Footballers have a phenomenal life, says Martin O'Neill

 

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has admitted every day is like Christmas Day for a professional footballer.

The Black Cats, like clubs around the country, will forego part of the festivities as they prepare for their Boxing Day clash with Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City.

However, 60-year-old O'Neill insists that is a small price to pay for the life modern-day players lead.

He said: "It's the most phenomenal life you could get, particularly if you have a couple of years where you can be successful.

"I was lucky enough to be involved in a Nottingham Forest team which ruled Europe for a couple of years, so that was really fantastic.

"But any professional player has got to really enjoy it. You are being paid to keep yourself healthy and fit and if you don't have any major serious injuries, which are obviously more than a bit of a setback and terrible to endure, then it's a great career."

O'Neill added with a smile: "Any of those players who fancy going into management, I give them one piece of advice: forget about it."

The Ulsterman was in positive mood as he drew up his blueprint for a game which last season presented him with one of his most memorable days in the job to date.

It was New Year's Day when Roberto Mancini's all-stars arrived on Wearside, but left empty-handed after substitute Ji Dong-won's injury-time strike condemned them to a 1-0 defeat for the second successive season.

The win was all the more remarkable as keeper Simon Mignolet, who was planning to watch the game from the stands with his parents, was drafted into the starting line-up after Keiren Westwood was taken ill, while midfielders Craig Gardner and Jack Colback were pressed into service as emergency full-backs amid an injury crisis.

O'Neill said: "It was a terrific win. There was a lot of character shown that day.

"I know these are over-used words in the game, but that was very important for us because Manchester City at any given stage in that match or in any game, can rip you apart.

"We conjured it from somewhere. Ji's goal was greeted with an enormous roar, which I shan't forget, and for us to win on the opening day of the calendar year gave us a big boost."

That victory came in the midst of a run of results which hauled O'Neill's men out of relegation trouble, but 12 months on, it took a 1-0 at Southampton on Saturday to calm frayed nerves once again.

Summer signing Steven Fletcher was the match-winner with his eighth goal of the season as Sunderland maintained their record of taking points from every game in which the £12million summer signing has struck.

O'Neill said: "He has scored important goals. I am not so sure he has scored an unimportant goal for us - every goal we get is important. I have to say it's not that often that we are winning by three or four goals.

"His contribution has been fantastic so far."

Adam Johnson is a doubt for the visit of his former club with a dead leg, while fellow midfielder Sebastian Larsson is battling against a knee problem.

But whoever is named in the starting line-up, O'Neill knows they will have to be at their very best if they are to contain a City side capable of producing genuine brilliance.

He said: "Against Newcastle, there was maybe a half-hour period where they were just absolutely exceptional, and sometimes you just have to admit that these players are really talented.

"You can try to plan as much as you possibly can - even teams who are better than us, much better than us, even teams at the top end of the table try to plan, but it's very difficult to beat that kind of individuality."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum