Season Review 2011/12 – Part Two
As December came around, the man to replace Steve Bruce had been identified. Martin O’Neill, a man who is a boyhood Sunderland fan and is one of the most respected and successful managers in the Premier League was announced as the man to lead Sunderland into a new era at the Stadium of Light. This was a dream come true for the vast majority of supporters who have wanted a calibre of manger like O’Neill at the club for a very long time.
From what was a disastrous start to the season, the acquisition of Martin O’Neill was enough to get the Sunderland support excited about their team once again.
O’Neill watched from the stands to watch Sunderland play Wolves away, which was live on Sky. O’Neill was already confirmed as manager and would take charge after the game. He got a taste of exactly how much work he had to do with Sunderland, as the team slumped to a 2-1 loss in front of their new manager and with Eric Black in charge. Although the disappointment, fans believed that all will be cured once Martin O’Neill took charge.
Sunderland entertained Blackburn at the Stadium of Light, with O’Neill’s first came in charge sending a buzz throughout the city of Sunderland. Blackburn took a surprise lead in the game which again highlighted that a lot of work was needed by O’Neill with the squad he had. However, the last 15 minutes of the game summed up how things were going to change with O’Neill in charge. David Vaughan scored a stunning equaliser, James McClean made his first appearance and to top it all off, Sebastian Larsson scored a free kick in the dying seconds to give Sunderland all three points.
The ‘Party with Marty’ had well and truly begun.
Sunderland suffered their first loss under O’Neill against Champions League contenders Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Sunderland lost 1-0 but gave a very good account of themselves and demonstrated the fighting spirit that O’Neill had already instilled in the team. Sunderland then went on to defeat QPR 3-2 away from home, in what was an excellent attacking display from the side. Sunderland then finished the month off with a Boxing Day 1-1 draw against bogey team Everton.
Sunderland, with Martin O’Neill at the helm, had finished the year of 2011 in style and were being led into 2012 with their season back on track.
A new year was upon us and it didn’t get much tougher to begin the year with. Sunderland entertained title contenders Manchester City at the Stadium of Light, which was live on Sky. This game is fondly remembered by Sunderland fans as one of the best moments of the season. Sunderland played and defended valiantly against a star studded and multi million pound team, but the unthinkable happened in the dying seconds of the game which epitomised how far we had came with Martin O’Neill already.
Ji Dong Won came up with a 90th minute goal by rounding England’s number one, Joe Hart, in order to give Sunderland a monumental start to the New Year. Sunderland walked away 1-0 winners and Martin O’Neill’s team were received a lot of plaudits not just from the Sunderland faithful, but the media around the country.
Sunderland then went on to defeat Wigan at the DW Stadium 4-1 to go full circle since Wigan defeated Sunderland at the Stadium of Light only a few short months ago, and condemning Steve Bruce to the sack. Sunderland then progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup by defeating Peterborough 2-0.
Martin O’Neill promised the Sunderland fans maximum effort in the FA Cup, which almost seemed to take a back seat with previous managers.
Sunderland finished the month off by losing only their second game since O’Neill took over against Chelsea 1-0, then they went on to beat Swansea 2-0 at the Stadium of Light in what was an impressive home performance. Sunderland were then held to a 1-1 in the FA Cup against local rival Middlesbrough, which called for a replay to take place.
Martin O’Neill’s men rolled into February full of confidence, and it showed by winning the first three games of the month. First beating Norwich city at home 3-0, then defeating Stoke City 1-0 away from home before progressing in the FA Cup by defeating Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium 2-1.
Sunderland then played Arsenal in both the Premier league and the FA Cup in consecutive games. Sunderland slumped to only their third loss since O’Neill’s arrival in the Premier League losing 2-1 thanks to Thierry Henry’s possible last ever goal in the Premier League.
However, Sunderland progressed in the FA Cup against Arsenal by winning 2-0 only a week after the last game between the two teams.
Sunderland ended the month of February in very disappointing fashion by losing 4-0 to West Brom away from home in what was the most disappointing results in Martin O’Neill’s time at Sunderland so far. However, O’Neill knew that he had to re-focus the team, because their first game of March was against their bitter rivals, Newcastle United.
Words by Cameron Brown