Writer: Will Tomlinson
Date:Sunday August 12 2007
Newly promoted Sunderland were handed a tough opening game of the season against top four challengers Tottenham. And although The Black Cats boss Roy Keane would never admit it, he would've taken a point from the season opener.
Since Manchester United legend Keane took charge nearly one year ago, the club have never looked back, and neither has he. The start of last season starred a Sunderland side, still hurting from the previous season's catastrophe. And they never looked organised at the best of times.
But Keane has turned it around, not only did he guide the team to promotion, he guided them to Championship glory. A marvellous achievement for any manager, even more so for one so inexperienced as Keane.
There is no doubt that Keane learnt from his previous club managers. Both Brian Clough, and more so Sir Alex Ferguson. Being under the tutelage of two of the best managers the British game has ever seen can only have had a positive impact on Keane. You can see in his touchline mannerisms glimpses of Fergie planning his next move.
Some would say that when Keane was on the pitch, you could tell that he wouldn't be just a manager, but a successful one at that. The fact is that Keane is one of those people who would've succeeded at whatever he chose to do in his life. But has he still got to prove he is a good manager?
Good manager? Yes. Great manager? Not yet. Yes he turned a mediocre losing outfit into a well organised winning outfit. But the financial backing he has received in the transfer market has been a huge factor in Sunderland's recent success. The two previous managers at Chelsea have proven that, even with money, you need to be a good manager to succeed. Claudio Ranieri couldn't bring titles to Chelsea, Jose Mourinho did what Ranieri couldn't immediately.
Michael Chopra's last minute winner put Sunderland top of the table, temporarily at least. And sent Tottenham home with a bad taste in the mouth. Throughout the game both defences were more than solid, a goal never looked like being scored thanks to the great performances of the likes of Paul McShane and Younes Kaboul, both making Premiership debut. But the performance we saw from Sunderland is exactly the sort of performance we've come to expect from Keane's side. Workman-like, organised, and fit. Not surprising considering those three adjectives would be used to describe Keane's every performance.
The ex-Celtic man's success rating is good, but it would mean nothing if Sunderland were to go down, but for some reason, many people - including myself - doubt relegation will be the case. But whatever happens, newly promoted club's have shown that success can be achieved in the Premier League. And I urge you not to bet against Sunderland making a similar impact to that of Reading last season.
Date:Sunday August 12 2007
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