A DEFIANT Martin O’Neill has come out fighting against accusations that he is a managerial “dinosaur” and insists Ellis Short should have given him more time to rescue Sunderland from relegation.
In a wide-ranging interview with Radio 5Live last night – his first since being sacked last Saturday following defeat to Manchester United – O’Neill tackled what he claims are misconceptions about his time at the Black Cats.
Chief among those are the charge that the game has “passed him by”, although O’Neill did admit that he should have won more games and that Adam Johnson “should have done better” since his big-money summer move.
O’Neill said: “I would have backed myself to win more games than we have done this season, regardless of whether the team is great or not. I should have won a couple more matches and that is down to me.
“Not having tasted relegation before, I would imagine I’d have kept them up. I have been in positions like this before and got out of it.”
Although Ellis Short is yet to issue full reasons for parting company with O’Neill, his record in the transfer market has been cited in certain quarters. O’Neill was quick to leap to his own defence yesterday. “I came into the football club in December 2011 and won a couple of games early on, so decided in the January transfer window to leave things alone,” he said.
“In the summer I signed two players for money. You’d have to say that Steven Fletcher has been a complete success and scored the goals for us. Adam Johnson I think every club wanted to sign. He’s had a really frustrating time – he should have done better. He’s had a lot to cope with but this idea that two players on their own would change the football club – it’s going to take more than that.
“Danny Graham and Alfred N’Diaye – you’ll have to wait a while to make assessments there.”
O’Neill had clearly been stung by accusations that he might be a relative “dinosaur”. Some of the coverage suggested that he had been out-of-touch in his final days but the former Sunderland chief said he had embraced the modern era, and cited the appointment of Steve Guppy to work with his wingers as one example of it.
“I’ve heard this word being mentioned. The biggest dinosaur in the game just happens to be the best manager in the game – and he has been for years. That would be Sir Alex Ferguson, there’s no bigger dinosaur. Everyone has a shelf life but it doesn’t depend on age.
“I don’t this talk (of a lack of Plan B). I’d like someone to explain it to me what it means. It’s something that has come into the game in modern days – you didn’t hear about it 20-odd years ago.
“Managers go out with plans and if it isn’t working they will make changes with the current personnel.”
O’Neill said that he had hoped for more time. “I’m still disappointed and frustrated more than anything. I’m disappointed. I’m in the business where very little shocks you about professional football – you can actually lose a job if your tie doesn’t fit your suit.
“I believe I saved the club from relegation last year so I thought the opportunity might have been afforded me (to continue). Perhaps my record in the game for a fairly lengthy time (should have helped me) – I haven’t been relegated at any of the clubs I’ve worked at.
“That was my take on it – it doesn’t matter, it’s the prerogative of the chairman to do what he wants.”