MARTIN O'Neill last night defiantly insisted he is not only the right man to manage Sunderland but also the only man for the job.
Anything other than a Sunderland home victory tonight against Reading, who are one place below them in the Premier League table in second-bottom position, would be perilous for the club.
A trip to Manchester United awaits the Black Cats this weekend with a tricky visit to Southampton to follow.
Sunderland fans, while far from happy, have stayed with the manager and team so far, despite a return of just two wins from 23 league games. However, the general feeling on Wearside is these pre-Christmas fixtures, starting with tonight’s match, are vital if this season is to be turned around.
Club owner Ellis Short has given no indication O’Neill’s job as Black Cats boss is in danger.
The Northern Irishman (pictured left) firmly believes there is nobody about who could replace him on Wearside.
He said: “What do you do? So you go and put someone else in charge, he gets a group of 12, 13 games and can’t win any matches? It’s the same thing.
“I don’t want to sound wildly boastful, but not only am I the
best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job.
“We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead – it might take us a few months to do that – and then we will see.
“If we are continuing for the next two years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then.”
O’Neill has not escaped criticism regarding what has been an awful run of results and the team’s disappointing performances.
Sunderland have managed only 46 shots on goal all season, the lowest in the Premier League, and that more than anything has been their biggest downfall.
This is why three points at home tonight are essential.
O’Neill admitted: “I will try to put it in a nutshell. It’s a struggle. We are in a really difficult position.
“We need to pull ourselves out of it, which we can do, and there is some time to go.
“This game is very important and I would like to think given time here I could do what I set out to do in the first place.”
Sunderland desperately need to beat Reading, who have the top flight’s worst defence, this evening or O’Neill will continue to fend off questions about his future. They will need to do so without Steven Fletcher who is still struggling – Connor Wickham should take his place.
O’Neill said: “Look, you have to win football games. I have said that before.
“I came in last season and we won some games, some of which we probably didn’t have any right to, and some things may level themselves out.
“I use to hate managers talking about a project; a big project that will take five years.
“That used to make me laugh. I don’t want that. You would get bored to death if we were sitting in the same position for the next four or five years.
“Just give me some time. I have signed two players for money. Adam Johnson will start to produce the type of form he is capable of.
“We missed Steven Fletcher on Saturday, even if we created more in the second half at Norwich when he was off compared to the two-and-a-half matches beforehand. He has done really well.
“Carlos Cuellar and Louis Saha came in on a free, while young Danny Rose has been exceptional.
“So wait until we get a few people in and I will try to pull this whole thing together.
“I don’t want four years. I would want to do it in double-quick time, but not as quick as this.
“Reading is a big match but we do have a number of games still to go.”