During Martin O’Neill’s final months as SAFC manager, it became increasingly hard to gather and comment on news for a Reflections piece for Salut! Sunderland, writes Stephen Goldsmith. It seems unlikely Di Canio’s reign will be similar. The end of season is generally a bit of a lull for bloggers and writers, who try their best to avoid getting carried away with bogus and erroneous transfer targets. There have been a couple of interesting developments in the last week, though, “that’s for sure” (Bruce: 2009/2010/2011).
Bramble has parting shot
No doubt you’ve all read the Daily Telegraph‘s Titus Bramble interview by now? If you haven’t then, basically, Di Canio should be attacking his players to their faces instead of using media outlets, Bramble hypocritically told Luke Edwards last week.
The zero times player of the season contender then declared that Di Canio “has a lot to learn”. I’m not sure if Titus and Luke broke into a fit of laughter at this point; surely the irony of someone as unprofessional as he preaching trading standards can only be some sort of attempted comedy.
But to be fair to Bramble, let us analyse his critique of our new manager before we pass judgement. His key points appear to be:
“He’s got a long, long way to go before he gets anywhere near as good as Sir Bobby Robson”.
“He’s targeted the easy players, the ones who are leaving anyway, trying to show he’s the boss”.
“He’s a good coach on the training pitch, everything is so detailed”.
Anybody learn anything they didn’t already know there?
The media are desperate to make out like there’s mutiny on the horizon at Sunderland and while I’m not so naive to think Di Canio’s disciplinary techniques don’t have a shelf-life, as long as far superior players than Bramble continue to publicly support the gaffer then I’m more than content.
Westwood or Mignolet – which leaves?
Tricky one this. I, like every other Sunderland fan on the planet, have campaigned vigorously (well, often said it on Twitter) that Mignolet needs to be kept at all costs. Forgetting about who his agent is and who said what, it appears very likely he won’t be extending his contract any time soon. This doesn’t cause huge amounts of panic as realistically we’re likely to get big bucks for him next season if he’s adamant he won’t be staying.
Initially I was a little behind everybody in the adulation of Mignolet – not because I ever doubted his ability or potential but because in typical football fan fashion, people had allowed their own bias to get themselves a little carried away. Akin to an outfield player becoming a darling of the crowd due to putting a tackle in at every given opportunity, the Belgian’s exquisite shot-stopping capabilities led people to jump the gun a tad early, in MY opinion.
But the season gone was the season he really grew as an all-round keeper.
Gone was his nervousness of commanding his penalty area and his overall shyness, and now those damn feet have started moving to deal with long range efforts compared to their previous stance of being rooted as if he had weights attached to them. The question is, will he continue with this upwards trajectory? Because to play for a top four side, he has to.
Performances like the West Brom and Aston Villa games are, of course, dwarfed in comparison to his majestic ones. We all know that he takes the lion’s share of credit (if the players deserve that as a collective group) for preserving Premier League status on Wearside this season. But observe the national media’s reporting of mistakes from David De Gea and the like and ask yourself if Mignolet is so good that he will avoid that? I’m not so sure. Questionable concessions of goals can be shrugged off in five minutes for a fans’ favourite at the Stadium of Light, but it simply doesn’t work like that when playing for the top dogs.
Simply put – I think he needs another year to polish himself up and he could potentially walk into most sides in the world.
But will Keiren Westwood be around then? You have to feel a little sorry for him, while also respecting his attitude as a professional. While Bramble sobs about doing extra work, the Irish international can only be commended for wishing to push himself to be the best he can be. For this to be realised, he clearly needs to play, something which any true fan would appreciate.
The tragically wasted career of Steve Harper certainly shouldn’t appeal to any top goalkeeper and adds to the predicament we find ourselves in regarding Mignolet. If we hang on a year in the hope a decent league season helps persuade the Belgian to stay, then at what cost does his replacement come at if his stance remains unchanged?
I can’t quite believe I’m saying this*, but I think it may be best if we cash in.
*reaches for tin helmet