'Nervous' O'Neill counting on past derby experience
Published 22:25 02/03/12 By Simon Bird
Martin O'Neill admits he will not dare look at the St James’ Park crowd tomorrow – because “they’ll all want to gouge my eyes out”.
The Sunderland boss is well versed in the ferocious nature of big derby games and admits to being “nervous” and “concerned” ahead of such pivotal matches.
O’Neill and his side are bidding to end a poor run of results against Newcastle and hopes his fans will have the bragging rights in the Bigg Market tomorrow.
When he was
Celtic boss, O’Neill won his first derby against Rangers 6-2, which set
up his trophy-winning run in Glasgow. A win on Tyneside would be a huge morale booster
and O’Neill revealed: “I never looked behind me. You felt everybody was just ready to gouge your eyes out so I stayed focused with what was in front.
“Even when the ball went behind me, I never went to retrieve it!
“It’s a big game, there’s no getting away from that but I genuinely feel the same about most matches. I get very concerned about them beforehand, which is a euphemism about being very nervous.
“Newcastle picked up great confidence from winning at our place in August.
“It was considered a really poor result here by our fans and led
to a topsy-turvy time. Maybe we can look back at this game at the end of the season as a defining moment.
“When I started at Celtic the 6-2 against Rangers shaped the season because we’d finished 20 points
behind the previous year and it gave us a lot of confidence.
“Those derbies were great preparation for this. This is a very big game itself so I think that if you’ve been involved in these games it can help. We’ve 12 games left and we need more points.”