One consolation in supporting the Sunderland from a really long way away, as opposed to a neighbouring European country, is that while getting to a match is tricky (another consolation?), you’ve a good chance of seeing the Lads regularly on TV without having to battle with stop-start streams or work out how to close down the ads. Marcus Procopio*, who follows the Lads from Oz, offers his blunt assessment of PDC’s needs and individual performances (submitted before news of Bardsley’s crass off-the-field activities …
In a nutshell, I reckon we need a LB (Rose or other), RB, CB (x3), CM (x3, including one almighty rock and a hot young prospect), LM/RM/Winger (x2) and Striker (x2).
Holy smokes, that’s 12 signings (more if Mig and Rose can’t be retained). It would probably be easier to buy and relocate one of the other mid-table teams lol. I know this can’t all happen in one transfer window – but it’s the sad reality of what I think we need.
Keep (if we can in some cases):
Mignolet (8/10) – Our player of the season in my opinion. Keeping him would be great, but we’ll probably have to give him up for $10m sooner rather than later.
Westwood (6) – Not enough sample size as Mig was just too good. It’s no shame having him as our keeper if Mig goes.
O’Shea (7.5) – our best CB in my view. Slow and occasionally error prone (but who isn’t), but has a fantastic attitude and positional awareness. A great influence for the rest of the squad. We would have been a shambles without him. He’s getting on a bit and we’ll need some fresh blood. Keep and re-assess in a year.
Rose (8) – our best outfield player by a mile. If someone said he was our best player overall this season, I wouldn’t disagree too hard (I think Mig edged it). Defends well. Gets caught out of position a bit, but has the natural athletic ability to make up for it. Works hard and has a great attitude and will keep getting better. We’d be very lucky to keep him. At the rumoured $8m, it would be an absolute bargain, given the scarcity of good LBs.
Colback (6.5) – he’s making good progress. Will never be a good CM in my view as he just can’t impose himself on the game and will never be great at heading the ball given his small stature. However, as a deputy RB or LB, he does very well. He’ll get a few more shades better, but will never be a world beater. Keep as cover and see what we have in a another year or two.
Johnson (6.5) – didn’t give us anywhere near enough, but showed some very good glimpses. His quality is undeniable. We just need him to put it all together next season. Fingers crossed or else this won’t be pretty this time next year. Could become a scapegoat if we don’t perform well next season.
N’Diaye (6.5) – great engine, good movement and an absolute physical specimen. Surprisingly good with the ball at his feet. Can’t shoot to save his life at the moment. Needs more seasoning and to impose himself a bit more, but he’s headed in the right direction.
Fletcher (8) – the only complaint I have is that he got injured! Worth the money and has the ability to make goals out of almost nothing at times. We need to feed him more than fresh air next season and partner him with someone worthy.
Sessegnon (7) – didn’t deserve this rating for most of the year, but did pull his finger out at a critical time for us. We would have been chopped liver at times without his creativity and ability to hold up the ball (and timely goals). At times it seemed like he was the only one who wasn’t afraid to be in possession. I would give him until January to show that he can be consistent with our team performing well. Otherwise, we need to put him in the too-bad basket as far as integrating our team around him goes (and move in a another direction). If Di Canio decided that this moment is now, then I could understand too: CAMs can be almost almost impossible to build into slow and mediocre teams like ours. Concerning that he only has been at his best when a new manager comes in.
Wickham (6) – gets another year’s grace. Not enough sample size (yet again) to fairly judge. He’s young and has shown the right attitude. Plays very well for the U21’s too. Concerned as to whether his style can co-exist with Fletcher. Will also need to carefully monitor his injury/fitness record. Too good to simply let go for 50 cents in the dollar at this stage.
Bramble (5) – simply not a Premier League CB for any team other than those battling relegation. This year, that kind of team has included us. To rub it in, his attitude is also suspect. No action needed, simply let him go as his contract is up (if I understand right).
Kilgallon (6) – never really given a fair go and we didn’t pay too much for him. Hasn’t done too badly on the pitch either when he’s played. However, 3 managers in a row have deemed him as not being up to scratch. Get whatever we can for him.
Cuellar (6) – gives no-nonsense defending a whole new meaning to the point of nonsense at time. Senselessly heads balls out and concedes set pieces when he has time to control the ball and retain possession. Yes we got him on a free and yes, he could have been worse, but we need better. Keep only until 2 new and decent CBs have been found and move him on.
Bardsley (5) – looks past his best and injury has taken its toll. Tough call here. If healthy and fit, he could still be handy. It will really depend on whether we can get a decent RB in the market. If we can get a decent RB in, then the sad reality is that we will have no need for him as Colback is more than good enough as a deputy RB.
Larsson (6) – I don’t see a decent Premier League midfielder here. I’m a bit worried that Di Canio labelled him as one of the best. We’ll see what Di Canio really thinks over the summer. He’s too slow for the RW and doesn’t impose himself on the game or retain possession in any decent way for CM. Can’t head the ball either. His calling card (set-pieces) was nowhere near good enough to make up for his other deficiencies. Stays on the pitch and looks like he’s trying hard, but we need better. Move him on.
Gardner (6) – not worth anywhere near the 5-6 million we paid. No future in CM, but possibly a future as cover for RB. Not what we had in mind when shelling out that kind of money. Time to move him on if we can.
Cattermole (6.5) – plays well and we’re a much better team with him… when he plays. It’s time to cut ties and move in a new direction and give our team a new identity, heart and soul. It’s a little bit sad, but has to be done. We cannot live with the injuries and suspension any more.
McClean (6) – simply not a premier league winger and never will be in my view. He’s no good with the ball at his feet, which is kind of critical to be a winger. Seems to have also lost all ability to cross the ball – again, a critical flaw. Gives up possession far too easily and too often. Attitude is a real concern. Not just off the field, but with the way he acts on the field to his teammates.
Vaughan (6) – some cracking goals and ok with the ball at his feet, but yet another mini-CM who can’t impose himself on the game. Pretty slow too for a little guy. Not terrible overall, but not particularly good either. Goes missing far too often. Time to move him on.
Graham (6) – he’s just not up to it. I’m very surprised as I thought he’d be a no-frills one-in-three kind of player (what we would have given for that!). Perhaps it’s the Newcastle ties that have crocked him mentally. Either way, his confidence is shot beyond repair and we simply need better up front in any event. To his defence, he’s looked like he’s tried his hardest and given his all. I have no doubt he’s a genuine 1 in 3 striker, but it’s just never going to be with us. Every second he stays is a time bomb ticking. This was the risk in signing him and it’s come to fruition right away. If it wasn’t for the Newcastle/mental thing, I probably would give him another season or keep him as cover on the bench.
El Mohamady – no real controversy here.
Everyone else not mentioned (ie should go).
Marcus on himself:: I’ve been closely and passionately following the Lads for over 15 years now, so still something of a baby! I’ve also been reading your site’s articles for the last few years. I’m 32, an in-house company lawyer born and bred in Perth, Western Australia. I don’t have any heritage or other close ties to Sunderland or the UK and never closely followed football until I was about 17. As a result, people naturally ask me why I support Sunderland and the answer I always give is that it just felt right for reasons I cannot explain in words. They were the first club I managed in LMA Manager (1998) – I still play far too much manager – and I’ve never looked back!
Despite the challenges our club has faced, my support has never wavered and not a day goes by where I don’t think my choice wasn’t completely justified. I just love this club and that will never change.
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/