Stepping up – extended version

Watch the goals from Saturday v QPR and hear Quinnie on the subject of promotion – then read on

When Roy Keane, fresh from signing on the dotted line, asked to be talked through the squad he was taking on, he said he should have held out for a much bigger salary.

It was a light hearted remark. But then everyone knew there were plenty of weaknesses among players from the Reid and McCarthy eras and even among those brought in by Niall Quinn.

What of the squad now? Men who were struggling before but have thrived under Keane. Others who have responded to his methods, inspiration and example and just got better and better? And the lads he has bought or borrowed?

At his press conference following the QPR game, the boss said there were a number of players at the club who, he was sure, could hold their own in the Premiership.

Who are those players? Let Salut! Sunderland know those areas you would strengthen and those you would trust in the higher division.

Yes, I know we are not there yet. We are Sunderland supporters and should know better than to get carried away. But we couldn’t have set ourselves up better for the final lap. We MUST do it!

And who knows, I might even come up with another prize for the brightest, funniest or most interesting response. I’ll set the ball rolling with my own thoughts……….

The obvious place to start is with two players whose future ties with Sunderland are not in our hands: Jonny Evans and Danny Simpson. Both struck me on Saturday as having Premiership class, but both are on loan from Man Utd.

It is possible that we will get another season’s loan out of Evans but with my guru Pete Sixsmith tipping him as an Old Trafford captain in waiting, we cannot count on it.

I hope the ever outstanding A Love Supreme will not mind if I quote his own thoughts on the subject, revealed during an illuminating interview conducted by Martyn McFadden in Liechtenstein after Evans had helped Northern Ireland to a 4-1 victory. Just one Question and one Answer; if you want more, ALS is better value at £2 than the programme.

Q: Is there any chance of you staying at Sunderland any longer?

A: I don’t know. I’m not looking at that just yet. I just want to get Sunderland promoted. A few of the lads said would you stay at Sunderland if the opportunity came up, but I’ll just leave that to Manchester United because obviously if United want me back that’s where I want to be, If Sunderland get to the Premiership next season, still want me and Alex Ferguson’s happy to let me go out again, I’ll also be delighted.

Strip away the diplomacy – he’s a bright lad, Jonnny Evans – and that’s not actually a bad answer. All will depend on Fergie’s assessment of his defensive resources come the close season.

Elsewhere in our present team, Dean Whitehead would almost certainly flourish in the higher league, provided he is part of a strong midfield and isn’t required to carry others.

Nyron Nosworthy is a fascinating phenomenon. His performances at centre-back have been a revelation – Keano has said something about it being “best for all concerned” that he doesn’t have as a long on the ball – and I made him my man of the match on Saturday. I hope with a passion that he does take the Premiership by storm.

The strike force worries me a little, as it did the former Arsenal forward Alan Smith who wrote as much after his visit to the Stadium of Light on Saturday. But it’s unthinkable that Keane has not seen this for himself so action in that area is a racing uncertainty – even if he feels one or more of his present option could make the step up with success.

Carlos Edwards looks fast and clever enough. Leadbitter’s graft and finishing power are highly encouraging and I quite like Hysen.

There is talent and experience elsehwere in the squad and all of these players have done wonders for Keano. The absence of a name from the above thoughts does not mean I believe its owner has no merit.

But plenty of people reading this will have seen much more of the team this season – and their/your views count more than mine.

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