Pete Sixsmith offers his thoughts on all the Stadium of Light developments: the exit of Jermain Defoe, the strong talk of Derek McInnes being on the verge of appointment as manager – and, first as you’d expect, the likely departure of Jordan Pickford …
At last things appear to be moving at the Stadium of Inertia, both in and out.
The retained list has been announced and it looks as if some of last season’s players may be moving on now that their contracts are up.
We are all delighted to see that Sebastian Coates has been retained, despite not having seen hide nor hair of him for 18 months and that Jermain Defoe will be banging goals in at Millwall and Middlesbrough.
But wait – a little bird tells me that Coates will move to Sporting Lisbon at the end of this month and that Defoe’s contract will be torn up when he negotiates a move to the 11,000 capacity Dean Court Stadium in that hotbed of football Bournemouth.
John O’Shea and Seb Larsson’s contracts are up but they could be offered and sign new ones, meaning that we will have all of the players back in time for the new manager to weigh up the merits of Papy Djilobodji, Adam Matthews and Mika Domingues, players who have contributed so much to Sunderland AFC over the last year or so.
One player who won’t be with us in August is Jordan Pickford, on his way to Everton for a fee somewhere in the region of £30m. It shows the intent of the Toffees to break through into the upper echelons of the Premier League and joining the current Big 5 in scrapping it out for a Champions League place.
It also shows that the new Everton owner, Farhad Morshiri, Iranian born, English trained and now resident in that ultimate tax haven, Monaco, is a man who will spend, spend, spend in order to build a successful Everton club.
There is a new stadium in the offing, Ronald Koeman looks settled at Goodison and under achieving players or those that want instant success will be palmed off. That’s why we ended up with Oviedo (who doesn’t seem desperately keen to come back from Costa Rica) and Gibson who just seems pleased to be picking up a pay packet.
Jordan has left a club on the skids for a club on the rise. Everton are replacing two average goalkeepers in Stekelenburg and Robles with an absolute gem. They could have a keeper for the next 10 years, which works out at £3m a year – about the same that we paid for Liam Bridcutt and Emmanuelle Giaccherini.
Along with the other Hetton Irregulars, I have seen Jordan develop over the years. He would disappear for a while to earn rave reviews at Alfreton Town, Darlington, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End, working his way up the leagues until he was plunged into the Premier League by Sam Allardyce in January 2016.
He had made an excellent debut at Ashburton Grove in an FA Cup tie, a game that was remarkable in that Jeremain Lens actually showed a wee bit of interest. Later that month, he started at the other North London ground and did equally well against Tottenham, despite Lee Cattermole scoring an own goal and Jan Kirchhoff making it look as if Allardyce had lost his magic signing touch.
His only other appearance came in the Festival Match at Watford, where we celebrated staying up and Our Friends from the North going down.
In those three games he conceded nine goals but there was little doubt that he would be a regular Premier League choice for Sunderland for years to come. With BSA in charge and quality players like Kone, Khazri and Kirchhoff, we were looking up and already checking Easy Jet flights to European destinations.
Enter David Moyes. He had some important decisions to make for the opener at Eastlands. Gooch or Khazri? Love or Jones? Januzaj or a random pick from the Under 11s? And, most significantly, Pickford or Mannone?
The epitome of dour Caledonia got one call right. In came the Washington born stopper ahead of Don Vito and he fully justified his selection making a number of outstanding saves and showing that, once the team had settled down, he would have far less to do as we moved slowly up the league.
Wrong on both counts. What he did do was enhance his reputation with a series of eye catching performances. He was perhaps at fault when Southampton scored their traditional late equaliser at St Mary’s but his ability to pull of saves that defied gravity and showing the fearlessness that one would expect of someone brought up in Washington, captured our imagination as he became the only truly bright light in a dismal late summer/ early autumn plunge to the relegation zone.
He was injured at Old Trafford on Boxing Day and, when his knee was ok, he went straight back into a team that by now was bereft of tactics, confidence and heart. As the only Sunderland lad in the team, he probably felt it more than those born in Southport, Paris or Brussels but his form did not dip and his excellent keeping helped us to drag ourselves over the 15 and 19 point disasters of recent memory.
Everton have got themselves a very good goalkeeper who may well become a net minding legend at Goodison to rival Neville Southall, Gordon West and Ted Sagar. Like Jordan Henderson, he had to leave the banks of the beautiful River Wear for the banks of the slightly scruffy River Mersey (ever heard of Merseydale? No, neither have I) in order to fulfil his ambitions. That he cannot do it at Sunderland is a disgrace and one that we may never see corrected.
As I write this, there are reports that talks are ongoing between Theresa May and Arlene Foster and between Martin Bain and Derek McInnes.
If I could wish for one set of talks to succeed it would be the latter. If the May/Foster talks break down over how loud the Orange Order can bang a Lambeg Drum, it might mean that some other party leader (hint, hint; he has a beard and supports Arsenal – and he isn’t called Monty or Rupert) might be asked to form a government by the Queen who I gather is pretty hacked off that she can’t wear her best crown when she reads out the guff that Ms May is likely to come up with.
Should we fail to attract a manager from one of the least competitive leagues in Europe it will be a crushing blow.
He has achieved three consecutive second places in the SPL which shows that he can organise and motivate. That will be an improvement on last year then.
One second place in the EFL Championship will suit me fine.