O”Neill hits out at fixture chaos as Sunderland are forced to play twice in three days
Backlash: O”Neill not happy
After mentioning the dreaded R word for the first time, Sunderland manager Martin O”Neill has slammed Sky TVand the Barclays Premier League for harming his team”s survival chanceswith their hectic Christmas and New Year fixture schedule.
Injury-hit Sunderland face leaders Manchester City at the Stadium of Light on Sunday and must then travel to fellow strugglers Wigan on Tuesday, hoping to avoid an unwelcome double against Roberto Martinez”s side.
Earlier this week City boss Roberto Mancini hit out at his side”s schedule which means they have less time to prepare for Tuesday”s clash at the Etihad Stadium than opponents Liverpool who played Newcastle at Anfield on Friday night.
O”Neill, who is without injured defenders Titus Bramble, Phil Bardsley and Michael Turner, has a similardilemma for the visit to the DW Stadium which comes 48 hours after the televised City clash.
Wigan are at Stoke City on Saturday.
The new Sunderland boss said: “If Mancini can moan about it, why shouldn”t I We can”t do anything about it, it was done for TV but the Premier League should have a look at it, to not give one team a bit of an advantage over the other.
“We play on a Sunday and I know the game”s been moved. But then we play on Tuesday. When you”re playing in quick succession having played a number of games in the lead up to it, they should look at it. I don”t see why our game couldn”t maybe have taken place on the Wednesday, nor have I made a call to anybody. Maybe Ishould have done but the fixtures were there when I arrived.”
The 27-year-old York-born defender started his career at Leeds and joined Sheffield United in 2007.
He was signed in a 1million deal by Steve Bruce in the January 2010 transfer window but made just seven starts for Sunderland in their fight against relegation.
A loan spell at Middlesbrough last season was cut short by a back injury and he ended the campaign on loan at Doncaster.
He was recalled to the first team by Martin O”Neill in the week he joined the club and although he was on the bench last week, the Sunderland boss turned to Craig Gardner to play as emergency right-back when Titus Bramble hobbled off.
The fear for Sunderland is that defeat to Wigan, who clinched a late victory on Wearside in Steve Bruce”s final game, will drag them back into the relegation battle aftergaining seven points in O”Neill”s first four games in charge.
The Irishman, who must decide whether to hand Matt Kilgallon his first Premier League start for 18 months, has warned supporters his side are far from clear of the bottom three.
He added: “We are still in a dogfight, we really are. So it is important for us to try to accumulate more points in the matches coming up and it is going to be difficult because after this we are at Wigan with two days rest, then Chelsea and obviously, that”s not even talking about Peterborough in the FA Cup.
“It is important for us to hang in there in these games.
“Relegation is in the back of my mind
all the time, maybe I”m bringing it to the forefront. I said here at the start that we can”t run away from that. I”ve been delighted with the points we”ve accumulated, I”m really pleased with it but we are brittle and I wouldn”t want anybody thinking ahead of themselves.”