Salut Reflections: Westwood, Mignolet and Bramble make for interesting week in Sunderland.

Jake detects thinking
Jake detects thinking


During Martin O’Neill’s final months as SAFC manager, it became increasingly hard to gather and comment on news for a Reflections piece for Salut! Sunderland, writes Stephen Goldsmith. It seems unlikely Di Canio’s reign will be similar. The end of season is generally a bit of a lull for bloggers and writers, who try their best to avoid getting carried away with bogus and erroneous transfer targets. There have been a couple of interesting developments in the last week, though, “that’s for sure” (Bruce: 2009/2010/2011).

Bramble has parting shot

No doubt you’ve all read the Daily Telegraph‘s Titus Bramble interview by now? If you haven’t then, basically, Di Canio should be attacking his players to their faces instead of using media outlets, Bramble hypocritically told Luke Edwards last week.

Bramble proved to be an  impenetrable barrier

The zero times player of the season contender then declared that Di Canio “has a lot to learn”. I’m not sure if Titus and Luke broke into a fit of laughter at this point; surely the irony of someone as unprofessional as he preaching trading standards can only be some sort of attempted comedy.

But to be fair to Bramble, let us analyse his critique of our new manager before we pass judgement. His key points appear to be:

“He’s got a long, long way to go before he gets anywhere near as good as Sir Bobby Robson”.

“He’s targeted the easy players, the ones who are leaving anyway, trying to show he’s the boss”.

“He’s a good coach on the training pitch, everything is so detailed”.

Anybody learn anything they didn’t already know there?

The media are desperate to make out like there’s mutiny on the horizon at Sunderland and while I’m not so naive to think Di Canio’s disciplinary techniques don’t have a shelf-life, as long as far superior players than Bramble continue to publicly support the gaffer then I’m more than content.

Westwood or Mignolet – which leaves?

Tricky one this. I, like every other Sunderland fan on the planet, have campaigned vigorously (well, often said it on Twitter) that Mignolet needs to be kept at all costs. Forgetting about who his agent is and who said what, it appears very likely he won’t be extending his contract any time soon. This doesn’t cause huge amounts of panic as realistically we’re likely to get big bucks for him next season if he’s adamant he won’t be staying.

Initially I was a little behind everybody in the adulation of Mignolet – not because I ever doubted his ability or potential but because in typical football fan fashion, people had allowed their own bias to get themselves a little carried away. Akin to an outfield player becoming a darling of the crowd due to putting a tackle in at every given opportunity, the Belgian’s exquisite shot-stopping capabilities led people to jump the gun a tad early, in MY opinion.

But the season gone was the season he really grew as an all-round keeper.

Stephen Goldsmith ihails Wigan''s accomplishment
Stephen Goldsmith ponders.

Gone was his nervousness of commanding his penalty area and his overall shyness, and now those damn feet have started moving to deal with long range efforts compared to their previous stance of being rooted as if he had weights attached to them. The question is, will he continue with this upwards trajectory? Because to play for a top four side, he has to.

Performances like the West Brom and Aston Villa games are, of course, dwarfed in comparison to his majestic ones. We all know that he takes the lion’s share of credit (if the players deserve that as a collective group) for preserving Premier League status on Wearside this season. But observe the national media’s reporting of  mistakes from David De Gea and the like and ask yourself if Mignolet is so good that he will avoid that? I’m not so sure. Questionable concessions of goals can be shrugged off in five minutes for a fans’ favourite at the Stadium of Light, but it simply doesn’t work like that when playing for the top dogs.

Simply put – I think he needs another year to polish himself up and he could potentially walk into most sides in the world.

But will Keiren Westwood be around then? You have to feel a little sorry for him, while also respecting his attitude as a professional. While Bramble sobs about doing extra work, the Irish international can only be commended for wishing to push himself to be the best he can be. For this to be realised, he clearly needs to play, something which any true fan would appreciate.

The tragically wasted career of Steve Harper certainly shouldn’t appeal to any top goalkeeper and adds to the predicament we find ourselves in regarding Mignolet. If we hang on a year in the hope a decent league season helps persuade the Belgian to stay, then at what cost does his replacement come at if his stance remains unchanged?

I can’t quite believe I’m saying this*, but I think it may be best if we cash in.

*reaches for tin helmet

Twitter: @goldys_logic

15 thoughts on “Salut Reflections: Westwood, Mignolet and Bramble make for interesting week in Sunderland.”

  1. If Reina wants to leave they may not have a choice. Mig is worth more, Reina has been poor for a couple of years. Despite the old theory that keepers improve with age, it isn’t always so. Mignolet has years to get even better regardless.

  2. Today’s Liverpool Echo reports Liverpool’s reserve keeper Peter Gulacsi has just left the club. Loan spells at Hereford, Hull and Tranmere led to only 18 appearances on the sub’s bench and no time on the pitch. So they will want to sign at least one keeper.

    It also reports Reina’s agent says a bid of £8.5 million is on its way from Barca. Reina has previously said he would find it difficult to say no to them.

    Which raises two points: Would Liverpool want to be replacing both keepers (a bit like us) and is there any point in selling Reina only to pay as much or more for Ming?

  3. I think Mig might go. But he’s got to be careful: if he goes to a big team like Man City, he’ll be reserve behind Hart, and maybe Arsenal he might face the same dilema. So he wants to look at a lesser team like Liverpool where he’ll start probably every game.

