The Black Cats boss says as a lifelong fan he knows not to expect success at the club ahead of their FA Cup replay with Middlesbrough, despite a great start to life on Wearside
Since O’Neill took charge of the Wearside club in December, Sunderland have experienced a dramatic change in fortune, winning eight of their last twelve games in all competitions and moving up to eighth in the table.
The replay with Middlesbrough could see the Black Cats move into the fifth round of the FA Cup, a step closer to winning their first trophy in 39 years, but O’Neill is refusing to get carried away.
When asked whether he thought it would be a good idea to bet on his side lifting the FA Cup this season, O’Neill told reporters: “I would say keep your money in your pocket, that tenner may buy you something, not a lot of fresh air.
“Disaster is around the corner, it is, it’s lurking. But that’s probably why I’m a Sunderland fan, absolutely, I couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate club.”
O’Neill’s opposite number in the clash with Boro, Tony Mowbray, has worked similar miracles since taking charge at on Teesside in late 2010.
The Championship side were lingering precariously above the drop-zone then, yet now find themselves sixth in the table, just five points off an automatic promotion place.
And Mowbray is full of admiration for the work done by his Northern Irish counterpart.
“Everyone looks at him and wonders what the ingredient is," he said.
"Steve Bruce is a good, honest hard worker, but Martin has found some magic dust from somewhere and got some fantastic results. He can find a way of winning games, which is a great quality for a manager to have.”
Unlike O’Neill, Mowbray remains relatively upbeat about his side’s chances of success and says, despite the gap in leagues between the two, his team are capable of beating their north east rivals.
He continued: “I think our squad can cope with this, a big game. The message is this: I have total respect for Sunderland and the way that they play under Martin, but they are not Arsenal or Barcelona. They are pragmatic and they get the job done.
“My message to my team before the first game was, ‘You can compete against them.’ There is no [Cesc] Fàbregas, who can weave some magic.
"Stéphane Sessegnon can do bits and pieces, of course, but there is no [Cristiano] Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.”