Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill draws on darker days to see light at end of tunnel following Aston Villa loss

Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 1

Martin O'Neill has been this way before: in charge of a team struggling to fire, with the natives getting restless.

After his stuttering side endured another blank afternoon, extending their depressing run to one win in 17 Premier League matches with a 1-0 home defeat against Aston Villa, the Sunderland manager was asked whether he was in the midst of "one of the most trying times" of his managerial career. He shook his head and recalled decidedly darker days at Leicester.

"When I first went to Leicester City I found that really difficult," O'Neill said. " The crowd became very anxious and very, very impatient. But we were able to turn it round and have a really good time for a number of years."

Things were so bad for O'Neill in his early days at Leicester, back in 1996, there was a demonstration by disgruntled fans after one game and he received a mountain of abusive mail. He kept every letter and contacted his critics when his transformed team won promotion, asking them what they thought of him now.

The Sunderland supporters have yet to turn against O'Neill but frustration is threatening to turn to disillusionment. Saturday's insipid performance – featuring just one shot on target against a Villa side who stemmed their own poor run courtesy of Gabriel Agbonlahor's 57th-minute volley – hardly inspired confidence ahead of a trip to Goodison Park this Saturday.

"This is a trying time, of course, but we'll come through it," O'Neill said. "I have belief in the team. We have good players who are lacking maybe a bit a confidence but we'll come good.

 

"It's been a difficult week for us, obviously, losing against Middlesbrough [in the Capital One Cup] and then not scoring here. But we can change it. We'll get there. We have the character in the side to come through. We need to score some goals and get the creative players off and running. "

Sunderland have scored only one goal in their last five matches – courtesy of Newcastle's Demba Ba – and their lack of creativity has been reflected in Adam Johnson's abject form on the flanks. The £10m signing from Manchester City is struggling to deliver the crosses that Stephen Fletcher craves. He is clearly suffering from a lack of confidence

"He's found it tough going," O'Neill acknowledged. "But in the course of time he'll be a hit with the fans here."

Match facts

Sunderland: MIGNOLET 6/10, BARDSLEY 7, O’SHEA 6, CUELLAR 6, ROSE 6, LARSSON 6, GARDNER 5, CATTERMOLE 7, JOHNSON 4, SESSEGNON 4, FLETCHER 5

Aston Villa: GUZAN 6, LOWTON 6, CLARK 6, VLAAR 6, BENNETT n/a, AGBONLAHOR 6, WEIMANN 6, WESTWOOD 7, BANNAN 6, BENTEKE 7

Goal: Aston Villa Agbonlahor 57.

Subs: Sund McClean 6 (Gardner, 67), Saha 5 (Sessegnon, 67), Campbell (Bardsley, 80). AV Lichaj 6 (Bennett, 11), Stevens (Lichaj, 71), Holman (Weimann, 86). Booked: Sund Bardsley, Fletcher. AV Lichaj, Clark, Benteke. MoM Benteke. Match rating 3/10. Poss: Sund 54% AV 46%. Attempts on target: Sund 1 AV 6. Ref M Jones (Cheshire). Att 41,515.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
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

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines