Martin O'Neill hopes experience will steer Sunderland away fromdrop zone

Black Cats have struggled this term

Martin O'Neill's first anniversary as Sunderland manager arrived this week with the Black Cats mired in the Barclays Premier League's bottom four - but it is nothing the Northern Irishman has not been through before.

Having taken over from Steve Bruce with Sunderland in a similar position, O'Neill made an instant impact and appeared to have turned things around, but the end of the campaign was tough and they have carried on in the same vein this season.

The Black Cats head into tomorrow's home clash with Chelsea having won only two of their last 22 league games and stuck one point above the relegation zone.

But O'Neill remains confident there are much better times ahead, and he has the experience to back it up.

He said: "I've been in management 20 years. I've had tougher times at other clubs and we've come through them. When I went to Leicester City, the first 10 or 11 games I couldn't win a match to save my life. We turned that round and were pretty successful.

"The first year at Aston Villa was exceptionally tough indeed. We'll pull round and, inevitably I hope, we'll get a team that the supporters are really proud of.

"It's been a tough start to the season. It hasn't come as any major surprise to me. The team is essentially the same as last season so it's a tough struggle, but we'll get there."

As well as his own experience, O'Neill also believes last season's struggles put Sunderland in a good position to turn things around.

He said: "There's lots of elements attached to this. The unity is very important of course but the players this time last year were in a similar position so we've got a bit of experience of that.

"We'd obviously hope that experience plus the spirit that exists in the squad would give us a headstart."

The club's fans have so far stuck by O'Neill but the frustration has been evident in recent weeks and, with tomorrow's game followed by another home match against Reading on Tuesday, it is an important week for the club.

"I think all clubs hope their fans stay with them but of course there's a frustration at this minute," said O'Neill.

"That frustration has been borne out of a long time where the club has underachieved for its size, and I don't just mean over the last couple of years, I mean for a long time.

"That frustration is there but by and large the crowd are willing the team to do something so they can support them. It works both ways. We've got to do something to enthral them."

Last weekend brought another defeat, 2-1 at Norwich, but there were at least encouraging signs in the second half, and Sunderland really should have got at least a point.

Chelsea arrive in the north east also in need of a win after seven league matches without one - a run that has seen them drop 10 points behind table-toppers Manchester United.

Rafael Benitez at least managed a first win as manager in the Champions League on Wednesday, 6-1 over FC Nordsjaelland, but it did not stop the holders going out of the competition.

O'Neill said: "I was watching them on Wednesday evening and, despite the fact they went out of the Champions League, they're a very fine side. They've got a lot of attacking options, they spent heavily in the summer to try to improve their team.

"They'll be disappointed they didn't qualify for the knockout stages but the fact their next couple of games are in the World Club Championship might tell you how far they've come."

The Sunderland boss may be able to select defender John O'Shea and striker Steven Fletcher tomorrow.

O'Shea has begun to train again after a calf injury while Fletcher saw a specialist about the ankle problem that forced him off at half-time last weekend but has not been ruled out.

Meanwhile, O'Neill confirmed captain Lee Cattermole is expected to be out for another two months with the knee ligament injury he suffered against QPR last month.

PA

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
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

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn