The Lars Word; crime and punishment (and the future), Di Canio style

Lars Knutsen
Lars Knutsen

As Salut! Sunderland edges ever closer to a two-million hits milestone, readers are invited to enter the smart-alec competition at I have attractive prize details to announce very soon. Meanwhile, Lars Knutsen looks ahead to what is needed in the coming season – and back at the efforts PDC has been making to impose a new disciplinary code …

In 40-plus years
of watching Sunderland I have accumulated some knowledge of what our fans want. We like players to put in a lot of effort to win games, can keep going for 90+ minutes and are disciplined. We like characters as well.

It goes without saying that we like to win, but we know that we are playing in the best league in the world. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best moments have been when coming back from an away trip, having plundered three points and outscored the opposing team in an open and exciting game. That buzz post-match is terrific.

As fans, who do we prefer? Dedicated professionals such as Kevin Ball, in the mould of athletes like Steve Cram, who make a great example to young players, or the now infamous Phil Bardsley? I am not writing off the ex-Man. Utd full-back, who has had some great seasons for us, but “that picture” did not go down well. Bardsley’s allegedly drink-fuelled (which he denies) casino escapade – unless he happened to be trying a new floor stretch manoeuvre taught by his osteopath for back injury – was not a way to endear himself to a new manager.

Despite that piledriver against Southampton, “you only have one chance to make a first impression”.

We do not mind rascals such a Frank Worthington either, who was, and presumably is still is a womaniser, but he always seemed to produce his best for us on a Saturday.

Fellow fans tell me on good authority that some of the recent highly publicised disciplinary issues and fines at the club resulted from players not paying enough attention to relatively minor matters such as signing shirts, destined for charities, at the Cleadon training ground. Going home straight after training and avoiding their civic duty did not help their case with Paulo Di Canio; it becomes easy to see who signed a shirt and who did not.

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Again, what do we demand from our highly-paid players, delinquent “rock star” lifestyles, with prima donna behaviours, or a willingness to focus on fans’ needs? Di Canio will not allow that, most fans would back him in his crusade and to be honest I applaud him.

We all want players showing up for a game totally focused and ready to give their all as they pull on a shirt with a Sunderland badge on it. I don’t care how many ‘ologists we need to get our players ready, that is what we as fans demand, a total dedication to the cause…the willingness to sweat blood to get a result.

We will see by the start of next season how our new manager can recruit and motivate key players. He will look at their character before deciding on them.

Jake unveils the first of his PDC revolution images
Jake unveils the first of his PDC revolution images

People have divided opinions about our club captain Cattermole. Will he be the one to show maturity and crack the whip when needed, under Paulo Di Canio’s strong “guidance”, the same guidance which attracted the close attention of the PFA?

I like Catts, he makes us play like a team. He does not score goals but he protects the back four, and that is why we conceded so few at the start of this last season. He makes sure the team is organised, and we celebrate goals properly when he is on board. I suppose if you do not score them yourself you’ve got to be happy for your teammates and for the team.

It is clear from talking with fellow fans that we do need an attacking central midfielder in the engine room, à la Souness or Roy Keane in their prime, and Vaughan, despite his injuries, is not the answer based on last season’s form. That is something that PDC must address as a matter of urgency. Larsson delivers the ball well, but he only scored once last season, and must go down as one of the players who underachieved in 2012-13.

Where else does the team need strengthening? The full-back positions are an issue after Rose’s return to London and I saw Wes Brown score his only Sunderland goal when we won 3-2 at QPR late in 2011 and believe me, he can play. Cuellar has not really convinced, so let’s see who PDC brings in…nice to read reports of recruitment for the defence.

PDC and our other managers are lucky – this is a football hotbed. The Italian knows that after the 3-0 destruction of Newcastle. It does not take much to fill our great stadium; we need to see energy, effort and commitment. Skill should be natural. Organisation comes with good leadership on and off the pitch.

A lot of football is about psychology – learning to win, expecting to win, being fearless. In March, 2012 we went to Man. City and were 3-1 with 10 minutes to go against the team later crowned as Champions. A year later we won 3-0 at Newcastle. More of that, more often next season, please. That is what dedicated professional footballers at the top of their game will provide for our long-suffering fans.

