Bendtner form key for O’Neill

The Dane moved to the Stadium of Light this summer on a season-long

loan from Arsenal but has so far failed to have a major impact and

has managed only two goals. Trouble finding the net is the main

reason Sunderland find themselves embroiled in the struggle at the

foot of the table having managed only 16 goals in 14 Premier League

matches. O’Neill appreciates it may have taken Bendtner some time

to get used to playing for a new club, and he is a doubt for

Sunday’s crunch clash against Blackburn with a groin injury, but

the manager is determined to help the 23-year-old realise his

potential. “I think that is paramount,” said the Black Cats boss.

“He has a lot of natural talent. He wasn’t always in the starting

line-up at Arsenal. They have allowed him to come up here and now

it’s an important time for him. “This season is one where he can

come through, he can score some goals. He obviously might have to

adapt to a different style of play in the sense that Arsenal have

the ball all the time in the vast majority of matches, even against

the very best teams. “With respect, we might not have it as often

so you have to allow him to adjust but essentially he has to try to

get some goals.” Midfielder Craig Gardner, a summer signing from

Birmingham, has also been a disappointment thus far and was in and

out of the team under Bruce. He is a player O’Neill knows well from

his Aston Villa days and the Northern Irishman is hoping Gardner

and other players who have been on the sidelines can begin to play

a full part. O’Neill said: “I sold Craig to Birmingham but the

players who were keeping Craig out of the team were all England

internationals, so it was going to be hard for Craig to play, and

he wanted to play first-team football. “But he is genuinely a

terrific lad and he can score a goal, and I’m sure he’s relishing

the challenge ahead of him again. That would go for a couple of

other players who also played (on Thursday) in the reserves. “Titus

Bramble, for example, and David Vaughan, for them just getting an

opportunity to get a bit more football in was good. “And it’s

important for me to have as many players available as possible. We

have one or two that have struggled with injuries but hopefully in

the near future we can get these people on the pitch.” While

O’Neill is desperately hoping Sunday will bring a different result

after a run of only one point from four matches, one thing he does

not expect to change is the attitude of the players. “I think that

would be really unfair on Steve Bruce’s time here to start talking

about a change of attitude,” he said. “I always hate that when you

leave a football club and the next thing you know somebody who

hasn’t played for the last few weeks because generally speaking he

hasn’t been good enough has then come out and criticised the

manager and said now is his chance. “I’ve seen it and experienced

it in the past and that sort of thing I would stay well clear of. I

think the attitude of the players has always been pretty decent.”