Alex Neil has a task on his hands to win Sunderland fans over, with supporters becoming increasingly more and more disillusioned with the club after some failed promotion bids and ownership issues.
The Black Cats have been desperate to finally land a spot back in the Championship this season but have so far had to settle for a play-off battle rather than an automatic spot. That ultimately led Lee Johnson to lose his job and Neil was drafted in as his replacement.
The former Preston manager has plenty of merit and has managed to pick up some results in recent weeks too – and he’s now admitted to the Sunderland Echo that he is ‘not here to please’ but instead is here to ensure the club ‘win games.’
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He’s done that so far too. Since managing the side, Neil has claimed victories against the likes of Wigan and Fleetwood and they are now unbeaten in their last five league outings too.
It’s left the side in fifth place and they are currently two points clear of Sheffield Wednesday in seventh too (although the Owls do have two games in hand on the Black Cats).
With the points now racking up then and the play-off race most definitely in their own hands, Alex Neil has spoken out to the Sunderland Echo about his tactics and formation, claiming that he will ‘take each game on its own merit.’
That means he may continue to mix things up in terms of his lineup – but as long as it gets results, the former Norwich boss seems happy to do so.
He said: “I think you have to take each game on its own merit, and equally we have to look at how we are trying to defend. What we did against Wigan is keep that [back] four when we attacked, the full-backs didn’t really venture forward so much, and we played with a mid-block which meant that defensively we were very secure, and then we hit the opposition in transition.
“The difficulty we have at Sunderland is that I’m not sure that is acceptable at home. But the simple fact is that at times I’m not here to please people, I’m here to win games and earn points, so what I have to do is come up with a strategy that is going to give us the best chance of winning the game.”
Alex Neil is a manager who can certainly win games, can take a team up a level and has the experience and know-how to finally get Sunderland to where they want to be.
So far, his appointment has already started to pay off. After a relatively slow start, the boss is now picking up plenty of points and the win over Wigan showcased how good his side can be, especially considering where the Latics are in the league.
Sunderland may have to show the manager patience in order to see success though. They’ll certainly be hoping to get a play-off spot this season, no matter how they play or how they get it. If that doesn’t happen though, they should be careful not to pull the trigger on Neil.
Given time and some investment, he has previously proven he can get the job done when in charge at a club – and so they should trust him to do the same with them.