Writer: Bryan King
Date:Thursday January 21 2010
With our poor form since the surprise but outstanding victory against the team that currently sit top of the premier league (Arsenal) all Sunderland fans were praying for the transfer window to open so recruitments could be added to our very thin squad.
There has been numerous debates in the pubs and clubs on Wearside whether Steve Bruce was correct in allowing so many squad players to leave in the summer without first having replacements on board. I can see both sides of this argument but side with the gaffer on this one. Leadbitter and Edwards were not premiership quality and went back to a level which not only suits them but allows them to play regular football. Whitehead was a player that had been at the club too long, a good servant but very limited in ability. Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole`s partnership was on a new level to anything we have saw since the days under Reidy with the likes of Hutchinson, Schwarz and Bally. That brings me to the most controversial departure of the season in Danny Collins. The fans player of the last 2 years was allowed to leave to go to what are now one of our rivals in Stoke City. With McCartney`s poor form and our crippling injury list some fans state Collins would have been an ideal replacement. Even Danny`s biggest critics would find that hard to argue against but I still think it was the correct decision for him to leave. Collins was out the school of giving his all every game, something which our fans have always taken to their hearts but with the arrivals of Cana, Cattermole, Mensah and Bent it shows the calibre of player Bruce wants to bring into the club and Collins was limited on that front as has been shown at Stoke where the fans haven`t taken to him whatsoever and he is finding himself sitting on the bench on a weekly basis. We still have quite a bit of "deadwood" at the club with the likes of O`Donovan, Murphy, Healy etc but with Russell Anderson leaving hopefully it`s the start of more to follow.
Steve Bruce inherited a squad of limited ability and it was always going to take more than two windows to totally overhaul the squad. This seasons target should have been all about clearing the decks and bringing in some quality players to enable us to build and hopefully start to establish ourselves in the premiership. With our fantastic start to the season fans were getting carried away with talk of European football etc forgetting we only stayed up on the last day of last season. Bruce did take a gamble running with such a small squad and admittedly it does seem to have backfired but I think this will be more short term pain long term gain.
So what will Bruce be looking to do is the question every Sunderland fan wants answering......
If you asked the 40,000 that turn up every home game the majority would state we need two full backs and two out and out wingers......... are they correct?
Goalkeepers - Over the years Sunderland keepers have always been huge favourites of the crowd, Sorensen, Poom, Turner, Montgomery are just a few that will always have a special place in the fans hearts.... I firmly believe Craig Gordon could follow suit, with his British record fee and been part of a back five that has consisted of so many poor performers since his arrival going against him he was finally starting to show what he was capable off until Defoe`s horrendous challenge back in November. Keeping him fit for the second part of the season and playing behind the likes of Turner, Da Silva and Mensah should hopefully allow him to showcase his huge talent. Fulop is another player who splits the crowds opinion, this may be controversial but I simply don`t rate him one bit, he has done well at times but he is a certainty to be away in the summer as every time Gordon has came back Bruce doesn`t hesitate in putting him straight back in.
ANSWER - Westwood arriving would be a good piece of business but we have other priorities.
Full Backs - This is an area of the side that you won`t hear one Sunderland fan say we are strong enough in and new signings are a must. Both Bardsley and McCartney offer little going forward and lack a physical presence to dominate at the back. Bardsley would be a good squad player covering for injuries and suspensions whereas McCartney has been a huge disappointment since his return to the club. He has been unable to show his West Ham form in either spells at the club and is another one that more than likely will find his future away from the club.
ANSWER - Demel and Figueroa are continually been linked and with Bruce admitting an interest in both don`t be surprised to see either or both arrive before the end of Jan.
Centre Half`s - Turner, Da Silva, Mensah, Ferdinand, Nosworthy will provide enough strength to hopefully see us to the summer providing we can now keep them fit and free of suspension.
ANSWER - It seems that Kilgannon from Sheffield Utd is expected to arrive any day, Moyes has also shown an interest and with his record of Cahill, Lescott, Johnson and Jagielka lets pray Kilgannon is of similar quality.
Central Midfield - Cana , Cattermole and Henderson offers us a solid core with Reid and Richardson capable of playing in there short term.
ANSWER - Cant see any signing arriving to cover this area.
Wingers - This is an area where we are sadly lacking, Malbranque looks a shadow of the player that excited the fans from last season, he hasn`t scored enough goals since his arrival and is offering very little at the moment and although Reid statistically has more crosses than any other player this season, how many either beat the first man or are cleared by the opposition defenders. Reid has been one of our better performers admittedly but we need someone with pace or the ability to supply Jones with quality deliveries something we haven`t had since the departures of Alan Johnston and Nicky Summerbee.
ANSWER - Nzogbia and Bentley would be two that jump out but those kind of signings may have to wait for the future, Adam Johnson from Boro seems the most likely and with his ability to play either flank would be a good addition.
Forwards - Bent has been a revelation since his arrival and Jones has everything in his locker to offer Bent the perfect foil. Whether Jones has a long term future at the club remains to be seen but there is no way he will be allowed to leave during this window.... if we had two quality wingers on the books I really believe Bent and Jones would offer a formidable threat to any team in the premiership with the right service.
ANSWER - We have relied too heavily on Bent all season and need to see more from Jones and Campbell when given the opportunity, Bruce will look to improve our frontline but whether that will be during this window remains to be seen although we have been strongly linked with Kuranyi and Cabanas.
Overall Verdict - If we can get the majority of our squad fit over the coming weeks we should then start to pick up points again but we can`t take the risk of "if" and reinforcements need to be brought in, we gambled last season by appointing Sbragia until the end of season, a gamble that just paid off, if the club were to gamble again by not buying some much needed quality it would not only be naive but like pulling the trigger for a second time whilst playing "Russian roulette" ..... the more chances you take the more chance of something severely backfiring.
Date:Thursday January 21 2010
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