Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Gray: O'Neill Back to His Bubbly Best; Gray: O'Neill Is Back to His Best

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Gray: O'Neill Back to His Bubbly Best; Gray: O'Neill Is Back to His Best

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil Cameron

MARTIN O'Neill will stay at Sunderland beyond his present contract and lead the team into Europe according to one of the club's favourite sons, Michael Gray.

The former left-back (pictured left), who made over 400 appearances for Sunderland, believes the Irishman is "perfect" for his home town club. Gray never thought O'Neill would consider walking away even before Christmas when it looked for all the world that this season would be little more than a tough battle against relegation.

However, a vast improvement in resultsandsomenewsignings have given the supporters greater belief that the campaign will be about more than mere Premier League survival.

And Gray confidently predicted better times ahead for the club he served for 14 years.

He said: "The fans are of the opinion that Martin is the best man for Sunderland and that there is nobody out there better than him if for some reason he did leave, and I agree. He is a perfect fit for our football club.

"He will take Sunderland into Europe. It won't happen this season, but I can see that happening sooner rather than later.

"It's what the support wants, the city wants and Martin is thetype of manager who lives for success. Martin, and I am sure of this, will take Sunderland into a position whereweall believe we should be, even if success is not a God-given right. However, we have the right manager to take us that step forward. "Martin has his spark back. You can see that in his interviews and the way he is back to being so animated on the touchline. He's back to being bubbly, if you like. That is a huge bonus for the fans. "Look, it's impossible to judge what is going through a man's mind by looking at his mannerisms from a weekly television interview. But a few weeks ago he did look under pressure when results were bad and there were stories doing the rounds about him leaving. He wasn't himself either on the touchline or in interviews. "

But I never had a doubt he would see out his two-and-a-half year deal he signed and I hope he extends that. I think he will. The fans like seeing him back to being his bubbly self, kicking ever ball at the side of the pitch. …

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