Confidence the key as O’Neill takes charge

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Martin O’Neill may feel like the new kid in school but he knows there will be no chance to ease himself back into football management when his Sunderland side meet fellow Premier League strugglers Blackburn tomorrow.

The former Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa chief ended more than a year out of managerial action when he took over at the Stadium of Light last weekend following the sacking of Steve Bruce.

Sunderland could already be in the bottom three when they take to the pitch tomorrow depending on results elsewhere, but that will definitely be the case if they lose to Rovers, who sit one point and one place behind them.

That his team are at home will be of little comfort to O’Neill given they have picked up only 13 points on Wearside in 2011, while this season’s tally of 16 goals in 14 games is another priority area for the new manager.

He said of his first week: “It’s been particularly hectic. It’s trying to get to know players, backroom staff, and they likewise with me. But the excitement is still there, obviously building up to Sunday’s game, and I’m looking forward to it immensely.

“There has always seemed to be a good atmosphere around the place, I just think it’s a little bit of confidence that has been lost.

“I really think it’s key (getting that back) because when players lose a bit of confidence, it doesn’t matter what ability they have, they don’t shine in the same fashion. The best way to change that is by winning some football matches as soon as possible.

“We have to address the goalscoring situation, obviously, and as soon as possible. The backroom staff have been telling me that we have been creating chances in games but have been unable to put them away.

“It puts an awful lot of pressure then to try to keep a clean sheet, which is pretty difficult these days.”

It was a surprise to many people that Bruce and not Blackburn’s Steve Kean was the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season, but Rovers go into this game on the back of a much-needed win over Swansea last weekend.