O'Neill: Bendtner must prove himself

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The Independent Football

Nicklas Bendtner looks like being given the opportunity to earn himself some better headlines tonight as Sunderland seek their second win under Martin O'Neill at QPR. Bendtner, who was dropped for Sunday's defeat at White Hart Lane along with Lee Cattermole after the pair were arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage, is in line for a start as Connor Wickham is an injury doubt. O'Neill yesterday challenged the Dane to improve his behaviour off the pitch, and his goalscoring on it. Do that, and O'Neill hinted Sunderland might next summer seek to turn Bendtner's loan from Arsenal into a permanent move.

Bendtner has scored twice in 11 appearances for Sunderland and has been criticised for involving himself too much in the build-up play at the expense of being in the penalty area. "I want two basic things from Nicklas," said O'Neill. "Win us some football matches, and behave himself. Then he will be really popular with me."

Of Bendtner and Cattermole's arrest he said: "Behaviour on and off the field is of paramount importance. There is an expectation now of footballers, particularly where they're in a very nice position financially. It's a very serious issue and one that won't be overlooked by the football club."

Of Bendtner's goalscoring, O'Neill added: "He is a naturally talented footballer and I think that if he can put in the work that would be demanded of him at Sunderland he could get the goals for us. Nicklas might have played a different way at Arsenal, he probably fell into a pattern of play there, but when the ball is going into the area we need people in there to score."

Bendtner has said he does not foresee a future at Arsenal for himself and O'Neill said: "If he is doing really well for us and would love to stay I think that would be fantastic. There are lots of things to happen [first].

"This is a fantastic challenge for him. He has the European Championship to look forward to and this is a fantastic opportunity for him to go and prove himself in the Premier League."

O'Neill said Wickham was "a doubt" as he had "fluid on the knee" after landing awkwardly at Spurs while neither Phil Bardsley nor Wes Brown had trained. Both, though, could be fit.

QPR are likely to recall Paddy Kenny in goal but Neil Warnock has injury concerns over Jay Bothroyd and Danny Gabbidon. Rangers have only won once at home since promotion and Warnock said: "We have to improve on that." Both teams have only won once in the last seven and are in danger of being dragged into the bottom three. Conversely, a couple of wins will lift them into mid-table.