O’Neill hopes to topple Toon

O’Neill’s arrival at the club last December sparked an immediate

upturn in fortunes for the Black Cats as they moved well clear of

the relegation zone. But the former Celtic boss could do little to

prevent Newcastle stealing the plaudits last season as they claimed

a Europa League spot, as well as an impressive fifth-place finish.

That was the first time since 2008 that the Magpies had finished

above the team from the Stadium of Light and O’Neill believes it

has raised the stakes in the North East. “If it hasn’t upped the

ante, it certainly should do,” said O’Neill. “It was a great season

for Newcastle. It might have been unexpected in some quarters, but

they signed some very good players and it worked out brilliantly

for them. “It was a really great season. And, of course, that’s

something that we want to emulate as quickly as we possibly can.

“But it’s easier said than done. “We made some progress last season

but the Everton FA Cup defeat probably served as a reality check

after we had played so well against the eventual champions

Manchester City.” O’Neill does have funds available to help

Sunderland climb the table but with owner Ellis Short having seen

money squandered by previous managers, the Irishman realises he

must spend wisely. “It’s nothing new to me,” he added. “It’s always

a bit of a balancing act. “We all know what’s needed at the

football club. The priorities are to get some players in who will

make us a better team. “I am not trying to make a statement with a

transfer. I am more interested in signing players who will make an

impact. If they make an impact at the football club I would be

delighted and so would the players. “The transfer market has become

a much more complicated arena since I have been in management.

“There are now so many more things to take into consideration. It

is unrecognisable from 30 years ago – probably even 20 years ago.”