Belfast Telegraph

Time to look forward - O'Shea

Sunderland skipper John O'Shea has ordered his team-mates to draw a line under their fall-out with Paolo Di Canio and dig themselves out of trouble.

More than a week after the collapse of the relationship between the 45-year-old Italian and his players prompted owner Ellis Short to act, the Black Cats remain managerless and rooted to the foot of the Barclays Premier League table.

However, while confirming that the dressing room had played a part in Di Canio's demise, O'Shea has insisted the players must re-group to prevent the club from being cast adrift.

He told the Sunderland Echo: "That was obviously done. But we have to move on now.

"Because of the position we are in in the league, we can't keep going back to it. We have got some difficult months ahead.

"Whoever comes in, whether it's Bally [interim head coach Kevin Ball] or a new manager, we have got tough times ahead.

"We have to stick together and if we keep going back to it, it will soon be too hard to pull back from where we are."

Sunderland turned in a much-improved display in Sunday's 3-1 home defeat by Liverpool, but the fact remains that they have now collected just one point from a possible 18 and with Manchester United due to arrive on Wearside on Saturday intent on addressing their own losing streak, things could yet get worse before they get better.

The Black Cats are continuing to evaluate a series of potential candidates for the vacancy created by Di Canio's sacking, with Gus Poyet, Rene Meulensteen and senior professional development coach Ball, who has indicated his own interest in filling the role on a permanent basis, figuring prominently in the betting.

However, chief executive Margaret Byrne has revealed that discussions with several contenders have already taken place and talks with others will be held this week, and it appears an appointment is not imminent.

That could mean Ball takes charge of Saturday evening's game against United, and an extended role for the former Black Cats midfielder would go down well with the players.

O'Shea said: "Without a doubt, he's made an impact. If it does happen, the players would be very happy.

"But we will wait and see what the club decides."

Ball launched his spell in charge with a 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough on Tuesday evening, but was unable to repeat the feat against sterner opposition on Sunday.

Sunderland played a full part in the game, but were ultimately undone by the brilliance of the returning Luis Suarez and strike-partner Daniel Sturridge.

The latter gave Liverpool a 28th-minute lead when he bundled Steven Gerrard's corner home with his arm, and then set up the Uruguay international to score his first goal for the club since April with a perfectly-weighted cross eight minutes before the break.

However, the Black Cats' response was hugely creditable and they got themselves back into the game within seven minutes of the restart when Emanuele Giaccherini struck from close range after goalkeeper Simon Mignolet could only parry Ki Sung-yueng's shot from distance.

But the Reds held firm in the face of a concerted assault and secured their win with a minute remaining when Suarez and Sturridge combined superbly before the South American claimed his second of the game.

Ball was disappointed by the result, but hugely encouraged by the performance of his players in front of the watching Short.

He said: "That's something that whenever you come away from the Stadium of Light, no matter who is in charge, whatever the club, we have always got to see that.

"That's something that I would drum into the players in future, we must see that all the time.

"People must go away from here, irrespective of what happens, and away from home as well knowing full well that their team has put in a shift, and today, they can say that."

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