O'Neill's confidence in McClean unshaken


Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is hoping wingers James McClean and Adam Johnson are finally ready to terrorise Premier League full backs after playing key roles in the 1-0 victory over defending champions Manchester City on St Stephen’s Day.

England international and former City player Johnson scored the winning goal and McClean proved a reminder of the form which propelled him into the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012.

O’Neill’s plan for the season was to have his two wide men supplying the ammunition for summer signing Steven Fletcher and Benin international Stephane Sessegnon.

Second season

As his side prepared to host high-flying Tottenham Hotspur today O’Neill said: “You would hope that would be the case. With James, we sat here a couple of months ago and we were talking about this second-season syndrome, and I was hoping that it genuinely wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem for him.

“I knew he would have difficulty early on, and that was shown by the number of times that full backs went to close him so very quickly in matches.

“He is learning to cope with that know and I am hoping he will overcome it. But still, he will have games where he will be unable to do anything, simply because players have either marked him or things didn’t happen for him. But overall, he is coming through.”

Former Derry City midfielder McClean exploded on to the Premier League scene 12 months ago after being handed his debut as a substitute in O’Neill’s first game in charge, and his elevation to the senior international stage with the Republic of Ireland followed.

Of Johnson’s contribution, O’Neill said. “He’s now starting to show in longer patches, anyway, the sort of form I think he is capable of.”