ONE good thing about Martin O’Neill’s appointment as Sunderland manager is that it will stop his name appearing in prospective lists every time a job comes up in the Premier League.
That’s unless Fergie resigns and the Irishman is tipped for the poisoned chalice of following the almighty managerial god into Old Trafford.
For me O’Neill has been the outstanding No1 in the British game over the past 15 years. Having brought league football to Wycombe he has had continual success wherever he has been.
Some might say that was easy enough in Scotland where his stint at Celtic was spectacularly successful with only other club coming close as challengers – guess which one – but his record at Norwich, Leicester and Aston Villa also stands up to the closest scrutiny.
Martin is the closest thing to an egghead in football since Pat Nevin, hugely intelligent, yet still able to work on the same wavelength as the player with the lowest IQ in his squad.
There is no doubt he learned his trade under the influence of a magnificent mentor in Brian Clough. That is not to say that Cloughie realised he was teaching his pupil so well, or that O’Neill has copied any of his traits.
He is very much his own man with original ideas, a bit like Jeremy Clarkson but without a loose tongue and necessity to shock.
Sunderland is an interesting choice for him, they were the club he supported as a boy, and their passionate rivalry with Newcastle, fits ideally into his perfect job description.
He relished the Glasgow derbies and will have already put a ring round March 3 in his diary – that will be the day he takes his Black Cats to devour the Magpies at St James’s Park.
Players like Sessegnon, Richardson, Larsson and Whickham are bound to benefit from his tutelage and the Stadium of Light is going to be a far more interesting place to visit from now on.
And talking of Sebastian Larsson what delicious justice was dished out to the Swede at Wolves on Sunday.
Guilty of an outrageous dive which conned referee Phil Dowd into awarding a penalty, he then stepped up to give Sunderland a two-goal lead in a match already rated as crucial to the relegation battle.
But 30 seconds later the ball was in the net – at the other end of the field!
Wayne Hennessy made the most popular save of the afternoon, and the ball was swiftly transferred to the opposite end where Steven Fletcher hammered it past Sunderland keeper Keiren Westwood.
The look of incredulity on Larsson’s face as a potential 2-0 lead metamorphosed into 1-1 was worth the admission alone. He looked even more forlorn when Fletcher scored again to win the day for the Wolves – that will teach him!