For our penultimate look back at Martin O’Neill’s first year in charge (Pete Sixsmith‘s view will appear later today) we are pleased to welcome another contributor making his Salut! Sunderland debut. Richard Purdham is a 22 year old from Durham who after experiencing the thrills of the post Steve Bruce turnaround admits to a feeling of anti climax in subsequent months. However, he still thinks that MON is the man for the job. Over to Richard….
One year ago Martin O’Neill watched on as Eric Black’s first, and last game as caretaker manager ended in a lacklustre 2-1 defeat to soon to be relegated Wolves. In the eyes of many a Sunderland fan this was to be the turning point in, not only our season, but our long term future as well.
Steve Bruce’s regime was over and the man for whom many of us had been craving for years had taken over the reigns. A man who had won trophies almost everywhere he’d been, a man who was renowned for motivating his players and getting the best out of the more average members of his squad.
One week later our new Messiah supervised his first game in charge. The performance itself wasn’t anything to write home about and the problems that existed under Bruce were still very much there, but we picked up three points. I left that game with my Dad and brother excited by the fact that we had a manager whose substitutions had actually made a difference to the match and that for all the performance wasn’t great in itself, we had still picked up three points. That’s the sign of a good team isn’t it? I was genuinely excited. I admit to getting carried away and I thought we were destined to top half finishes and cup wins.
One year on and things haven’t quite turned out as I hoped or expected. Sitting just above relegation and only two wins this season. The things that I was so excited about one year ago aren’t happening anymore.
St. Martin’s substitutions have become predictable and aren’t having the impact James McClean had when he first burst onto the scene and the poor performances and wins are turning into poor performances and draws (at best).
Perhaps it was unfair of me to expect more from the season. After all this is still very much Steve Bruce’s team, and is still only O’Neill’s first full season in charge, but I can’t help but feel disappointed.
I’ll make it clear now that I am still very much behind our manager and I still believe he can, and will, turn things around for us, but this doesn’t mean he’s immune to criticism. We’re now well past the point in the season where we should be happy to take positives from the odd good performance. As is often stated this is a results business, and so far this season we haven’t had enough good ones.
The January transfer window is going to be massive for our season. I don’t think it’s going to take much for us to turn this season around but we do need a few reinforcements, and I think O’Neill and Short know this more than anyone.
Most importantly we need to bring in another central midfielder. It’s become evident that without Cattermole in the side our midfield is among the weakest in the league. Colback is too negative, Gardner is too slow, Larsson is a winger and Vaughan can’t even make it past these lot. We need someone in the middle with a bit of urgency, a bit of creativity, and someone who is going to exploit the space in the middle that doubling up on Johnson and Sessegnon creates. At the moment it’s all too easy to defend against us because it’s obvious where our threat is going to come from. Cut off Johnson and Sess and teams can be confident we’re not going to pose them many problems. We need someone to shoulder some of the burden and our current incumbents aren’t doing it.
Furthermore we need a younger centre back. Defensively we’ve been fairly solid this season but we are limited in how far we can push forward by our ageing defence Anyone with a bit of pace can get away from the likes of Cuellar and O’Shea fairly easily if they get behind them. The only centre back that we have under 30 is Matt Kilgallon, who is yet to convince me he’s anything more than a Championship player. If we can get somebody with a bit of pace at the back it should free up other players to get forward more.
A striker and a right back would be nice as well. Connor Wickham did very well when he came on against Norwich, and I’d like to see him in the team next week, but he’s only 19. A time will come when he hits a poor run of form, or picks up an injury, and I’d like to see somebody else to come in and ease the pressure on Fletcher, because I don’t see Campbell, Saha and Ji doing that.
Regarding the right back position, I’ve been a big fan of Bardsley previously but he looks out of his depth at the minute, and Danny Rose on the other side is showing him up somewhat. He appears to be one of the next batch of players needing to be replaced in the side and to be honest I prefer Gardner at right back at the moment.
So a couple of personnel changes, and a couple of changes to the way we play (Generally be a bit more positive), and we’ll see a change of fortunes this season.
I think O’Neill knows this too. Keep the faith and get behind the team because, while looking back this has all been fairly negative, I think our long term future is secure. Off the pitch and on the pitch I think we have the right people running things and when we look at “Martin O’Neill – Two Years On” I think we’ll all be a lot happier.
Richard Purdham on himself:
I’m a 22 year old Sunderland fan from Durham. I was subjected to my first game at 4 years old at Roker Park and saw us get beat 1-0 by Stoke City. Had a brief exile to Scarborough while at university but currently back in the North East getting moaned at in a call centre for a living.
*** See the full O’Neill One Year On series at this link: https://safc.blog/category/martin-oneill-one-year-on/
And Monsieur Salut has become very gloomy: read his latest contribution on the ESPN blog http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/710?cc=5739