Football's drinking culture had to change, says Sunderland boss O'Neill

Following reports that Saturday's opponents QPR engaged in heavy drinking sessions during a mid-season training trip, the 61-year-old has shared his experiences as a player

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has spoken of the changes in football's attitude towards alcohol since his days as a player.

The Black Cats' opponents on Saturday, QPR, were last week subject to media speculation regarding their players' reported late-night drinking sessions during a mid-season trip to Dubai.

And, whilst the Northern Irishman would not comment on those specific allegations, he revealed that football has come a long way in terms of its relationship with drinking culture.

“There are benefits of drinking together as a squad as long as you're not over-playing it," he told reporters.

"Regardless of all the changes made in the modern game, I still believe that it exists. The modern day player would have a better idea of how to look after himself than 20-odd years ago.

"I'm not so sure it was always part of the game. In fact in our day Brian Clough when we were winning he would remind us at time that he was getting calls from the public to say we'd been seen out drinking.

"He wanted to know who didn't go out so he could fine them!"

With Sunderland having enjoyed a week-long training camp of their own due to their failure to progress in the FA Cup, the 61-year-old went on to highlight the potential benefits of a winter break in England.

"I'm a great believer in a winter break. I've had the experience of it in Scotland, and my own belief is that we contested a Uefa Cup final very much on the back of having a break," he said.

"I believe that psychologically and physically, it was terrific for us and was a focal point for us from right back in late July when the Scottish season kicked off.

"It was a long season so it was nice to have that focal point. You got your games played in Jan and got a bit of a break. Even the supporters wanted it.

"You come back refreshed for the rest of the season and as if you've got more energy. Ours came because we didn't go through in the FA Cup this time, I would have preferred to have been in the FA Cup but I still believe it was worthwhile."