O'Neill: I'm the only man for Sunderland
A defiant Martin O'Neill has insisted ahead of the crunch clash with Reading that he is not just the best man for the Sunderland job, but the only one.
The 60-year-old arrived on Wearside to overwhelming popular acclaim 12 months ago, sparking a revival which hauled the Black Cats away from the Barclays Premier League relegation zone and to safety long before even he had expected to accomplish the first phase of his mission.
A year on, O'Neill's men find themselves in the bottom three as a result of claiming only two victories in their last 23 league games, and he heads into Tuesday night's re-arranged clash against fellow strugglers the Royals with former England and Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer having used his newspaper column to suggest anything but three points could prove fatal for the Ulsterman.
However, the former Aston Villa manager continues to enjoy the support of owner and chairman Ellis Short and remains confident he can turn things around at the Stadium of Light.
O'Neill said: "So what do you do then? So you go and put someone else in charge, he gets a group of 12, 13 games and can't win any matches? It's the same thing.
"I don't want to sound wildly boastful, but not only am I the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job.
"We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead - it might take us a few months to do that - and then we will see.
"If we are continuing for the next couple of years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then."
O'Neill is likely to be without striker Steven Fletcher once again.
The Scotland international missed Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Chelsea with an ankle problem and, although he is making progress, the game is expected to come too soon for him.
Defender John O'Shea managed to play the full 90 minutes at the weekend on his return from a calf problem and did not suffer a reaction, but skipper Lee Cattermole (knee ligaments) is out for up to two months.
Reading manager Brian McDermott expects a more complete performance from his side as they look to end a run of four successive defeats at fellow strugglers Sunderland.
Since securing their solitary Premier League win against Everton in mid-November, the Royals have failed to pick up a point. Defeats to Wigan, Aston Villa and Manchester United were compounded on Saturday by a 1-0 defeat at Southampton, leaving them 19th in the standings and six points adrift of safety.
Last season's npower Championship winners will attempt to end that run against the side directly above them, although McDermott knows his side will need to put in an improved display in the north east.
"You look at the four defeats and we definitely should have got something from the games that we've played," the Reading boss said ahead of the rearranged match.
"The Manchester United game last week we played really, really well but weren't solid enough. I thought our shape was much, much better against Southampton, but with the ball we weren't as good as we needed to be.
"We need to combine it all. Everything needs to come together. We're looking at the next game. That's the only thing that matters."
McDermott cut a particularly disappointed figure after the defeat at Southampton, where Jason Puncheon's second-half strike proved the difference.
Reading never really looked much like levelling things up at St Mary's after falling behind - something that frustrated McDermott. "What happened at Southampton has gone," he said. "There is nothing we can do about that.
"We're disappointed about that. It is very unusual from us that we went one goal behind and didn't respond the way we normally would do.
"The last three years I have always had great responses from the players and I didn't get that against Southampton so that was disappointing.
"I think the first goal was really important, for obvious reasons. We hit the post in the first half and if we could have got that then the game is different."