New Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is relishing the chance to return to top-level management as he begins his tenure at the struggling north-east side.
The former Celtic supremo was appointed as Steve Bruce’s successor at the Stadium of Light at the end of last week, despite having been out of the game since departing as manager of Aston Villa in 2010.
O’Neill has admitted that he felt the time was right to return, and he is desperate to do well for the club he supported as a boy.
Speaking at his first press conference as the Black Cats’ boss, the 51-year-old said: “It’s a genuine privilege to manage the football club. It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the Premier League, and fantastic to be manager here.
“I feel I am ready to come back. Sunderland’s a fantastic football club, I really want to do well. The opportunity has arisen, and I want to take it.”
Much has been made in the media of O’Neill’s boyhood connections with the club, but the former Northern Ireland player was keen to draw a line under any earlier allegiances as he attempts to transform his new side’s fortunes.
“I don’t want to play on the ‘boyhood hero’ type thing, it might give me two games grace!” he quipped.
“Where I was brought up, you were either Rangers or Celtic, but everyone else also had an English team.
“I don’t want to make too much of it. I was a genuine supporter and that was great, I spent time supporting the team, but reality has to set in. We have to win football games pretty quickly.
“We’re in the results business. Like everything else, you play football, you manage, you’re very selfishly involved in your own team at that time.
“But now it’s come together, I’d just like to make a success of it if I can.”
Sunderland currently sit just a point above the relegation places, and with a crucial encounter against bottom-club Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, O’Neill is aware of the importance of turning results around quickly.
“Obviously we’re in a little bit of trouble at the moment. We just have to try and win. Sunday is very important game for us, the players are aware of that, everyone is aware of that. We need to start winning some matches.”