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Friday, 23 December 2011

Martin O’Neill: Wear going to play like Barcelona

The new Black Cats boss kicks off his reign tomorrow in a vital relegation showdown against Blackburn at the Stadium of Light.

O'Neill has begun trying to sort out a Mackems side who have won only once all season and just three times on their own patch in 2011.

But that has not stopped the Ulsterman dreaming of creating his very own Barcelona clone as he bids to get the Stadium of Light jumping again.

O'Neill knows he will never be able to reproduce the artistry of the European champions.

Yet he is desperate to give Wearside something to shout about after a nightmare year.

He said: "I always come back to the way Barcelona play and I think teams look to that.

"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."

You can expect O'Neill to be jumping up and down on the touchline tomorrow lunchtime as his return to the Premier League pressure cooker hits him full on. The 59-year-old added: "I pretty much went into hibernation for a while and watched a lot of football on TV.

"It's not the same. Last Sunday watching at Wolves was a real eye-opener. The previous week, I'd taken my daughter to watch Arsenal.

"After three or four minutes, she said: 'Isn't it great to watch a football game where there's no pressure?

"Little did she realise that a fortnight later she'd be throwing herself back into it again."

With Sunderland just one point above the drop zone, they badly need a win to kick start a season which has spluttered badly so far.

O'Neill 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."

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