Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has blasted critics who have branded Martin O'Neill a dinosaur and backed his former manager to prove them wrong.
Lambert had expected to be up against his mentor when Villa take on Sunderland on Monday but last month the Black Cats sacked O'Neill and replaced him with flamboyant Italian Paolo Di Canio.
A storm surrounding Di Canio's political views greeted the appointment but a 3-0 victory over Newcastle in his second game turned the headlines in his favour.
Victory over Everton followed to lift Sunderland further clear of the relegation zone ahead of Monday's game, although a win for Villa would draw them level with the Black Cats and tighten the situation at the bottom once more.
O'Neill was a popular appointment at the Stadium of Light when he succeeded Steve Bruce last season following successful spells with Wycombe, Leicester, Celtic and Villa but Sunderland's struggles led to criticism that O'Neill's methods are outdated.
Lambert, who played under O'Neill at Celtic, said: ``It's shocking. It's woeful. That's people who probably haven't been a manager calling him that.
``I worked for him for five years. He was a breath of fresh air at Celtic. He was absolutely brilliant. He took the club by the scruff of the neck, it was dead, on its knees and he got us to a European final and won us titles.
``That was tough because Rangers were a really good side in that era.
``He was brilliant. Him, (assistants) John (Robertson) and Steve (Walford) were brilliant.
``I have spoken to him since. I am pretty sure he will bounce back pretty quickly.''
Meanwhile John O'Shea says keeping Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League this season would be classed as a success.
The Republic of Ireland defender spent almost 12 years at previous club Manchester United as Sir Alex Ferguson's men took English football by storm and made a major impact in Europe.
He arrived at the Stadium of Light during the summer of 2011 with an enviable collection of honours, including five Premier League titles, plus FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League winners' medals.
However, given the predicament in which the Black Cats found themselves just a few weeks ago, O'Shea insists top-flight survival this season would represent a genuine achievement for his current employers.
Asked how he has coped with fighting at the foot, rather than the top, of the table, the 31-year-old said: ``Look, it's one of those things, that's just how things have turned out.
``But success for certain teams can be measured in different ways all the time.
``If we, Sunderland, survive in the league, it's obviously going to be a success because we were in a precarious position.
``We are still in a small bit of a precarious position, but thankfully we have the power in our own hands to survive that, and we have to continue that.``