Hard times for Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill as Steve Clarke prospers at West Brom

Sunderland 2 West Bromwich Albion 4

Two managers; one in tracksuit bottoms, a training top and Copa Mundials, the other in a club tie, shirt and a suit. One kicking every ball, even throwing it back to his players during the second half. The other, hands in pockets, carefully passing a bit of advice to his players. One losing. One winning.

One resigning, according to a radio station's tweet late on Saturday night. The other going home third top of the Premier League, five months into his new career as a football manager.

At 4pm on Saturday, the focus was, deservedly, Steve Clarke's. West Bromwich Albion had just completed their best start to a top-flight season in 58 years with a 4-2 victory over Sunderland.

By 9pm, Martin O'Neill had taken it back. The denial came quickly, from him and those around him. The club ridiculed the speculation. It is not what Sunderland need as they plot an unsteady ship through troubled waters.

They have won five of their last 27 Premier League games. O'Neill is attempting a difficult balancing act. His team had 17 shots on Saturday to West Bromwich's 12 and they only lost the possession battle to a team full of confidence by 2 per cent. Yet after the game there was the admission that O'Neill felt his team were a bit weaker than Clarke's.

"Will I do much in January?" he said. "I have mentioned the physical sides of things before in that we have less physicality than most Premier League teams. We would need a little bit more strength, a little bit more strength in depth."

In contrast, it is onwards and upwards for Clarke. "I am never satisfied," he said. "If we get to 50 points in March, I will go for another target. The philosophy we have and the way we have worked is to build game to game and we look no further. I am mildly happy. It has not been a lucky start, in fact in some games you could say we have been unlucky not to get points.

"Everything we have got we have deserved but we don't get carried away and think because we are up there we are the big-time Charlies. We keep grounded. And, as I said to the players, it could be a good season for us."

Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn