Martin O'Neill: I did not deserve Sunderland sacking

 

Former Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill says that he deserved to stay at the Stadium of Light until the end of the season after "saving the club" when it was "on its knees".

The Northern Irishman spoke for the first time about his sacking on 30 March to BBC Radio 5 live's Pat Murphy.

Ex-Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio was appointed within 24 hours of O'Neill's exit on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

"I'm still disappointed and frustrated but life goes on," said O'Neill.

Sunderland's remaining games

  • Sun 7 Apr: Chelsea (a)
  • Sun 14 Apr: Newcastle (a)
  • Sat 20 Apr: Everton (h)
  • Mon 29 Apr: Aston Villa (a)
  • Sat 4 May: Stoke (h)
  • Sun 12 May: Southampton (h)
  • Sun 19 May: Tottenham (a)

Former Celtic and Aston Villa manager O'Neill took over the club he supported as a boy from current Hull City boss Steve Bruce in December 2011.

He led his side to victory in seven of his opening 10 fixtures in charge, guiding the Black Cats to a 13th-placed finish in 2012.

But following their 1-0 defeat by Manchester United on 30 March 2013, Sunderland fell to 16th place, just one point from the relegation zone after injuries to key players Scotland striker Steven Fletcher and captain Lee Cattermole.

Within six hours of the final whistle O'Neill was shown the exit door.

"I'm in the business now where I think very little shocks you about professional football, particularly in the last 10 years," said the 61-year-old.

"I think you can nearly lose your job in management if your tie doesn't fit your suit.

"Coming into the football club at the time when the club was on its knees, and I believe I saved the club from relegation last year, I felt the opportunity [to stay at the club] should have still been afforded to me."

O'Neill's sacking made him the fifth top-flight manager to lose his job during the current campaign, after Chelsea's Roberto Di Matteo, Mark Hughes from QPR, Nigel Adkins from Southampton and Brian McDermott from Reading.

Despite not having any top-flight managerial experience, former West Ham striker Di Canio was appointed as O'Neill's successor at Sunderland. His reign began in controversial circumstances after the 44-year-old's political views came under scrutiny from fans, politicians and media.