Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

O'Neill's Passion Proves Infectious; Manager's Passion Is Infectious

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

O'Neill's Passion Proves Infectious; Manager's Passion Is Infectious

Article excerpt

MARTIN O'Neill has brought new life to Sunderland by sharing the love - according to Connor Wickham, writes STUART RAYNER. After just eight matches in charge, the Ulsterman has inspired a remarkable transformation and the Black Cats welcome Swansea City today knowing a win will take them above the Welsh side in the Premier League.

Sunderland have lost only twice under the former Celtic and Aston Villa manager - both narrowly, away to sides pushing for Champions League qualification.

And Wickham (pictured left) thinks O'Neill's passion is rubbing off on his new players.

"Martin O'Neill has brought a new sense of life to the team and the place," said the 18-yearold striker. "Everyone is feeling confident and everyone has a fair shot. The boys are training every day, trying to impress. He is picking a team and the boys are doing well.

"You can see the delight he has for the team. When we score goals you can see him jumping in the air, hugging the boys. Everyone is hugging each other. It has brought the team closer to see a manager so passionate about the game." James McClean, Matt Kilgallon, Craig Gardner and Keiren Westwood have benefited from the change of management, another factor in lifting spirits. "With a new manager coming in, no one is getting judged on past performances," Wickham said. "Everyone started on a new slate. That is the key, confidence. "It is something you can see with Swansea players, it's here too. The boys are full of confidence, it is going well."

Wickham started O'Neill's first two games, only to suffer a knee injury in the defeat at Tottenham Hotspur. He returned as a substitute in last week's 1-0 reverse at Chelsea. And O'Neill has made him feel a part of things in the interim. "His man-management is brilliant," said the player signed from Ipswich Town this summer. …

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