SUNDERLAND’S 1973 FA Cup hero Jimmy Montgomery believes Martin O’Neill can bring a trophy to Wearside and end almost 40 years of hurt for the long-suffering support.
The Black Cats boss made it to 11 cup finals in total as a manager with Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa, winning six of them.
And he has been tipped to do the same with Sunderland whose fans have to go back 20 years to the 1992 FA Cup Final defeat by Liverpool for the last time they got near silverware, discounting promotion winning seasons.
Former goalkeeper Montgomery, who is still a regular at the Stadium of Light, believes the Irishman will send out his strongest team next season in the Capital One League Cup and FA Cup, not something many managers do these days even at Premier League clubs with no chance of winning the title.
O’Neill is not a fan of resting his best players for any match and this is why this particular Sunderland legend is allowing himself to believe that, in the near future, his side’s famous win can be emulated.
Montgomery said: “What we did in 1973 does still hangs over the club.
“But the supporters, of which I am one, want to see Sunderland win a trophy and Martin can do that.
“He won a lot of trophies as a player and manager. He did it as a manager at Leicester City, Celtic, came close at Aston Villa, so he will view winning one of the cups as a real goal next season.
“Martin has been to a lot of cup finals throughout his career, as a player and manager, so hopefully
he can take us down that road, which would be terrific for the club as a whole.
“One thing I am sure of is that he will put his best team out every time – he’s not the kind to rotate at all – because he wants to win every game.”
Montgomery, who played a club-record 537 league games for his beloved Sunderland in a 18-year career at the Roker Park, wouldn’t dream of telling O’Neill what position needs strengthening for next campaign.
But he does know that for Sunderland to make any serious impact next season, in terms of league position, then the manager must have at least 20 players he can be confident of throwing into any match.
Montgomery said: “The league is too difficult to win these days except for a few very rich teams and we can’t spend that amount of money. Martin doesn’t have that luxury. He will have to do with a tight budget.
“But we don’t have a big enough squad in terms of quality, yet, that would allow Martin to rotate even if he wanted. Last season, we had a nucleus of just 14 players who you would think that was the team more or less. We don’t have 27 players of equal quality, which allows the manager to rest players. That was a big reason why we did struggle towards the end of last season.
“Since Martin took over, the players gave 100 per cent. They were flat out in every game and that caught up with them. You can’t do that every week with the same players.
“But we didn’t lose many games at the end. Sunderland are not far away from being a good team.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland have raided Darlington to sign 17-year-old left-back David Ferguson. In the first example of the influence of new development coach Craig Liddle, the Black Cats have signed the defender, who made six appearances in the Conference last season.
A Sunderland fan and season ticket holder, the teenager will join the club’s development squad from next season. Ferguson confirmed the transfer on his Twitter page and has signed a one-year deal on the recommendation of Liddle.
The defender was handed his debut in February after Darlington sank into administration and fought a losing battle with relegation from the Conference and he impressed enough to persuade the Wearsiders to hand him his chance.