Walking in to the main entrance at the Stadium of Light yesterday, Martin O'Neill passed a glass case displaying the battered trilby hat, fawn mackintosh and red tracksuit worn by the only Sunderland manager to have brought some first-class silverware to the Wearside club in the past 74 years. Clearly, the challenge of emulating Bob Stokoe and bringing some rare success to Sunderland is the motivation for O'Neill as he returns to the management game, 16 months after his abrupt departure from Aston Villa.
It is certainly not for the promise of riches to spend on rebuilding a stuttering side standing in 17th place in the Premier League. The big surprise as O'Neill was introduced to the media in a third-floor suite at the Stadium of Light yesterday was that he had elicited no transfer guarantees from Ellis Short, Sunderland's American chairman and owner, in agreeing to succeed Steve Bruce on a three-year contract.
"I have had discussions with the owner but none at all about transfer funds," O'Neill said. "Nor did I ask."
It was widely perceived that O'Neill left Villa in August 2010 because he was unhappy with the money made available to him by their American owner, Randy Lerner. "I did not break a contract at Villa," he said yesterday. "I have only done that once in my career, at Norwich City. To my discredit, I was only at Norwich for six months. But I was at Wycombe for five years, Celtic for five years, Leicester for four and a half and Villa for four. Most of those clubs did not have a fantastic amount of money to spend."
It seems unlikely O'Neill will be given no money to spend next month but in the meantime, starting with Sunday's home game against Blackburn, the 59-year-old will rely on the management skills that had such an effect in significantly transforming all those aforementioned clubs.