New Sundeland manager Martin O' Neill waves to the fans before the Barclays premier league game between Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers at Stadium of Light.
Well its the start of the turn around games. Playing the old faces battaling for more important points. Many say these games get harder, yet Everton and Wigan seem to find it harder.
Last year Sunderland had a bad back end of the season. But this year they are hoping for much more. As ever Simon Walsh from Roker Report answered our questions ahead of the first game of 2012 for the Latics.
Last time the two teams met, was the last time Steve Bruce managed a Sunderland side. How has the team changed since then?
We certainly seem a hell of a lot more organised. There seems to be a clear plan as to what every player needs to do and they’re doing it! Nothing seems particularly complicated any more. For example someone like Lee Cattermole, derided by many fans including myself, seems to be somewhat rejuvenated, and focussed on interceptions and breaking up play as opposed to people’s legs. It’s all very encouraging.
Was Martin O’Neil your first choice for the mangers job? If so why?
He was yes. I’ll admit, part of me wanted Mark Hughes at the time, but I don’t think we could have lost in all honesty, and certainly O’Neill has galvanised the fanbase and the team into a cohesive unit. Not many managers could have done that in the way he has.
Who do you see coming in, or going out in the summer?
Coming in, I’ve no idea. We could do with a centre-half, and a striker or two. One that intrigues me is the recently transfer listed Nicky Maynard from Bristol City, I’d like to see us take a chance on him. As for outgoings, there’s still some deadwood to shift such as Matt Kilgallon and Nyron Nosworthy. Craig Gordon is out of contract at the end of the season, and struggling for fitness. He could well be out with the fine form of Kieren Westwood.
Where would you now expect to finish under Martin O’Neil?
Pre-season plans for an assault on the top ten are on hold as far as I’m concerned. Take each game as it comes and see where we end up. I’m thinking it will be mid-table obscurity whilst O’Neill puts his own stamp on things. I’m hopeful, as I am every year, that this is the year we take the cup seriously.
Nicolas Bendtner has started to get in among the goals; will he be crucial to the rest of the club’s season?
Depends if he wants to turn up or not. He was fantastic at first, and now very much off the boil. There was a mini-rejuvination against QPR where you thought he’d got himself together, but it’s back to being one of those strikers who plays when he wants. We can’t really afford passengers, so I’d be looking for a replacement. So to actually answer the question – Probably not.
What are you hoping to see under Martin O’Neil in the future?
A balanced side, that plays for the full game. One who’s heads never drop regardless of scores and decisions and one that the fans can be proud of. Basically the opposite of what Steve Bruce was doing!
What is your result prediction? Will it vary from the regular 1-0 encounters we see at the DW Stadium between too sides
I hope so. To the neutral this looks a very unglamourous game, which suits me down to the ground. I hope for the sakes of you and me who will actually watch it, it’s an absolute cracker, just to piss off the MOTD crowd when it has to be on first. I’ll go with 4-3 to us, 2 sendings off, 1 highly contentious decision and 3 missed penalties.
And finally what is your favourite flavoured pie?
It always has been, and always will be, a Chicken Balti.