Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole has admitted he was gutted when Steve Bruce was sacked, but has hailed Martin O’Neill for restoring confidence at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats take on Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday on the back of just two defeats in nine games since the former Aston Villa boss replaced Bruce at the club.
While Cattermole admits that Bruce’s dismissal was a bitter disappointment, he has lauded the change in the team’s fortunes since O’Neill took charge.
He told reporters: "It's the first time I have had a manager been sacked, and I was devastated for Steve and absolutely gutted for him.
"But a new voice has come in and straight away, you just want to impress and that's what you do.
"But just winning games as well, people automatically start to say you are playing better.
"We are just winning games. It is not necessarily everyone is playing better, it's winning games.
"The confidence is there and it's great. We have been flying. We have had a great start, it couldn't have gone any better under the new manager.
"We are playing well, we just need to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard and not get too carried away."
Cattermole will take to the field against his boyhood club at the weekend when Sunderland take on Tony Mowbray’s Middlesbrough.
The tough-tackling midfielder made his full debut as a 17-year-old at the Riverside Stadium back in 2006, but is leaving little room for sentiment when it comes to the Saturday’s clash.
He added: "We want to try to win every game.
"The semi-finals are at Wembley, but we don't get anything unless we win it, so we just want to do the best we can.
"We need to have a good cup run. It's my third season here now and we haven't got past the first couple of rounds, so it would be nice for everyone.
"It's going to be tough for us. Boro have been doing well - I know they have had a couple of bad results in the last few weeks, but they are a good side, so we are going to have to approach it right."