Martin O’Neill is hoping his Sunderland side can upset Manchester City on Boxing Day after beating the champions last season.
O’Neill’s men sit in 15th place in the Premier League, four points above Wigan and the relegation zone, and head into their clash with City on the back off a 1-0 win over Southampton at the weekend.
Prior to their meeting with Roberto Mancini’s side at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday, O’Neill looked back fondly at the way his side began the year.
“It was a terrific win. There was a lot of character shown that day,” O’Neill said of the January 1 win over City.
“I know these are over-used words in the game, but that was very important for us because Manchester City at any given stage in that match or in any game, can rip you apart.
“We conjured it from somewhere. (Dong-Won) Ji’s goal was greeted with an enormous roar, which I shan’t forget, and for us to win on the opening day of the calendar year gave us a big boost.”
Sunderland, like plenty of other clubs across the United Kingdom, will miss out on some of the festivities this year due to their playing commitments, but O’Neill believes it is a small price to pay for the privileged lifestyle that footballers lead.
“It’s the most phenomenal life you could get, particularly if you have a couple of years where you can be successful,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to be involved in a Nottingham Forest team which ruled Europe for a couple of years, so that was really fantastic.
“But any professional player has got to really enjoy it.
“You are being paid to keep yourself healthy and fit and if you don’t have any major serious injuries, which are obviously more than a bit of a setback and terrible to endure, then it’s a great career.”