QPR star reveals the secret to Sunderland manager’s success

Young says O’Neill has instilled a never-say-die attitude in his players

QPR’s trip to Sunderland on Saturday will pit together two teams who both took the risky decision to sack their managers midway through the season, each with very different consequences.

Rangers’ move to replace Neil Warnock with Mark Hughes has done little to alter the club’s plight as they remain stranded near the foot of the table. While Warnock took two points from his final eight league games in charge, Hughes has managed just five from his first eight.

It is proof – as if it were needed at Loftus Road – of the pitfalls presented when a club chooses to offload one manager for another who is, inevitably, expected to hit the ground running.


Wolves made a similar, ill-fated move in sacking Mick McCarthy last month only to somewhat illogically appoint his assistant Terry Connor, who has gone on to lose three of his first four games.

And then of course, there is Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, whose relentless and fruitless search for Champions League glory has seen him hire and fire no less than five managers in five years.

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Yet there occasionally comes a manager who bucks the trend. One who somehow, single-handedly and instantaneously transforms a club’s season – a manager like Martin O’Neill at Sunderland.

O’Neill’s record in his first three months on Wearside speaks for itself: taking over a side who had managed just three victories in their first 13 games, he immediately worked his magic, as David Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson struck inside the final six minutes to seal a 2-1 defeat of Blackburn Rovers.

They have never looked back, taking 23 points from the next 13 matches to leap away from the relegation zone and into the top half of the table, with an outside chance of a sealing a European spot.

The sight of O’Neill springing implausibly high into the air on the touchline in celebration of another win has become a common sight at the Stadium of Light. But while such a turnaround in form has come as a surprise to many, it is no shock to Rangers defender Luke Young.

“He’s not a tactical genius, but under O’Neill a team becomes desperate not to lose football matches,” says Young, who spent two years playing for O’Neill at Aston Villa.

“He gets players doing the basics well and that’s the key. He has a knack of winning games and turning places around straight away. Sunderland looked like a team down and struggling, and yet suddenly they’re beating the top sides.

“He seems to motivate squads, get the players all playing together. It’s a never-say-die attitude which he instils in his players, and that’s why I think they have done so well since he took over.”


Young speaks highly of his former boss, but he believes to compare Hughes negatively to the success enjoyed by O’Neill is unfair, given the differing circumstances surrounding each manager’s appointment.

“It’s a comparison that people will look at because the facts are there; Martin O’Neill went in and they started winning straight away and obviously we haven’t,” he added.

“The problem for Mark Hughes is that the players didn’t know each other too well, whereas O’Neill has gone into a squad which has been together quite a while.

“We’re full of new players who have turned up and tried to gel, and then more new players have come in. It’s been stop-start since Neil Warnock left.”

Young believes that the decision taken by Tony Fernandes to sack Warnock could yet prove a costly one.

“If I was honest I would say that Neil Warnock should have been given until the end of the season,” said the defender.

“I think most people out there would say it was probably a little bit harsh at the time. But that’s the way football is at the moment, people seem to make very fast judgements.

“Neil brought me to the club so on a personal note I was disappointed when he got sacked so soon. The club now is a different club to the one which I joined and got used to for six months.

“It’s difficult to come home, switch on Sky Sports and see yourselves second-bottom of the league. It’s on your mind 24 hours of the day.”

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