Change, says Pete Sixsmith with what he terms “apologies to the late, great Sam Cooke”, is gonna come. Dylan had similar thoughts (“Come gather round people …”). Pete’s belief is that the obscene spectacle of Liverpool FC’s disintegration, and the unsavoury air over Old Trafford, may be symptoms of a malaise that will lead to an overdue Premier League revolution …
Is it just me, or do I detect a change coming in the Premier League this year? Are we seeing the end of the Big Four period of domination? Are some of the middle ranking clubs ready to take over the mantle of European contenders from the perpetual participants?
Let’s look at the current state of the Big Four. Liverpool are in disarray off the pitch and are a shambles on it. Manchester United are laden with debt and are reliant on an increasingly ineffective Rooney. Arsenal are financially stable and a model for other clubs, but lack the killer instinct to win the league. Chelsea are effective on the pitch but their team is ageing and the owner is not prepared to pump as much money in as he has in the past.
Now, put all that together and the door is open for the likes of Spurs, Villa, City and us to push at a door that is gradually opening.
The situation for Sunderland is as promising as it has ever been. There has been considerable investment in players. The clubs record fee has been broken twice in 12 months and exciting footballers have arrived at The Stadium of Light. The squad is one that most PL managers would love to have, with quality players like Da Silva, Reid, Riveros and Gordon struggling to get into the team.
Young players like Jordan Henderson are supposedly being coveted by the likes of Manchester United. A £12m move to Old Trafford is being predicted – but why? What would he achieve at Manchester United that he may not be able to achieve at Sunderland?
Here he is a first team regular. He plays every game. The more he plays, the better he gets. He is surrounded by players who have had positive World Cup experiences. He has a manager who clearly believes in him and a crowd that warm to him as a local boy. Why should he need to leave for a debt ridden club who will undergo a major change when their current manager retires?
No player of potential or promise would dream of going to Liverpool at the moment. They have an interim manager who may not last the season. There is a feeling that it is an unhappy dressing room as the Spanish players begin to re-assess their commitment to Merseyside.
And then there is the ownership problem. It may well be resolved today, but I don’t think many Liverpool fans will be over keen on swapping one bunch of Americans for another. I foresee a very difficult time for this franchise in the future.
Isn’t this the ideal time for a club like ours to make a breakthrough? We have an owner who, for the time being at last, is prepared to invest in the club. He must realize that there is a sea change in the upper echelons. What’s to stop Sunderland from being one of those who really challenge?
Jordan Henderson is a bellwether as far as Sunderland are concerned. If he maintains his current progress in a red and white striped shirt, then Sunderland AFC will be a successful club. There is a good case for him being included in the next England squad which should encourage him even more. Regular first team football at The Stadium of Light means even greater exposure and is far better than being a “maybe” player at Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford. His hopes and our hopes are intertwined – we both want the same thing – success, success, success.