The loss of Lamine Koné would not only be a huge blow to Sunderland just as we were all hoping for a much better start to the season. If the fans’ worst fears are justified, it would also threaten to bring David Moyes’s honeymoon period to an abrupt end …
STOP PRESS UPDATE: Fans spoke to Koné after training today and the player said he had been “promised a new contract”, reinforcing his agent’s comment that none had been offered. When asked if he would like to remain at SAFC, he replied: “Yeah.”
While thanking Sunderland AFC for kindly sending an image of the new, rather impressive away top, I added a postscript: “Seeing who is wearing it makes me want to cry!”
Another opening day looms and, by the skin of our teeth, Sunderland kick off a 10th successive season in the Premier League.
The new manager’s post-match e-mails will be given the title of Moyes on the Boys, a clear winner in the recent poll and suggested by a reader signing himself as JEL.
Will it be the Boys minus King Kone? As I write, it is looking grim but inconclusive. I tweeted that SAFC supporters had a right to expect our new manager to be fighting tooth and nail to keep him but if this Northern Echo report is to be believed, that may not be the case.
If we do lose perhaps the best centre back seen in Sunderland colours since Dave Watson, it will be a huge setback and the so far elusive inward business had better be good (though we must hope Moyes has found a gem in Papy Djilobodji).
Malcolm Dawson writes….each year is the same or at least it seems to be. We end one season and I am convinced we will improve the next. Over the past few years new signings have created a feeling of optimism which has quickly dissipated as early season results brought home the reality that things weren’t really any better. This year has been even worse because that optimism was even greater in May but from the events off the training ground this close season it would seem the club is in freefall. There’s still time of course but with every hour that passes the outlook seems bleaker.
(What follows is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Salut! Sunderland.)
I can’t help but feel (not for the first time) that I have been conned somewhat by those who run the football club I support. I don’t know if you noticed, but this year the date to get a discount on season cards was about six weeks earlier than last year. I still renewed mine, even though economically it didn’t make sense, as there are generally two or three games moved for TV which I can’t get to because of other prearranged commitments and last year I didn’t make the Watford game because a heavy fall of snow around midday caused chaos on the roads around Crook.
Viewed objectively over the whole year, I questioned the wisdom of forking out the best part of four hundred quid when after at least half of those games I left frustrated, disappointed and thinking there were more entertaining ways of spending my cash. Look back at all the Sixer’s Soapbox columns for 2012/13, 2013/14 2014/15 and 2015/16 if you need persuading.
But the way the team played in the second half of the season convinced me that better things lay ahead. I would have renewed anyway (well you just do don’t you and I like my seat) but here was a team on the up. We may not have been title contenders but we were set fair for entertaining football and a steady rise up the table.
We had seen the influence of Big Sam in the fitness levels, the organisation and the fighting spirit of the team. The January signings obviously had a massive effect, but the improvements in the performances of Yedlin and van Aanholt were as a result of defensive drills which Allardyce clearly insisted upon and eventually he found a way to get the best out of the players he had at his disposal. Rather than try and mould the players to his predetermined system he found a system which got the best out of his players.
I was hopeful that M’Vila would be signed quickly and that Yedlin or a similar wing back would be brought in and we would begin this campaign with a settled side, full of players who had bought into Sunderland AFC.
The inept performance of England at the Euros and the subsequent managerial turmoil at Sunderland which resulted from that, has distracted somewhat from a fundamental failure to build on the momentum that was generated as relegation was avoided and the team and its supporters ended on a high. The fact is that with less than four days to go until the start of the new season we are in a far worse position now than we were three months ago.
No M’Vila, no Yedlin and reports that Kone is on Merseyside for talks and pictures of him posing with an Everton fan. As I write there are 104 hours until kick off at The Etihad and so far we have brought in one untried player who managed less than two minutes playing time for Chelsea in a League Cup tie. He may prove to be as an astute a signing as the three Ks were in January, but not having seen him in action I’ll wait and see.
And so it seems that the clubs with the biggest financial clout are impacting on the rest of us. Manchester City offering a ludicrous £50 million for John Stones gives Everton the resources to offer Ellis Short the chance of a massive profit on one of our top performers and though he hasn’t gone yet the fact he has travelled for talks does not bode well.
I’m happy Moyes was appointed in the aftermath of Allardyce’s departure who I don’t think will prove to be England’s saviour. Not because he couldn’t be, but the players at his disposal just aren’t good enough and he will only have limited time to work with them.
But like the majority of Sunderland fans I am bitterly disappointed in the way this summer has panned out so far. I understand the need to balance the books and we keep hearing positive statements from Martin Bain and David Moyes but they are working to a remit. Despite their fine words we have seen precious little evidence that this is a club that is building for the future on the pitch and plenty that priorities lie elsewhere.
