Shearer: O’Neill timing ‘bizarre’

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is hoping to see Steven Gerrard

pen a new contract, with extension talks planned.

The Reds skipper still has 12 months left to run on his current

deal, but Rodgers is eager to tie him to terms which would allow

the talismanic midfielder to see out his career at Anfield.

He claims Gerrard still has ‘a lot more to give’ and feels

Liverpool should be looking to reward a man who has given loyal

service to the club throughout a distinguished 15-year career.

Rodgers said: “Steven has a year left and that is something he

and I are about to discuss.

“Then, I will take things through to the board upstairs.

“There is no doubt that Steven is a player who has given so much

to the club, but he has also got a lot more to give.

“It just emphasises how selfless Steven is that he hasn’t wanted

to talk about a contract because his focus has been on the team and

improving his own game.

“But, obviously, I want him to know that he is very much a part

of what we are doing here and a new contract is something we will

look at between now and the summer.”


Rodgers added: “Steven is in the same category as (Ryan) Giggs

purely because of his professionalism.

“Players that go beyond a certain age have looked after

themselves since they were 19 or 20. It’s not by accident.

“These players sleep and rest in the afternoons. They eat the

right things and keep their bodyweight the same. When it comes to

the point when other players get injured and can’t go on, they keep

playing because they’ve looked after themselves.

“That is down to professionalism and commitment to their

profession. Steven comes in every single day at the same time. He’s

like clockwork. He gets in early, lets the medics assess him, eats

the right foods and is ready to train at 10.30am.

“I have never seen him give less than 150 per cent. He never has

a lazy day.

“Steven is an incredible player and I have never even thought

about replacing him because he has many more years left in


It was confirmed over the weekend that Premier League

heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City would meet in St Louis on

May 23, just four days after the end of the season, and six before

England take on the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

The match in the USA is hardly ideal for Hodgson as it means up

to eight members of his squad – although more likely five or six –

may not get the rest he would hope for prior to meeting for key

fixtures, including a trip to Brazil on June 2.

Yet Hodgson has no doubt he is entitled to have the players,

even if the situation is slightly more complicated than he


“As far as I understand it, the period of time in May and June

are FIFA dates,” he said.

“When there are FIFA dates and international matches, the first

call on the players is to their international teams.

“These are two bona-fide matches.

“A lot of the teams are playing qualifiers, so I don’t think I

need have any worries about the players I select coming to play for


“They are aware that we need to prepare well for the autumn

matches.” Hodgson’s problem is that the games England have

scheduled fall outside of the actual international window.

Indeed, whilst England are taking on Brazil at the world famous

Maracana Stadium, the Spanish domestic season will be drawing to a


World Cup qualifiers, including Montenegro’s home clash with

Ukraine, take place the following weekend, with the Confederations

Cup, in which Spain, Italy, Brazil and Mexico are amongst the

competitors, arranged for later in June.

It means Hodgson cannot stop his Chelsea or Manchester City

contingent heading to the States, nor any of his other players who

may be required for club duties.

Little wonder the England coach wants his senior players around

this summer.

After all, Tuesday’s draw in Podgorica left plenty of areas to

work on ahead of the four vital autumn games that will determine

whether England reach the World Cup without needing the safety net

of those hazardous play-offs.

“I have not given any thought to the summer,” said Hodgson.

“You will understand that we have just had two important

qualifiers and gone home with four points.

“It has been a cul-de-sac for me. Now I have six or seven weeks

to concern myself with who plays against Ireland and who goes to


It was a rather unfortunate use of the phrase cul-de-sac, for

that is exactly what England seem determined to head down in their

approach to international football.

Season after season, England fail to reach their true potential.

And almost always it is due to an inability to adapt to the nuances

of the international game.

Yet again in Montenegro, they showed a startling inability to

retain possession against a decent side who given the circumstances

could have been expected to perform far better in the second half

than the first, when they were completely outplayed.

Montenegro’s own play showed signs of nerves. Yet they were

assisted by England’s desire to push forward in search of further

reward when they were already a goal ahead.

