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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing