IN Martin O’Neill’s words “it is hard to gain but very easy to lose”, but confidence will be the first thing Sunderland’s new manager looks to bring to the Stadium of Light.
The man who captained arguably Northern Ireland’s greatest team to the 1982 World Cup quarter-finals sat in the crowd for Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers and has been left in no doubt as to his most pressing priority.
Rediscover that elusive ingredient, and O’Neill believes he will have the makings of a good side.
He said: “We have a number of decent players, but very naturally when you lose a few games confidence is not at its highest and that, plus losing a number of matches – whether you can call it unfortunate or not ... they are lost. The defeat against Wigan I am sure was hard to take and then I saw the Wolves game.
“It was particularly galling, from the position where if we had scored the penalty perhaps we could have gone on and won.
“To lose the game is a combination of those issues which is leading to this situation at this moment.
“However, there is enough talent at this club to get out of this position.
“They have lost a bit of confidence. When you do that sometimes it is hard to gain but very easy to lose and that genuinely happens after losing a few matches.
“It is so important. When good players lose confidence you will not see them play at anything like their ability. That needs to be restored and it needs to be restored pretty quickly.
“I spoke to the players for a few moments out on the training ground.
“I thought the training went well – don’t we all say that? God, I wish it was that easy – but I am hoping they can lift themselves and be lifted by the situation they are going to experience in the next two weeks.”
While his predecessor Steve Bruce felt expectations on Wearside were a crushing burden from which he could never escape, O’Neill is happy to embrace them.
He added: “I don’t have a problem with expectation. I think the football club should have a fair ambition.”
As first impressions go, it was a confident one from O’Neill.