When O'Neill took over most Sunderland fans expected an improvement and a lift, but I bet there wasn't a single person that thought he would have the impact he has done. I, personally, would have took tenth position again and wrote the season off as one to forget however O'Neill has the lads playing with confidence, playing good football and most importantly picking up points.
With the 1-1 draw in the Tyne & Wear derby and Saturday's smash and grab win over Liverpool it now looks as if the lads will far exceed that expectation of mid-table. With just one game left to play which won't affect us, we've finished gameweek twenty-eight in eighth place on thirty-seven points. Everton who are level on points and behind on goal difference have a game in hand over us however both teams will be relieved of Premier League duties this weekend as they meet at Goodison Park for the FA Cup quarter-final.
That brings me on to the cup run that we're currently enjoying. O'Neill is renowned for taking cup competitions seriously and this has so far proven correct as he's guided us to the last eight of the FA Cup. We face a tough fixture against out achilles heel on Saturday and it would take a brave man to predict the outcome. Sunderland haven't enjoyed much success when visting the blue half of Merseyside, or whenever they've come up here for that matter, with the Toffees unbeaten in their last fifteen games against us. You get the sense that records don't mean a lot under the new regime though, that's been shown by our much improved away form and cup run!
The game will no doubt be a very difficult one and Everton are hitting form, add the fact we'll be without Sessegnon and Cattermole and now possibly Bendtner and it doesn't look too good. Under Steve Bruce you could more or less definitely assume a defeat was on the cards, not that we'd be in the quarter-finals in the first place but that's not what I'm getting at. I'm getting at his successors superiority in football management. Anything seems to be possible under the new gaffer.
It's amazing how within three months Sunderland have gone from mid-table fodder and outside relegation candidates to FA Cup quarter-finalists sitting in eighth with an outside chance of Europe, having lost just four out of the last fourteen games.
We've got a gem in Marty.