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Midsummer Update – Are Sunderland in Uncharted Territory?

Article by Ben Mummery

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We’re almost at the end of June, and this certainly is a strange place that Sunderland AFC have found themselves in this summer! With safety achieved late in the season once again, another close brush with relegation and many fans of the opinion that given our squad we’ve been lucky to survive, how the club acts this summer could prove crucial not only to the coming season, but to those that follow – indeed the future of the club could well rest on how the powers that be choose to act in the coming weeks!

To many this may seem an over-reaction, but after time and time again coming way too close to the drop, struggling to survive year in year out must surely have taught the management at our club some lessons? Surely?!

How do we stop this from happening again? What measures must we put in place to start climbing the division? What lessons can we learn from our activity in recent years? Without a doubt these must be the questions being asked behind closed doors, if not – hold onto your hats Sunderland fans, 2015-2016 is going to be another nervy ride!

So let’s take a look at what has happened so far this summer…..

The most obvious news is the announcement that Dutch manager Dick Advocaat AKA “The Little General” will be staying with the club for the coming campaign. This is news that has been warmly received by Sunderland supporters following the Dutchman’s success in keeping the club in the top flight last term.

So what does Advocaat bring, and what does he offer that’s different to our previous managers?

Fans of the club have become very used to a manger with passion, of this there can be no doubt! Di Canio and Poyet both wore their hearts on their sleeves. This is to say, they both loved a rant!

For all the passion, heart and commitment, our two previous bosses have, in my opinion, proved themselves to be extremely egotistical, self-serving, and arrogant to boot! While both these men seemed to be as concerned with their own careers as the team they managed, fans got the sense that both Di Canio and Poyet were somewhat using Sunderland as a proving ground, a club to further their own causes in the world of management. This is most certainly not the case with Dick Advocaat, aged 67, he has managed top football sides since 1980, while his resume speaks for itself – national sides such as Russia, Serbia, Belgium, South Korea and the Netherlands (twice and assistant and once for two years as manager). His previous clubs include PSV, AZ Alkmar (twice), Zenit, Borussia Monchengladbach and Rangers to name but a few, including several league titles in Russia, Scotland and his native Holland. This is a man who knows football, knows how to manage, has nothing to prove and knows how to get a job done!

Fans were treated to a complete turnaround in managerial style with the Little General when he took over from Poyet, no more arrogance, no more dishing blame to anyone who happened to be in the room at the time, no more hysterical news conferences or grappling for excuses, suddenly we had calm, rational talk, team selections that were based on achieving a goal week by week rather than proving the press wrong, and a real sense that now, for the first time in a long time, we had a headmaster and not a substitute teacher!

There was a stop put to airing the club’s dirty laundry in public, things seemed to be taken care of properly, behind closed doors, under wraps and away from the prying eyes of the press, vultures praying for gossip and a story to tell of a “relegation threatened club in chaos”. There was a feeling of control and a man taking charge, dare one say it, a “Fergie” type approach – “I’m in charge, we’re doing things my way, my word is final!”, furthermore, the players seemed to respond and barring a “performance” against Crystal Palace at home, seemed to rise to the challenge of keeping themselves from relegation with some so far unseen grit and determination.

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We can expect this to continue under Advocaat, regardless of who makes up the playing staff this coming season, which brings us onto our next and more prominent problem – what to do about the squad?!

The gaffer had already stated to both press and management that in order to stop the run of constant relegation battles at Sunderland, there needed to be a serious improvement in the quality of players in the squad, with a minimum of six players needed to replace those not good enough – VERY hard to disagree most would think! So where do we start to make changes to what is easily one of the poorest squads in the division, the only other that springs to mind being Newcastle?

With no pace, very little creative quality in central midfield, no pace, little out wide, no pace, an average age in the back four of over 700 years old, no pace and no pace, the areas for improvement would seem to be pretty clear, in fact it could easily be argued that we should be improving everywhere except between the sticks!

The most obvious place to start would be to strip away the deadwood, so who could we lose this summer? Bridcutt? Buckley? Gomez? Graham? Fletcher? There’d be arguments to remove and replace all of the above, while some additions would still be required, we’d be talking some serious expense!

Equally, who do we bring in? Sunderland have been linked with some very good players in recent days, among them international players, league winners, some impressive names in all. However the problem remains that bringing south based players to the NorthEast is no easy task. Coming to Sunderland when you’re used to living in London isn’t a great prospect for many players, and as wrong as they are, how does one convince them to change their mind? After all, how do you say to your high maintenance trophy wife, “Sorry petal, no more Harrods, Kensington High Street, Knightsbridge and Soho, it’s “The Bridges, Jackie White’s Market, The Galleries and one in the Cooper Rose”!

We look likely to secure the permanent services of Seb Coates from Liverpool, but apart from that all we’ve had is rumors and paper talk.

One thing is for sure, the leadership at the Black Cats needs very quickly to recognize the importance of adding quality to the squad, as opposed to quantity. Mr. Short is going to need to get his wallet out, but with any luck the coming weeks will proof fruitful for our club and our fans – after all, there’s always Valentin Roberge to come back!

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1 comment:

  1. I agree we need to add to the squad, however we can see clearly this isn't the easiest task. Why don't we start to look at the youth players and putting Advocaat's many years of experience and coaching abilities to work with the current crop of players and with a full preseason really get the side organised and playing good football


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