Jake offers his own Olé!
Jake offers his own Olé!
Don’t forget to add your clever, sharp or amusing verdict on the 2012-2013 season at our Two Million Hits competition:

9 thoughts on “The Lars Word; crime and punishment (and the future), Di Canio style”

  1. Pointing to Cattermole as the expected epitome of the disciplined professional is just plain funny.

    • That was not what I really said. I was posing questions.

      People have divided opinions about our club captain Cattermole.

      Will he be the one to show maturity and crack the whip when needed, under Paulo Di Canio’s strong “guidance”, the same guidance which attracted the close attention of the PFA?

      Let’s hope he gets his act together, recovers his fitness, works well with PDC and takes less evenings out in Teesside with Adam Johnson…

  2. If the ref at the time (Mike Dean?) had booked every single one of those petulant brats then went for the red to make them scatter, our game would be in a much better place.He didn’t and its not.Cattermole is not captain material simple because he hardly plays but we are a better team when he does,slightly.As for the PDC grandstanding in the media lets just hope it’s to create an impression for new recruits that this team is no longer a soft touch retirement home that’s happy with 4th bottom , think I can safely say we’re all a bit sick of that .But behind the scenes Paolo, get them fit ,get them hungry, make them respect the shirt and appreciate how lucky they are. Then we might just might get somewhere !

  3. I think Cattermole will do well under PDC because they share a similar passion level. But, I’d like to see OShea remain as captain because of his experience and his communication skills.

    I think, sadly, that PDC might lose the dressing room at some point. Even top, top managers like Mancini can lose a dressing room if they publicly criticise players (eg: Mancini v Hart, Nasri etc).
    I like PDCs passion and work ethic, but if I were to give him one piece of advice it would be to not publicly condemn his players. SAF (almost) never did and I think the players respected that.

    • I agree with you on both points. O’Shea for me should be club captain [ maybe LC as vice ] and certainly PDC would be well advised, IMO, to keep things inhouse. I doubt if he will though. His history indicates otherwise.

    • Perhaps one of the few good character traits of Sir Alex Ferguson then, Ian?

      I agree with you overall, but O’Shea is getting older and will be injury-prone. Having said that he scores goals and Cattermole’s record of picking up injuries and suspensions is not promising. But I’d rather have him playing for us rather than against us.

      • Yes, one of SAFs good points.

        The thing I didn’t like about SAF was the intimidation of referees. I am sure many decisions went his way simply because the threat of a full-time whistle confrontation was there. Which was simply a bullying tactic.
        Man U were one of the first teams to harass referees en-group on the pitch, and I am certain SAF put them up to this.

      • Ian, I think the art art of mass-intimidation of referees was introduced by Don Revie’s Leeds team. A great team, but one with a very dark side [ rather exaggarated in the recent film ” The Damned United ” ] but never-the-less true. I saw them do it on numerous occasions.

        Man Utd of course, fine-tuned the process.

      • Ferguson is of course talented but arrogant. Quite honestly, I am glad to see the back of him.

        How, you may ask, has the guy affected Sunderland, aside from usually beating us? Well in my memory it goes back in part to the way he unsettled a very gifted French striker, David Bellion, who scored his first senior goal for the Black Cats against Aston Villa in September 2002, as related in Wikipedia

        After a game United won at the SSOL in October 2002, Ferguson, in his post-match interview, complimented Bellion on his play after he had come on as a substitute.

        Following that Bellion completely lost interest in playing for the Black Cats, and went AWOL to France at a time when the team needed him most. Upon returning, Bellion claimed he had been visiting his sick grandmother, and made himself temporarily unavailable for selection, claiming he was “mentally unfit” to be playing in a relegation battle.

        At the time, speculation was rife that the Frenchman had been “tapped up” by United, and sure enough he agreed a move to the “Red Devils” after his contract expired in June 2003.

        Luckily, Bellion was under the age of 23, and Sunderland was eligible for compensation, the clubs eventually agreeing a fee of £2 million out of court.

        Even former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein claimed Bellion had been offered to Arsenal by his agent illegally and that United had been paying for Bellion’s mobile phone bills whilst still at Sunderland.

        You could fault the star-struck player for never really seriously kicking a ball again for Sunderland, but I put the blame firmly at the door of Alex Ferguson.

        He unsettled a talent that Sunderland had unearthed, and the bombastic Scotsman essentially transformed him into an ineffective wreck, in a season when the Black Cats just avoided relegation. These sleaze-ball tactics have made him less popular than such a hugely successful manager should have been.

        Winner, yes, undeniably. Rôle model, no.

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