    I think Westwood is a very decent keeper, and Prem standard. Obviously he’s not as good as Mig as a shot stopper but I would not be worried about him as our no.1.

  4. The current noises from Mig, or more accurateky his agent, are that he is destined for greater things. thats no crime and I would tend to agree with him, but please don’t mention Liverpool coa you won’t get it there any time soon.

    On the same theme he will not get it at SAFC anytime soon either as PDC has a major overhaul to do and then adjust the Club mentality before we can start to dream of Europe as a realistic proposition.

    We have Westwood who is keen to play and if that is the case stay. Mig is destined for greater things, if he avoids pitfalls like Liverpool, he has had a top season and is financially at his current top bracket.

    As much as I hate to say it if we could get 10 million then I would say sell. This is not reflective of being a ‘selling club’ but astute business as the cash could be used to great effect elsewhere and we have a very capable replacement in Westwood. All we would have to do is get a new promising backup keeper.

    Makes sense and he would go with my blessing.

  5. You mentioned Steve Harper, and I wondered if his tears at his last game a few weeks ago were for that “wasted career”, only 157 appearances in 20 years. It reminded me of Derek Forster who was Monty’s understudy, after making his debut at 15 years old he went on to make only 18 appearances in 8 seasons. It’s not an easy life being a goalie.

  6. Bramble can not get out of our club quick enough for me.He has been nothing but an utter embarrassment off the pitch and not much better on it, get lost seriously ! In contrast to that clown we have our two goalkeepers who have shown nothing but professionalism during their tenure for the club for different reasons .Hate to say it but if we get a huge offer for Mignolet and Westwood agrees to stay then we should sell Mignolet. If we turn that offer down then a year later Mig might go for next to nowt which is what happened with Kenwyn Jones.And by that point Westwood could be long gone as well , not good.

  7. I think it’s time for the subjunctive mood.

    Were SAFC to be in the position of challenging for a place in Europe or moving on from cup success as 2014 progresses then the likes of Ming may find their ambitions being realised. Were I to find myself in such circumstances I should reflect long and hard about the desirability of a move.

    In other words, if we want to keep good players we have to offer them a reasonable chance of winning competitions. That’s the long and short of it.

    (and I’m not grieving over your impending departure, Titus)

  8. Bramble has the same condition as Boris Johnson……imbecilia

    Apparently it’s an ancient condition

    TB should graciously accept the vast sums he has been paid ( as against earned) and sail off to the Grey Havens

    Mig will go

    We will survive

  9. Mignolet would be sold in all probability in order to maximize any fee received with only 2 years left. I would be disappointed to see him go to somewhere like Liverpool where there is no realistic title challenge. He has the ability to become one of the very best in the world if not the absolute best. He has youth on his side aswell and time will eliminate some of his very minor deficiencies.

    He departure, will be significant (how could it not be?), but we have a fantastic deputy to come in. Westwood is a tremendous keeper and I was delighted when we signed him. He was keeping SM out to begin with but will step into the first team and do well. We need to sign a keeper as a back up to Westwood in the summer, but please not the former Mag from Celtic.

    As for TB. I am sure that PDC will be taking stock of his comments about man management as some seemed to have problems with Titus’s inability to control one old man, allegedly.

  10. Just goes to show what an absolute shower run the Telegraph now. Will he be doing a piece with Nile Ranger about his verdict on Alan Pardew? I can’t think of many players who would be positive about a manager who has not renewed their contract. And did Master Edwards ask him about the situation at Sunderland under Martin O’Neill? Thought not.

  11. Luke Edwards –enough said!

    I can’t recall him ever contributing a positive piece about SAFC either with the Telegraph or the Journal.

    If the tone is negative or destabilising I can’t think of a better reporter.

  12. I think that was a good take on both topics.

    There was much in the Bramble interview (the none SAFC parts) which I could, not only, agree with but applaud his attitude – black coaches etc.

    However, the comments relating to PDC I believe were not just, often inaccurate, “sour grapes” but were hypocritical in the extreme.

    For example, Bramble criticised PDC for naming players in the media, rather than keeping matters “in house”.

    Now, as far as I am aware, the only player that PDC has criticised in a serious way publicly has been Bardsley, with the Wickham comment being aimed in a jocular way.

    However, after claiming that good managers keep things “in house” he then proceeds to invite a journalist to his holiday home for an “exclusive” interview, for which (no doubt) he received payment.

    I can’t help but wonder if the speed with which the article disappeared from the DT website had anything to do with Bramble being informed that he was still under contract and that he would be losing another two weeks wages!

    Regarding Mig, we can only wait and see – I don’t see his value reducing, even with one year less remaining on his contract, if we keep him for another season.

    What Westwood does (feels he has to do) has to be up to him.

    What is far more important (in my eyes) is the message that would be sent out to our supporters if we were to “cash in” on Mig.

    Do we have ambition, or do we not?

    • It’s the catch 22 isn’t it? When clubs stick to their guns on these things we often see the inevitable happen a year down the line anyway. If Westwood wasn’t here I’d not consider selling him but how much would we need to fork out on another keeper of that calibre? Selling him this summer would be saving money in effect as we have a replacement already.

      But, I agree that we shouldn’t portray ourselves as a club who sell at the first sign of interest for our best players. As I said, it’s a tricky one.

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