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Saturday, 07 January 2012

Sunderland: Can O’Neill guide the Black Cats to FA Cup success?

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Is Martin O’Neill the second coming or is he just a very good manager? The former Celtic and Aston Villa boss has had an immediate impact at the Stadium of Light and has transformed a side that couldn’t score in a brothel to one that is now scoring for fun.

The Black Cats have climbed into the top half of the table and the future is looking great for those of Wearside. This weekend Sunderland travel down the east coast to take on free-scoring Peterborough United in a game that promises to be an entertaining spectacle, but could this be the start of an epic FA Cup adventure for Sunderland?

Martin O’Neill loves cup football and has a lot of success in this win or bust format. At Leicester City he guided the unfashionable Foxes to two League Cup wins and led Aston Villa to Wembley in the same tournament in 2010 and would have won it if the referee had made the right decision regarding Vidic’s early error.

O’Neill’s cup success continued north of the border with Celtic. He won three Scottish Cups and the League Cup. The Bhoys were also runners-up in both competitions once during his five years at Celtic Park and they also reached the UEFA Cup, where they came unstuck against a Porto side managed by the one and only Special One, Jose Mourinho. O’Neill certainly loves the magic of the cup.

Sunderland have won the FA Cup twice in their history – 1937 and 1973 – but the Wearsiders would love to get their hands back on that famous old trophy. The Black Cats still look back fondly at that famous day in 1973 when Ian Porterfield’s solo goal and Jimmy Montgomery’s heroics against Leeds United sealed FA Cup glory for the club, but with O’Neill’s experience and motivation, could this be the year Sunderland head back to Wembley?

To win the FA Cup you need a good team and a good slice of fortune. They certainly have a good enough crop of players. Former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce bought well in the summer, he just didn’t have the skill to get the best out of his new recruits. Martin O’Neill has had no such problem. He has instilled the players with renewed belief and confidence and the change in their approach to games is amazing. So they have the team capable of beating anyone on their day, as they showed against Manchester City recently, but a lot will come down to the luck of the draw.

Can Martin O’Neill deliver the club its first piece of silverware in almost 40 years? At 50/1 with most bookies, you would have to fancy their chances.

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