Birflatt Boy sees all the summer transfer activity, with more than a few words of gratitude to a former manager, as a potential pivotal point in Black Cat’s history. The Di Canio revolution he argues, backed by, or more likely galvanised by our American owner, can be the catalyst for a change in the way in which the club, its fans and the world perceive Sunderland Association Football Club.
There’s really only one word to describe the transfer activity at Sunderland this close season, and that’s “breathtaking.” Players seem to be arriving almost on a daily basis. Well, alright, that might be something of an exaggeration but for this summer at least it’s clear that we are able to get a lot of the players we want, when we want. Beneath the headlines which alert us to another new arrival there are probably a good few more that we haven’t quite been able to get to sign, for a host of different reasons. The rumour mill keeps on churning them out, but for once in living memory there does appear to be more than a hint of truth in what we read and hear.
The “comings” and perhaps more importantly the “goings” which naturally receive a lot less attention have been really sweeping. Bramble and Kilgallon were sent packing at the end of their contracts. Elmo’s permanent future has been resolved in a reunion with Cribbins in East Yorkshire. You would have thought that signing this player once would be enough for any manager, even Bruce, but twice, really? Bruce clearly has a conscience, spurred by his failings at Sunderland he seems hell bent on repeating the same failings on Humberside taking Danny Graham on a season long loan. Hull are also being linked with Cattermole and also the B52, although Bruce has been quoted as saying that Mr Bendtner ‘is probably going to cost too much.” That’s not quite a euphemism for “not cheap enough.” Bruce may turn out to be the best manager we ever had managing someone else. Not only is he happy to relieve us of the rubbish he signed for us, but he is happy to take some of the dross acquired by his successor. Long may this continue and we may hope that Graham’s taxi comes straight back for Cattermole, if rumours are to be believed. Dare we hope he returns yet again for McClean? The prospect of that remains a Birflattian dream.
The latest speculation is that a Turkish club have now made a serious offer for the other January acquisition Alfred N’Diaye. West London, and Martin Jol’s Fulham seem contenders to end Phil Bardsley’s stint in rolling around in used bank notes. It’s a disappointing end to a player, who unlike many of his peers never seemed to hide. Not the most gifted of players, he appeared to give his all and was our Player of the Season, not so very long ago. It’s a pity that fact has been forgotten already. Perhaps I am being too charitable about an average footballer who is earning over 30 grand a week. I hope he enjoyed playing with the U21s the other day. (And in a 3-2 win v Darlington at Bishop Auckland yesterday – ed)
Having digressed so completely, from the intention of this article, which was about how “breathtaking” the personnel changes have been, what is most impressive is not only the speed at which dead wood is being cleared, but that the intentions of our management team have been made loud and clear. PDC has wasted no time in marking the cards of players who don’t fit into his plans. There will be more departures in the next few weeks, and quite possibly a few more arrivals. We have never previously signed a current Italian international with two Serie A titles to his name; a player in his prime, yet we have done that. It’s not all down to the manager of course, and without the sheer guile, commitment and conviction of Ellis Short we would be sitting here with O’Neill at the helm and looking forward to trips to Barnsley and Yeovil. There were a significant number of our supporters who were happy to accept our fate, refusing to embrace the required changes back at the end of March. The transfers both in and out over the course of the summer have been rapid and show a real conviction, but it’s really been the behind the scenes events, and the initial recruitment of a well connected scouting team which has made this all possible.
For decade upon decade we have not been taken seriously as a football club, and that has had to change. The persona, the public face and character of Sunderland AFC had to change, and my goodness, has it changed. This is not to say that the season ahead will be without its challenges. There are a lot of new players who are going to have to settle and adjust. The tried and failed methods of old have gone in one fell swoop. The way in which we are perceived by the wider world has changed, and that is long overdue and welcome. That too has been “breathtaking” but perhaps the most significant change is yet to come, and that is in the way that we perceive ourselves and our club. For the first time in most of our lifetimes we look like we are serious about all of this and that’s got to be the most “breathtaking’ of all. We might even stop harping on about 1973.
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