Salut! Sunderland’s end-of-season reviews: (4) who should stay, who shouldn’t

Jake welcomed the final whistle of the final game
Jake welcomed the final whistle of the final game

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.

Let go:

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 Procopio
Marcus Procopio
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.

1973 May 5See 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/



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11 thoughts on “Salut! Sunderland’s end-of-season reviews: (4) who should stay, who shouldn’t”

  1. Good assesment. Gardner is a great lad but too much of a liability. We’ve got to play him where he can get goals. But I think the quality is just not quite there.
    Vaughn can go (far too inconsistent). Larsson is useful but central midfield is not his role.
    Graham – no comment. Bardsley can go. I hope Westwood stays. Wickham needs to prove himself a nit more I think somehow..
    Bramble gone, Killa gone.

  2. The thought crossed my mind also about trying to convert McClean to a centre forward ,seriously . On a more frivolous note we could also convert Danny Graham to a winger and get some use out of the pair of them!

  3. I’ve had a change of mind.

    Keep McClean but develop him as a centre forward.

    He’s strong with good shooting/ heading abilities and a bolshie attitude.

    As a winger he’s got too much time to think, too many options and consequently falls over his own feet or the opponents

    Just a thought.

    I would also have put Rose in the Sessegnon position in the last few games (he was originally a winger). Playing in the hole behind Graham he would have caused problems,allowed us to get out of our half and give attacking options.

    So the object of this little daydream is to ensure that we have sufficient “utility” players if squad numbers don’t alter very much.

  4. Thought I would share this comment that has been posted on a Villa site.

    We can only hope Stoke sign MON. That kind of comedy is rare.

  5. On the note of cutting too deep, Drummer on another thread mentioned that the scale of changes required would almost be like putting a newly promoted team out into the Premier cauldron….this is a bit of a worry so perhaps change may be a little slower than we think.

    Obviously the players to wages ratio has to be positive to bring in new blood and as pointed out above moving some on may prove to be problematic.

    But the noises coming out from the SoL and Di Canio are a breath of fresh air, and seeing the youngins on the pitch at WHL, although forced, was also refreshing. Time will tell but my extremely jaded appetite for the game from this season is begining to get whetted by the multriple possibilities of seeing some meaningful changes at long last. it may all blow up in our faces but we have seen that many times before and at any rate we could not have continued on the path we were on.

    Onwards and hopefully upwards for next season. FTM

  6. When you say you cant cut too deep to soon below is listed the team that played the last match of last season

    ASTON VILLA: Given 8, Cuellar 5 , Collins 6, Dunne 7, Lichaj 6, Ireland 6, Clark 6, Herd 5 , Warnock 5 Agbonlahor 5, Heskey 5

    only Agbonlahor started the Wigan game.

    You are very much like Villa supporters there through thick and thin, mainly thin, but I believe you would back a project as we did. Look at that team 7 mainly ageing internationals and managed less points than a group of unknown kids, why? Hunger and desire.

  7. Would’nt disagree significantly …only I would keep Larsson.he has grown into the midfield role,and I thought he did an acceptable job in there.Yes he is not the best but he can do a job,and has filled Catts role quiet well.

    I am worried about Catts injuries…fit he is fine and will improve as he still relatively young.But with this type of injury and the way he plays you do feel he may struggle to get full seasons going forward.

    Sess is a problem though.Gifted he is but we have not found out how best to use him…though PDC seemed to find him a slot quite well and he was responding before that red card.

    PDC has a huge job next season,but I am sure he will relish it.He seems to be loving being the boss at a premier team…and I like his no nonsense style…if it huffs a few players so be it……Fergie did not stand on ceremony and it did him no harm.I think you can get away with it if you have players respect.

  8. A pretty good assessment. I would certainly keep Cattermole but I would also keep Gardner and Larsson , at least until December.They are both experienced Premiership players and would be more an useful squad players. Would also like to see Ji be given another season to see if he can hack it .Same goes for Elmo.

    • Agree with all except Elmo, too much like McClean on the wing but what about as RB/LB cover as he does have an engine in him. depending on other developments in those departments.

  9. Like Marcus says Cattermole is a good player for us when he plays but when does he play? He’s undergone another operation and hopefully this sorts out he’s problem . Either way well be with Cattermole next year as who will put a bid in for him that he will agree to? This goes for everyone not out of contract , if no one bids or they don’t want to leave, they won’t.

  10. A good assessment. Totally agree with the scale of the revamp needed.

    I think the real point for discussion is the retention or otherwise of Cattermole. I was at the game when he and Cana were paired together for the first time and thought that we had a CM which could really kick on.

    One of the other posts indicates Cattermole gets better in supporters eyes the more he remains on the sidelines and that we can do better than him.

    What is clear from a supporters perspective is that he gets stuck in and his commitment is total unlike some of the players SAFC has fielded this season. He doesn’t have pace and his distribution is poor and he is injury prone.
    Is he still an asset? Yes,until we buy back Cana or N’Diaye develops into the role.

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