Certain events mark the progress of the year. For instance you know it’s August Bank holiday when Selfridges show off their Christmas display. You know it’s Boxing Day when the TV is swamped with adverts for travel agents and in Peter Sixsmith‘s case he knows it’s only a week or two before the Premier League kicks off when The Observer asks him for his thoughts on the upcoming season. Now that their edited version has been published (you can it read here) we can release his original set of responses, written before the game against Dortmund, before the new change strip was revealed and before we dipped our toes into the transfer market. (You can probably work out their questions.)
OBSERVER SEASON PREVIEW 2016-17 SUNDERLAND AFC
We start the season with a new manager who has done good work with a club that is similar to ours. We have the core of the team that stood up to be counted last season. We are able to look down on our closest rivals as they go to Burton Albion, Barnsley and Brentford.
But we are playing catch up after the FA messed up our pre-season by taking an age to appoint Sam Allardyce. I think that David Moyes is a good fit for the club and I am optimistic that he can drag us into the sanctity of mid table obscurity. But it depends on bolstering a wafer thin squad, keeping influential players fit and hoping that some of our youngsters can push on this season. Tom Robson looks a prospect at left back and Joel Asoro impressed in France.
There are no new faces at the time of writing but it is clear that we need a right back, centre half, forward and wide midfield player – not much to ask there then. We are desperate to sign the outstanding Yann M’Vila on a permanent contract after his successful loan spell last year. The lack of depth and cover is worrying but we have until the end of the month to sort something out.
At the moment the first X1 looks like Mannone; Jones, Kaboul, Kone, Van Aanholt: Lens, Kirchoff, Cattermole, Khazri: Borini: Defoe.
I am looking for a 12th/13th place finish and I suspect that Leicester City will be just above that.
The best away ground to visit will be Turf Moor – a proper football town with proper fans and a very good pub ten minutes’ walk away. Stamford Bridge is awful – the complete antithesis of Burnley.
I would love to have Johnny Crossan back – he was a wonderful inside forward who could score goals from nowhere. And Dave Watson wouldn’t go amiss either.
Top 4; 1. Manchester City. 2. Liverpool. 3. Manchester United. 4. Chelsea.
Bottom 3; 20.Hull City 19.Swansea City 18.Watford
Promoted from the Championship; Derby County; Sheffield Wednesday; Newcastle United.
First Premier League Manager sacked; whoever has the misfortune to take over at Hull City.
It’s becoming a little repetitive on Wearside. A positive end to a season that at one time seemed doomed. Hopes for better things to come then disappointment as they fail to reach fruition. Managerless a year ago when Advocaat took the advice of his missus, the joy at his change of heart was short lived. Fast forward twelve months and the club was set fair. Ha – this is Sunderland where events always seem to conspire against any long term feelings of optimism. Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson reflects on his emotional rollercoaster ride since the team walked off at Vicarage Road.
This close season for me has been a microcosm of the past few Premier League campaigns. Optimism, disappointment and relief in that order, resulting in cautious optimism with an undercurrent of resignation to another season of underachievement ahead.
It may seem strange to those who don’t follow Sunderland AFC that a 17th place finish should be seen as a cause for celebration but that is what it was for those who witnessed the transformation that Sam Allardyce brought to the club. Big Sam had his detractors before he came and we were warned what to expect. West Ham fans seemed particularly divided about his managerial style, some acknowledging his success in winning promotion then establishing The Hammers in the top half of the Premiership, but others insisting we could expect boring, long ball football with an emphasis on avoiding defeat. Pragmatic, rather than stylish.
Avoiding defeat was indeed Sam’s prime short term objective but initially it appeared to be a flawed philosophy. Points were dropped as we loitered in the relegation places but eventually it worked and the medium term aim of keeping the club in the top flight for a tenth successive year was achieved.
What’s more as Sam got to know the players he inherited, shipping out those he had no use for and adding others of real quality, I witnessed some of the most enjoyable football I have seen from a Sunderland team since the days of Peter Reid.
The purists might disagree. This was no Barcelona or Brazil but it was a team that played as a unit, played for each other and showed the fighting qualities I want to see in those who wear the colours of my club. That they won crucial games, away at Norwich, at home to Chelsea and Everton at such a late stage of the season, taking us to a place where it no longer mattered what the others did, added to the euphoria.
On that celebration lap, after the final home game, it looked like we had a club that would go places. I saw a squad who cared, playing for a manager who cared. The final game was further cause for optimism. The development squad players who were given their chance didn’t look out of place and a revamped side should have beaten Watford had the linesmen not flagged two perfectly good goals offside or had the referee not given a debatable penalty. Significantly too that match saw starts for Rodwell and Lens both of whom got on the score sheet. I’ll come back to them. The foundations were solid and long term improvement was on the cards.
Close Season So Far
Part 1. Optimism – I had seen enough to convince me that 2016/17 was to be a turning point in the recent history of SAFC. Twelve months previously we had just escaped relegation but ended the season managerless. This time we had a manager who would do things his way. The Director of Football model was defunct. The coaching staff had got the squad fitter than they’d ever been and no way was Big Sam going to let that slide. Not for this manager, publicity seeking, long range trips organised by the commercial department. This time a pre-season designed to prepare the team for the new campaign, ready to go from day one.
