Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has said that he hopes to “emulate” his close rivals – Newcastle United’s season last term. The Magpie’s managed to finish fifth in the Premier League after the clubs most successful campaign in recent years.
United were in contention for the Champions League for long periods through the recent campaign and O’Neill admitted that the unexpected success is what he wants for his Sunderland side.
Alan Pardew’s men shocked the pundits with their success throughout the 2011/12 season with many fearing the worse for the Geordie boys.
But with Pardew’s well organised and well disciplined squad, the Magpie’s challenged up the top end of the table with the best, whereas their bitter rivals Sunderland found themselves at the other end struggling to pick up points whilst pressure continued to mount on now former coach Steve Bruce.
This led to the appointment of Mackem favourite O’Neill and the Black Cats managed to march on up the table to ensure their safety in the Premier League.
But the former Celtic boss could do little to prevent Newcastle stealing the plaudits last season as they claimed a UEFA Europa League spot, as well as an impressive fifth-place finish.
That was the first time since 2008 that the Magpies had finished above the team from the Stadium of Light and O’Neill believes it has raised the stakes in the North East.
“If it hasn’t upped the ante, it certainly should do,” said O’Neill.
“It was a great season for Newcastle. It might have been unexpected in some quarters, but they signed some very good players and it worked out brilliantly for them.
“It was a really great season. And, of course, that’s something that we want to emulate as quickly as we possibly can.
“But it’s easier said than done.
“We made some progress last season but the Everton FA Cup defeat probably served as a reality check after we had played so well against the eventual champions Manchester City.”
Both teams have been busy in this summer transfer window with Newcastle still trying to finalise the deal of Mathieu Debuchy and the Black Cats reported to have made a 10 million pound bid for Wolves striker Steven Fletcher to bolster the lack of goals from the Sunderland strikers last year.
Newcastle are now looking for European success with the Magpie’s still looking for a trophy since like their last European success in 1969.