SUNDERLAND boss Martin O'Neill has urged his critics to judge him at the end of the season.
The 60-year-old heads into tonight's rearranged Premier League clash with Reading amid speculation that failure to win and a continuation of a run which has brought just two league victories in 23 attempts, could precipitate his exit after just 12 months in the job.
O'Neill, however, remains undeterred from his mission and while he accepts that it is the lot of the modern-day manager to take criticism on the chin, he is confident time will prove he is on the right track. He said: "Of course it's part of the job, it's as simple as that.
"Way back years ago, it used to be that it was considered over the whole course of a season.
"You can take any block of games you want to and make whatever you want out of it, it's really as simple as that, and that's the case.
"There are sides here who have started the season very well indeed, and have come unstuck in recent weeks and people immediately start asking questions. It is the course of the season - that's generally how it used to work, anyway."
Sunderland slipped into the relegation zone as a result of Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea and Southampton's win over the Royals, but O'Neill remains convinced his team are capable of picking up points.
He said: "We got some terrific results last season and we eventually seemingly came out of the hole we were in perhaps more serenely and more easily than I had imagined.
"It's tough, but is the team capable of winning matches? Of course."