Chelsea. Brings to mind that fabulous Quinn/SuperKev destruction of them in 1999. Sky-high prices for away tickets. Not the cuddliest team or fans in the Premier. But we do know some lovely people who support the Blues and they were utterly deserving of the title last season. AND we ended up top of a very special Chelsea mini-league: ahead, on goal difference, of Villa, Wigan and Stoke among teams they scored seven or eight against. After Man Utd, Chelsea – in the form of Denise, from thechelseablog.org – came calling for the Salut! Sunderland take on life …
The Chelsea Blog: Have any of the transfers surprised you over the summer?
Generally, it has been quiet, an overdue reflection of the economic ills affecting everyone – or nearly everyone – else, though the will-they-won’t-they Fabregas and Ashley Cole sagas quickly became tedious. David James was a bit surprising until you remembered his age. As for us, Sunderland, we obviously cannot compete at your level but I am moderately pleased so far with what Steve Bruce has managed to bring in – Cristian Riveros and Ahmed Al-Muhammadi especially – and am even more satisfied he has clinched John Mensah’s return. But Kenwyne Jones’s imminent exit leaves us short up front and we need adequate cover for Craig Gordon.
Any other players you’d have fancied signing?
Diego Forlan would have been a decent start but I suppose neither he nor Didier Drogba would be up for a loan deal at the Stadium of Light.
I’d rather Didier played for us than against us to be honest. Talking on opposition, which club are you looking forward to playing most? And least?
Sunderland fans always look forward to Wear/Tyne derby games and we’ve got those back. Blackpool away sounds like a good day out. I am decidedly cool on the idea of having to play anywhere we lost 7-2 last season, not least because 12-2 would have been a fairer reflection of the game.
Who can you see finishing in the top four and who’ll be possible relegation fodder?
Chelsea – hailed by my site as worthy champions last season, Man Utd/ Man City/ Arsenal in that sort of order. Blackpool, WBA and Wolves or, mischievously suggested, Newcastle to go down.
And what about the Premier League’s dark horse?
Fulham under Mark Hughes
How do you think you did last season and what are you hoping for this time round?
Encouraged by our start, appalled by our mid-season collapse, appeased by the late recovery. The fact remains that without Daren Bent’s goals, we’d have been under a serious relegation threat. I hope for a minimum of 10th this season, but the pessimism and resignation induced by decades of supporting Sunderland hold me back from saying we’ll do it.
Which manager impresses you most?
I have always had massive respect for Arsene Wenger, in spite of his selective vision, but the managerial performances of last season’s Premier were arguably those of Tony Pulis, Roy Hodgson and Alex McLeish.
If you could have any of our players in your squad, who would you go for and why?
Let’s be honest: we are streets behind you and just about any Sunderland player would expect to be cast aside in favour of the Chelsea man occupying the same position. So being reasonable, I”ll settle for Drogba, as he stands out even in a squad as gifted as yours, and Cech, because I fear we will be without Gordon for months and he may never be the same keeper again. You can keep Malouda and Anelka; I wouldn’t want anyone involved in the shameful French World Cup mutiny anywhere near our dressing room.
Ha ha, so which player do you think will stand out for you?
Darren Bent may have a tough job in trying to reproduce last season’s goalscoring feats, and I am pinning a lot of hope on Riveros and Al-Muhammadi but a fit John Mensah would be a rock in defence.
Finally, how do you think you’ll do when you play us?
I have seen no better Sunderland home display than 4-0 in the first half vs Chelsea in Dec 1999 (ended 4-1), and few better away performances than the 4-2 win at the Bridge one season later. I can always dream that’s how our games will go in the coming season, but would expect realistically to lose both while hoping for something out-of-the-ordinary to prove me wrong.