Martin O’ Neill believes the second coming of James McClean will triumph over second-season syndrome.
Having made an explosive impact on the Premier League scene 12 months ago, the Derry winger has found the going harder in his follow-up season in the top flight but the Sunderland manager says that was only to be expected.
“With James, we sat here a couple of months ago and we were talking about this second season syndrome, and I was hoping that it genuinely wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem for him,” said O’ Neill.
“I knew he would have difficulty early on, and that was shown by the number of times that full-backs went to close him so very quickly in matches.
“He is learning to cope with that now and I am hoping he will overcome it. But still, he will have games where he will be unable to do anything, simply because players have either marked him or things didn’t happen for him. But overall, he is coming through.”
And O’Neill is hoping now that both his wingers are finally ready to terrorise Barclays Premier League full-backs. Adam Johnson and McClean played key roles in Wednesday’s famous 1-0 victory over champions Manchester City, with the £10million England international contributing the winning goal and McClean providing a reminder of the form which propelled him into the Ireland squad for Euro 2012.
O’Neill’s plan for the season was to have his two wide men supplying the ammunition for £12million summer signing Steven Fletcher and Benin international Stephane Sessegnon from the off, although 25-year-old Johnson’s injury problems and a lack of form for both men have hampered the scheme’s implementation.
However, there were signs against City that it is starting to come to fruition and now O’ Neill is hoping for more of the same as he prepares for today’s visit of high-flying Tottenham.
O’Neill said: “If we can get the ball out to Adam sometimes a wee bit more quickly than we do, then he can cause problems.”
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