It was an approach lifted straight out of the Premier League,

and the reason why England’s domestic competition is the most

exciting in the world.

Sometimes more is required than a simple hunger for goals.

Sometimes games need to be closed out, or crowds silenced,

possession retained for the sake of it, purely to induce

frustration in opposition ranks and make it easier to find gaps


“Our ball retention wasn’t too bad against San Marino. Our ball

retention wasn’t too bad against Brazil,” said Hodgson.

“Our ball retention in the first-half (against Montenegro)

wasn’t too bad.

“I refuse to accept that just because everyone’s judgement is

that we didn’t play as well in the second half as we did in the

first, it is suddenly all about ball retention.

“How big a sample are we going to use? Twenty-five or 30

minutes, or half a dozen games?

“Maybe we can do it another way. We might forget the second half

completely and go back to Brazil or San Marino.

“My point is every time the team has a period when we don’t play

to the high levels of expectation, you don’t suddenly start

suggesting everything we are doing is wrong.

“It might have something to do with our opponents.

“We weren’t playing a poor team. A lot of those players are

playing at the very highest level.

“If they were available for transfer, many of the Premier League

teams trying to sign them up.”

The Black Cats announced the move on Saturday night after their

1-0 defeat by Manchester United saw them slip deeper into

relegation trouble with the club sitting just a point clear of the

Barclays Premier League relegation zone with seven games left to


The Wearside club’s next game sees them face Chelsea before a

north-east derby against fellow strugglers Newcastle.

Shearer expressed astonishment that Sunderland had released

O’Neill with just seven matches left to retain their top-flight


Speaking on BBC1’s ‘Match of the Day’, the former Newcastle

striker and manager said: “It’s bizarre. They have gone down the

route that Reading have (sacking Brian McDermott).

“I look at him in the last few weeks and normally he comes on

telly, we see him upbeat, looking forward to things.

“To me he’s been down, he’s not been his usual, energetic self –

whether he’s known that something is going on behind the scenes I

don’t know.

“They are on a terrible run of form but it is the timing of it I

find hard.

“I think he might have missed his right-hand man John Robertson,

who for the first time hadn’t been with him at his side.

“For whatever reason didn’t choose to go to Sunderland like he’d

been with all his other clubs with him so I think he has probably

missed him as well.”

Fellow pundit Alan Hansen added: “The rewards for success and

the penalties for failure have never been greater.

“Next season the new Premier League deal – if you are left

behind, if you go down a division you are in massive trouble.

“You’ve got QPR, you’ve got Reading, you’ve got Southampton and

now Sunderland: there are seven games to go.

Are they better with Martin or without him? I always thought

Sunderland would be safe…for the first time today they were

really poor.

“I think they are in massive trouble.”

Stan Collymore played under O’Neill at Leicester and he too

believed the Northern Irishman had missed having Robertson at his


He told talkSPORT: “Martin O’Neill is a dictatorial manager in

the style of a Sir Alex Ferguson or a David Moyes – in other words

he deals with everything.

“He knows the cost of everything, he wants total control of


“John Robertson was the conduit between player and manager. When

I was at Leicester I would go out and do the training with Steve

Walford and everything would be quite jovial.

“John Robertson would watch training, perhaps go in a couple of

times to see the manager who probably wouldn’t even come out until

the last 10, 15 minutes of the session where everything got much

livelier because it was unusual for the gaffer to come out and

oversee training – like Sir Alex Ferguson or like David Moyes – and

what John Robertson would do would be to report back.

“Who’s looking sharp, who’s not looking so sharp and I think in

terms of this season Martin O’Neill just hasn’t looked himself.

“He hasn’t had that sounding board with John Robertson, Robbo

decided not to make the trek up north and from what I understand JR

almost had enough of the modern-day footballer.

“I think that has had a massive impact.”

Former Sunderland player Michael Gray said on Twitter: “So where

do we go from here Sunderland? Do we just keep sacking managers or

do we start pointing the finger at the players..!!!”