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Captain's Blog: Shameless Speculation - Could Martin O'Neill Be The Man To Reignite Sunderland?

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I'll level with you – I love a good moan, me. I certainly don't actively seek it, and the criteria by which I decide what is moan-worthy is very tough to satisfy, but if the opportunity comes along then you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to be all over it like the proverbial rash. It is therefore testament to the sense of hopelessness attached to being a Sunderland fan of late that I am utterly sick of moaning. It is doing my head in. I've had enough.

The way I figure it, there are three ways out of this for me. I shall list them in order of likelihood, starting with the most far-fetched scenario. Firstly, Sunderland could start winning some actual football matches. I know, I know, but I did warn you I was starting with the long-shot. Secondly, our new Texan overlord could rid us of Steve Bruce and his soul-crushing weekly sermons about what we are doing wrong as fans, delivered with the foul stench of belligerent self-satisfaction unbecoming of a man who has produced consistent relegation form for months on end. That last part wasn't a moan, by the way. It was a rant. Don't go confusing the two.

The third option presented itself on Sunday morning when I picked up a newspaper and read a report suggesting that Martin O'Neill was being lined up by Ellis Short to replace Bruce – I can dream.

For some, the thought of Martin O'Neill perhaps managing Sunderland is a difficult one to stomach. I can understand their argument. It is difficult to dispute a claim that O'Neill is a volatile man with a history of falling out with his employers. Robert Chase (the Norwich chairman O'Neill had a disagreement with in 1996 before walking out) and Randy Lerner would be likely to agree with that notion, certainly. Putting such a personality together in a working relationship with someone as no-nonsense as Ellis Short would certainly be a risk.

It would also be a fair assertion that the O'Neill 'brand' of football is not the most sophisticated. His basic formula of being big and strong all the way down the spine of the team, utilising the wings, and getting the ball forward quickly is unlikely to be winning any awards for football innovation. His detractors could also point at a number of somewhat dubious forays into the transfer market whilst at Villa which saw big money thrown away on the likes of Curtis Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker.

But whilst I accept those arguments, for me the positives of what O'Neill could bring here far out-weigh them. Obviously there is frustratingly little signs of a managerial change being imminent at the Stadium of Light, but should there be one then I would personally be looking no further. Firstly, he is a manager who has genuinely never been tarnished by failure. His record is one of delivering nothing but relative success to any club who appoint him, regardless of their stature.

Wycombe Wanderers had never even tasted league football before O'Neill turned up. He led Leicester City into Europe, established them in the top 10 of the Premier League for 4 years running, and delivered them the only two major trophies of their entire history. Many will say that dominating Scottish football with one of the two Glasgow giants is easy, but I dismiss that idea entirely. Winning games shouldn't be a problem for Celtic, but to dominate the division like they did under O'Neill is an achievement that shouldn't be underestimated. It took him just one year to do what no other Celtic manager had been able to achieve for over 30 years when he won a domestic treble, and it took a Jose Mourinho inspired Porto side to prevent him adding a European trophy to his collection 2 years later. Aston Villa were a top-6 fixture under his leadership.

As for his direct and somewhat simplistic football, well I for one would welcome it with open arms. Yes it may not be flashy, innovative, or especially sexy, but he has proven over a period of 20 years that it is hugely effective. And it isn't as if we are talking about some kind of football dinosaur who can be accused of being out of touch with the modern game given his recent successes in the Midlands. I don't think we can afford pretension at this club. We don't have the prestige, glamour, or widespread appeal that is required to sustain it. What we do have is the kind of raw passion in the stands that high-tempo, high-energy football can ignite, and that is precisely what an O'Neill team offers.

In fact, reading down a list of O'Neill's achievements in football pretty much doubles up as a list of Sunderland's current ambitions. Get established as a top half Premier League team, become a threat in cup competitions, and may be even be able to look forward to the odd European night to enjoy at the Stadium of Light. He has his flaws and he would bring an element of risk, but show me a manager who the very same doesn't apply to and I'll show you a manager way out of our league.

Whilst Bruce's position as manager appears secure for now and I freely admit this has been little other than a shameless piece of speculation as an excuse to get out of talking about anything actually happening at the club, a continuation of the current run of results will make seeking a replacement unavoidable. If it reaches that stage, then for me Martin O'Neill appears absolutely tailor-made for this club at this time. A fine manager, infectious enthusiasm and, most importantly, a track record of winning football matches. Now, back to that morale-sapping 'reality' thing...

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