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Sunderland V QPR at Stadium of Light : Match Preview

Updated 27 Nov 2012 13:36:42

Sunderland V QPR at Stadium of Light : Match Preview

Sunderland V QPR - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

O'Neill `surprised' by resignation rumours

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has insisted he is going nowhere after the club was forced to dismiss claims he had offered his resignation.

Wearside was buzzing on Saturday evening, hours after the Black Cats' 4-2 home defeat by West Brom, as rumours of the Ulsterman's departure spread like wildfire with the help of Twitter.

But O'Neill admitted he was as surprised as anyone as club officials spent the evening denying the speculation.

The 60-year-old, who will celebrate 12 months at the Stadium of Light next month, said: "Yes, it was a bit of a surprise, really. Nothing probably should surprise me in the game, but yes.

"There was nothing in it. Anybody can tweet these days. I think it happened a couple of years ago as well, something like that, a similar sort of thing.

"But that's the nature of it. But no, I was pretty surprised."

It was not the first time talk of O'Neill's impending demise had swept the city in recent weeks but as he prepared his players for the Barclays Premier League clash with QPR, the manager was adamant it was business as usual.

Asked if he was planning to go anywhere, he said emphatically: "Absolutely not."

The speculation has come amid a sequence of poor results for Sunderland, where less than a year ago fans had hailed the arrival of O'Neill as their long-coveted manager.

A battling 2-1 victory over Blackburn at the Stadium of Light proved the perfect start and a run of seven wins and a draw in his first 10 league games - his only defeats came, narrowly, at Tottenham and Chelsea - further enhanced his reputation with fans delighted at his arrival.

However, the last 26 league games have brought just four victories - the last three of them against sides reduced to 10 men - and yielded only 24 points from a possible 78.

O'Neill acknowledges the need for an improvement on those statistics, starting with Tuesday's game, although he is refusing to classify it as a must-win affair.

He said: "We have got a fairly lengthy time to go. It's an important game, it's every bit as important as the game against West Bromwich Albion and the one against Fulham, of course.

"It would be nice to win the match. I wouldn't say it's going to define everything but all games are important."

The Black Cats' hopes of securing a morale-boosting victory are not being helped by injuries to defender John O'Shea and midfielder Lee Cattermole, both of whom are fighting against the clock to recover.

In addition, they will be the first side to encounter Rangers under the leadership of new manager Harry Redknapp and O'Neill is well aware of the galvanising effect the former Tottenham manager's arrival could have on an expensively-assembled squad.

He said: "We are not capable of treating anybody lightly, far from it. We are not good enough to do that at all."

Redknapp has vowed to axe any QPR player who did not pull his weight as he faced up to the "toughest" challenge of his managerial career.

Redknapp insisted Rangers' "nice" owners had not been given the results they deserved for the money they had paid for their squad in transfer fees and wages.

He has only been in the Loftus Road hotseat for two days but it took him little time to assess what had led his new side to make the worst start to a season in Barclays Premier League history.

He said: "We've got four points from 13 games, which is an incredible, low total.

"We've got to do better to give ourselves and opportunity to get out of this mess. I need people that are going to work.

"When they lose the ball, chase it. It's what you learnt when you were at school. That's what you did in the playground. I need 11 people with the ability to put effort in. And if they give that effort then we've got a chance of surviving.

"If they don't, they're not going to play to start with and I'll find another 11 who will run about and work hard.

He added: "I've got no time for people losing the ball and throwing their arms up in air and standing around with their hands on their hips.

"We're in a relegation battle, we've got four points. It's their fault - it's nobody else's fault. If everyone works, the ability's there. I've got to make them work and get the best out of them now.

"If they do that then we'll be okay, we'll survive."

Captain Park Ji-sung (knee) should be in contention and Jose Bosingwa is thought to have recovered from a virus.


PA

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