Throughout the past season, Pete Sixsmith contributed appraisals of Danny Welbeck’s progress to a Manchester United site Stretford End Arising*. This, again at the site’s request, is his assessment of Welbeck over the season as a whole …
In the late 1960s, when I was idling my time away in the Sixth Form at Bishop Auckland Grammar School (Stan Laurel had attended in the earlier days of the century), there was a very popular disc by a beat combo known as The Scaffold. Entitled Thank You Very Much, the three chirpy Scousers who made up the group went through a list of things that they wanted to say, er, TYVM for.
As Sunderland supporters, we can say “Thank You Very Much For Danny Welbeck, Particularly For Those Months Either Side Of Christmas When He Was Brilliant” and United fans can say to Sunderland “Thank You Very Much For Looking After Danny Welbeck And Turning Him Into An International Player”. A true mutual admiration society.
I would think that all concerned with the loan have seen it as a very positive experience. From Sunderland’s point of view, we got an extra body in and boy did we need it as the season went on.
Fraizer Campbell’s unfortunate injury wiped out his season, Kenwyne Jones exchanged the Golden Sands of Roker and Seaburn for the smoke and grit of the Potteries, while Asamoah Gyan was taking his time settling in to the harum-scarum of the Sky-styled “Finest League In The World”.
Add to that an increasingly disillusioned Darren Bent, already plotting an escape route from the North East, and we were light up front. So, Welbeck was a useful addition who soon became a very valuable one.
He took a while to settle and there were those at the Stadium of Light who poo-pooed his efforts. A lot of poo-pooing goes on at the Stadium these days. Jordan Henderson (who may be at a different club by the time you read this) has been consistently poo-pooed by a sizeable minority, the said poo-pooers. Welbeck rose above all the poo-pooing to make many of us realise that we had a very talented player in our midst.
As a 19-year-old from a solid family background, he must have found it difficult to leave Manchester and pitch up in a much smaller city, albeit one situated on the delightful Durham coastal strip. New team mates, new coaching staff, new living accommodation and a local accent that must have been well nigh impenetrable for a young Mancunian.
His first appearances were not auspicious and the poo-poo brigade poo-pooed for England. He looked gawky and uncomfortable, all arms and legs, reminiscent of a young colt trying to stand up for the first time.
He played regularly but with little conviction – and then the caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly at that most unlovely of venues, Stamford Bridge. In the absence of what we now think was a sulking Darren Bent, he linked up really well with Asamoah Gyan and scored his first Premier League goal in our glorious win over Chelsea.
He followed up with two goals against Everton, a winner at home to Bolton and the opener as Blackburn Rovers were cuffed. He looked the business. And then …
He was hit by the injury curse that hung around the Stadium of Light from January onwards. Danny did his hamstring at Villa Park and was missing for two months as our form disintegrated and our ambitions changed from accessing the Europa League to making sure that we did not access the Championship.
He came back in March, almost won the game for us at Arsenal, but was never as confident as he had been. He seemed timid and reluctant to get involved and I got the feeling that he was pleased to be injured and return to the familiar bosom of Carrington as he limped off during the Wigan Athletic game in April.
For the first time in his professional life, he had been playeing for a club that was in no danger of winning something. At United, he would be used to winning; at Sunderland, he would find a different culture, one that put avoiding defeat above winning. He adjusted to this well and his class and quality came through once he had settled in and found somebody to do his washing.
Should he return to Sunny Wearside next season, either permanently (fat chance) or back on loane, the weight of expectation will be that much greater. I enjoyed watching him and can see a great future for him – but maybe not if he is warming a bench with Michael Owen and getting 10 minutes here and there for Hernandez or Rooney. He needs to play and he will do that at Sunderland. I would take him back in a flash.