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Martin O’Neill “disappointed” at Sunderland exit

Sunderland's manager O'Neill reacts ahead of their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester United in Sunderland

Sunderland’s manager Martin O’Neill reacts ahead of their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester United in Sunderland, northern England March 30, 2013. Sunderland pushed the panic button and sacked O’Neill on Saturday after a 1-0 Premier League defeat at home to Manchester United left them facing the prospect of relegation. Picture taken March 30, 2013. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR “LIVE” SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

REUTERS

He’s quickly become a forgotten figure amid the fascism fuss surrounding Paolo Di Canio’s appointment as his successor at the Stadium of Light.

But like a lot of people, Martin O’Neill has questioned Sunderland’s decision to hand the Italian the role. O’Neill’s reasoning? Nothing to do with politics, everything to do with respect he felt he’d earned.

“With the experience I have had over the years ... also coming into the football club at a time when the club was pretty well on its knees. I believed I saved it from relegation last year and I thought that opportunity should still have been afforded to me,” the 61-year-old told the BBC.

O’Neill was fired after last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester United, which left the Black Cats only a point clear of the Barclays Premier League drop zone. He took the reins in December, 2011, and guided a struggling side to a respectable 13th-place finish in his first season.

“I’m still disappointed and frustrated but life goes on,” he added.

Given all the experience he alluded to, with impressive spells at Leicester City, Aston Villa and Celtic, it’s surprising he appears so taken aback by chairman Ellis Short’s ruthlessness. Surely O’Neill should know what happens to managers at clubs who spend big, decline from the previous year and go on a run of eight games without a win?