The Observer called yet again on the services of our own Pete Sixsmith for the Sunderland part of its Premier season preview. Here is Sixer’s assessment. He’s optimistic enough to suggest a top 10 finish but bemoans the lack of full-back stalwarts of the past …
The team have only been glimpsed through the curtains of the Hong Kong monsoon on TV.
We looked good against Spurs and decent against Manchester City but the emphasis appears to have been on team building and fitness. The signings are interesting; instead of scouring the relegated clubs, we’ve signed, among others, a current Italy international in Emanuele Giaccherini, the Dutch League’s top scorer, Jozy Altidore, and El-Hadji Ba, who has the shortest surname in our history. So, it could be a good season – or it could all go wrong. Who knows?
Key players: A mix of old and new: John O’Shea, Adam Johnson and Stéphane Sessègnon have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. We have a promising young English/Scottish/French forward called Mikael Mandron – and then there’s Connor Wickham, who really does need to show us why we spent £8m on him two years ago.
Weak links: We are desperately short of full-backs – as we have been for the last few seasons. Oh for the days of Chris Makin and Michael Gray and Cec Irwin and Len Ashurst.
Headline generator: The owner will be as quiet as a Missourian billionaire is expected to be and the players will play second fiddle to the headlines that our Italian manager makes. Reporters will be hanging on Di Canio’s every word.
If you could sign one player from the club’s past…: At the moment, any one of Dick Malone, Joe Bolton, Michael Gray or Dariusz Kubicki. All full-backs. Failing that, it would be fascinating to see how Len Shackleton or Brian Clough got on with Di Canio.
* The full Observer feature can be seen here: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/aug/11/premier-league-fans-part-two
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