piled on the pressure and just when it seemed it was going to be one of those frustrating afternoons David Vaughan latched on to a loose ball from a weak Adam Henley clearance and spanked a spectacular drive past a montionless Paul Robinson. Queue bedlam and a Sunderand crowd that could sense a winner...
9. Stephane Sessegnon vs. QPR
There have been a number of players that have flourished since O'Neill's arrival adding more weight to the case that he is one of the best man-motivators in the game and our exciting Beninese playmaker is one such player. Sess doubled Sunderland's lead at Loftus Road shortly after halftime capitalising on a miscued headed clearance from Danny Gabbidon to race in on goal and leave Paddy Kenny mesmerised by his quick feet before slotting the ball home into an empty net.
8. David Vaughan vs. Wigan
The first of two back-to-back goals from Sunderland's impressive follow-up to the shock victory over Manchester City just days earlier, which will be no great surprise as they were some superb strikes. David Vaughan makes the number eight slot with yet another rocket and Sunderland's fourth goal of the evening. The move started with a probing run from James McClean on the right hand side, darting into the area, before the ball broke the Sessegnon who's shot was charged down. Wigan were far from safe however as the ball spun away across the area where Vaughan was on hand to meet it with a thumping first time left footed shot which nearly took Nicklas Bendtner's Danish bonce off on its way into the top corner.
7. Craig Gardner vs. Wigan
We'll stay at the DW Stadium for number seven of our run down, this time for the opening goal of the contest, an absolute rocket of a freekick from easily thrity-odd yards out in the swirling wind and rain just before half-time. Craig Gardner hit a curling drive that would see even Roberto Carlos nod in appreciation, as his shot made the Wigan wall about as much use as a copy of the Watchtower through Keiran Richardson's letterbox.
6. Seb Larrson vs. Blackburn
Whilst number ten on our list inspired the Sunderland fans it was a piece of Swedish magic that had us believing in the Martin O'Neill affect. With the clock at 90:00 Sunderland were awarded a freekick in what has now become known as "Seb territory" and it was one of those moments where you could feel comfortable in nudging the person next to you and daring to whisper "its in this" and bloody hell did the beautiful little fella deliver!
5. Stephane Sessegnon vs. Norwich
In a game which saw Sunderland climb to eighth in the table after bringing to an end Norwich's six-match unbeaten run there were two fantastic goals, one of which might feature later in the list... spoiler alert. Number five on our run down goes to Stephane Sessegnon's goal which showcased the threat that O'Neill's Sunderland pose on the counter. Sess started the move himself beating Bradley Johnson in the centre circle with a neat nutmeg before galloping forward. McClean looked the more obvious option to Sessegnon's left however the crafty forward deftly placed the ball into the path of Fraizer Campbell on the right flank with a flick of his boot. Rather than admire his work Sess embarked on a lung-busting run into the box to meet Campbell's inch perfect cross with a well-timed header.
4. Craig Gardner vs. Swansea
Craig Gardner originally caught Steve Bruce's eye as the goal scoring midfielder we were missing and he has certainly began to exhibit his eye for goal as of late with his stunning late strike against Swansea being the pick of the bunch. Just as Sunderland seemed to be squandering a number of chances to kill the game off it was Gardner's twenty-five yard volley which finally clipped the Swans' wings and sent the Stadium of Light into a state of delirium.
3. Fraizer Campbell vs. Norwich
There is no-one on this list more deserving of such a stunning goal then Fraizer Campbell. The popular forward had spent eighteen months battling back from two cruciate ligament injuries and had resorted to smuggling himself in with the Sunderland fans to get his fix of the action in a number of not so convincing disguises. So when Campbell marked his return with an unstoppable dipping volley from outside of the area to open the scoring the joy of the fans could only be matched by that on Fraizer's face.
2. Ji Dong-Won vs. Manchester City
There are moments in football that you will never forget and Ji's late, late winner against Manchester City is one of them. In a game which saw SAFC frustrate Mancini's expensively assembled side an unlikely hero was born. With injury time draining away Sebastian Larsson managed to feed the ball to the left wing before his legs gave up from underneath him. The Korean's natural instinct once in possession was to play for time and head for the corner but as he passed O'Neill's technical area he was roared on to goal by his manager. Noticing the gaps in City's defense the lanky forward played a neat one-two with Sessegnon and despite a hint of offside managed to round Joe Hart before stabbing the ball home whilst desperately winning a seemingly lost battle to keep his feet. The Korean had sealed an unlikely victory for his side and was keen to join in the fans' celebrations although this may be a decision he since regrets.
1. Stephane Sessegnon vs. Swansea
Our talented playmaker completes his hat-trick of appearance on this top ten with his outrageous effort against Swansea. After a frantic opening fifteen minutes Sunderland finely put together a meaningful passage of play which saw Sessegnon work a superb move with the youngster James McClean on the left wing before opening his body to shape a ridiculous effort into the far top corner. Not even the inform Michel Vorm stood a chance of getting anywhere near it and to be honest I don't think there is a keeper around that would have stopped such and magnificent shot. For the sheer technique and vision that such an effort required Sessegnon has made it to the top of the list.