Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Black Cats Need to Start Season Better, Says Defender O'Shea; Unity Was the Key to Squad's Survival

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Black Cats Need to Start Season Better, Says Defender O'Shea; Unity Was the Key to Squad's Survival

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner Sports writer @StuRayner

JOHN O'Shea has talked the talk about Sunderland being in the best shape for years, but now he knows they must prove it.

The Euro 2016-bound defender will measure whether things genuinely have improved or whether this is a false dawn by the way the team starts next season. Although the Black Cats once more only avoided relegation from the Premier League in the final week of the season, and although they recorded their lowest finish since 2012-13 (when they were also 17th), there is a genuine feeling progress is around the corner at the Stadium of Light as a result of the quality of players Sam Allardyce brought in during the mid-season transfer window - and the unity O'Shea senses within the group. The club captain said: "We hope so, but there's no point in saying it again. We have to do it.

"The proof will be in the pudding. We have to start the season better.

"We added to the quality of the squad in January and hopefully the manager will get the chance to do that again. That will increase the competition and I've said throughout my whole career, the quality only gets better with more competition. The January boys came in and settled in so quickly and had such an impact.

"I'll be hoping - and I'm sure the manager will be - that he can make an impact early on and get things done quickly."

Although Dame N'Doye's opportunities were limited because of the form of Jermain Defoe and goalkeeper Steve Harper's non-existent, as expected, Sunderland enjoyed an excellent window. On top of removing a lot of unwanted players from the wage bill, Allardyce brought in Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri to have an immediate and decisive impact on their form.

Not only did the trio significantly increase the talent available within the squad, they did nothing to dilute the spirit which had seen the side Turn to Page 52 FROM BACK PAGE fight its way out of seemingly impossibly tight corners in the previous two campaigns.

"It was an amazing feeling again of how we've done it with a game to spare," said Republic of Ireland centre-back O'Shea.

"The key thing was the unity we showed within the group, when the pressure was on. …

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