Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Boyhood Fans Are Doing Clubs Proud

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Boyhood Fans Are Doing Clubs Proud

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

ON a night when the minds of English football fans inevitably turned to managerial credentials, two of the North East's incumbents furthered theirs.

Only Martin O'Neill's Sunderland will play in the fifth round of the FA Cup, but there was no doubting Tony Mowbray has had a similarly spectacular effect on Middlesbrough. Both at the clubs they supported as boys, neither O'Neill nor Mowbray are likely to manage the Three Lions any time soon, having too much fun performing miracles in jobs they must have thought had passed them by.

With Alan Pardew watching from the stands, the North East is well blessed with managerial talent. Newcastle's boss will have appreciated the astonishing way his neighbours have revived fortunes along the A19.

O'Neill arrived at Sunderland with a glowing reputation, Mowbray's battered after a difficult time following in his footsteps at Celtic.

Two managers ago, O'Neill was interviewed for by England only for them to choose Boro's smooth-talking manager Steve McClaren. With the job vacant, Black Cats fans will be hoping they stick to their promise to replace Fabio Capello with an Englishman.

But since taking over Sunderland, O'Neill has enhanced an already impressive reputation. Like Boro when Mowbray returned, the Black Cats were in a bad way when he took over.

Now Boro are serious contenders to be in next season's top-flight, the Wearsiders perhaps kicking themselves that they had not brought O'Neill in a few weeks earlier to give them a more serious chance of European qualification.

Ten Premier League games in and his side are its form team, having only come a cropper at Chelsea and Spurs.

O'Neill has achieved it with an approach as no-nonsense as Mowbray's defending once was.

Ask his players what has made the difference and you rarely get a very illuminating answer. …

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