Barca model inspires O’Neill

The Northern Irishman will take charge of his first Black Cats game

on Sunday when Blackburn visit the Stadium of Light, having been

confirmed as Steve Bruce’s successor last week. It is a crucial

fixture at the bottom of the Premier League table as Sunderland

look to pull clear of trouble following a miserable start to the

campaign, and O’Neill recognises that his focus must be on hard

work and picking up points. But he also dreams of one day getting

Sunderland to play with a style reminiscent of the passing game

that has helped Barcelona become the dominant force in European

football. O’Neill is not quite sure at this stage how his team will

approach their football, but he thinks it will be different to

former club Aston Villa. “I always come back to the way Barcelona

play and I think teams look to that,” he said. “It’s a long way in

the future but you’d love to keep that in the back of your mind and

think you could eventually have a team that could play like that.

“Over the course of time, people will probably throw that back at

me. “But we need to win some football matches and at the moment

pragmatism has to be the order of the day. “When I was at Aston

Villa we seemed to have a reputation for being a counter-attacking

side and when you have the likes of Milner, Young, Downing and

Agbonlahor in the side, that’s probably quite true. “There was a

lot of pace in the side so it was almost natural to play that way.

I don’t think, from the first look here, that we have that same

kind of pace at the moment, so you’d have to adjust accordingly.”

O’Neill understands the significance of this weekend’s clash and

has been desperately hoping for the right result all week. He said:

“I’ve played Sunday over in my mind about 15 times and so far we’ve

won every game! I’ve thought about lots of different things but

every time we end up winning. “It is a big game for both clubs,

even at this stage of the season. “But I think that every game in

the Premier League now is so demanding so wherever you step into

it, it would have been a big game.”