The squad was looking better than it had done the year before. We had the foundations of a settled side and a manager who seemed the perfect fit for where we were. Yes we still had too many players who didn’t feature in the manager’s plans and we had lost the services of several loan players but we would surely snap up M’Vila and look at bringing back Yedlin. Toivonen and N’Doye would be no great loss and with Fletcher and Graham no longer on the wage bill we would soon be in the market for fresh blood. I hoped that as soon as the transfer window opened and the Chief Executive got his feet beneath his new desk, signing those players Allardyce and his team had earmarked would be a priority.
Part 2. Disappointment – Maybe the club knew something the rest of us didn’t. Maybe they had suspicions that should the Euros go badly wrong for the national side, then the F.A. would come calling. That didn’t seem likely a month ago. Big Sam’s chance had been and gone when the “wally with the brolly” got the job. But transfer business was slow with just Vergini of the contracted players on the move and no-one coming in. We were linked with various names but for whatever reason it seemed that none of those targets would be signed quickly. Still this was no time for panic, as we were led to believe that negotiations were under way with Ayhew, Sakho, M’Vila and others. Then Hodgson did what many of us expected he would do and failed to get England to the semis against a side we should have beaten comfortably, throwing in the towel as he did so. Even at this stage it was unlikely to impact on Sunderland – or so I thought.
Was Wenger approached? If he was he was quickly ruled out of the running leaving Arsenal to continue their close season unhindered by speculation surrounding their manager. Step in the media with a concerted campaign to install Allardyce as England boss. I had hoped that if the club had acted swiftly in the transfer market it might have shown Big Sam its intent and make him think twice about leaving the job half done. He seemed the perfect fit and I wanted to see him take us onward.
Perhaps M Salut and others were right. Perhaps the club knew all along that if the F.A. came calling Allardyce would up sticks and leave anyway and perhaps that had something to do with the lack of transfer activity. Maybe the owner was more canny than I gave him credit for and had learned it was a mistake to lumber a new man with the previous manager’s signings. Once the media hoo-ha focussed on Allardyce there was surely no way he wasn’t going to get the job and going through the motions of talking to Bruce and others only added to the disruption.
Part 3 – Relief. And so Saturday came and the rapid installation of David Moyes. Would I rather that England had beaten Iceland and Hodgson’s contract been extended? Of course I would. We would have had a summer free from speculation and insecurity. We might even have had a few new faces in the pre-season training camps but I was pleased to see the club act swiftly in appointing the new manager. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the frustration at the F.A. seems to have been a result of their having accepted the inevitable and having the new boss lined up well in advance. From the club’s point of view (and ours) the longer Moyes had before the Man City game, the better. He’s here now and from the looks of the first two friendlies he has a squad that is fitter and better organised than the one at this stage last year. Only three weeks for the Scot to work his magic, but at least we have a man in post and it didn’t do Leicester City any harm appointing a new manager this time last year.
Part 4 – Cautious Optimism. Like many others I look back at Moyes’s time at Everton as the blueprint for Sunderland. Similar club, similar ambitions. In my opinion he was always on a hiding to nothing at Old Trafford, weighed down by expectation, following on from an iconic manager who hovered around in the background like a spectral figure, ever reminding the supporters, the media and the hierarchy of what had gone before. I don’t follow Spanish football too closely so don’t know why he wasn’t a success in that job but I see no reason why he can’t take Sunderland into the upper reaches of the division just as he did with The Toffees.
My renewed optimism is tempered by the fact that we still have glaring inadequacies in the squad and transfer business is so slow. How much that is down to the owner’s cautiousness or how much it is down to other issues, I wouldn’t like to say but I would have liked to have seen new players on the flight to France and I wonder just how fit anyone we do sign will be when they do come. We need them up to speed from day one.
The Championship starts a week before the Premier League and any teams interested in Bridcutt, Buckley, Gomez, Matthews and Mavrias may well lose interest if the club continues to hang on to them. In a way it is prudent to do so until replacements are found. They may well have been told they are not part of the manager’s plans and are unlikely to see first team action, but our senior squad is still too small and the Development squad players who may come good are still inexperienced at Premiership level.
And so to Lens and Rodwell. Here are two talented players, big money signings who have to date failed to have the impact on the field we would have liked, but both have shown what they can do in spells. If Rodwell can stay fit, if Lens has the right attitude and desire to give his all for the club I have a feeling they can be big players for us this season. If I’m right it’ll be like having two new players without having to splash the cash. Remember Lens goal against West Ham. Rodwell, like Kirchhoff may well have to fill in at centre back for a spell and though he was criticised for missing a few chances last season, at least he got himself into positions where he could be criticised for missing. We need more penetration from midfield and either of those could be just what we need. I would still want to see M’Vila back but if N’Zogbia proves worthy of a contract surely that would allow Borini to take a more forward role, playing alongside Defoe and the recruitment can focus on a centre back, a full back (or two) and another striker.
Finally, I really hope that Moyes sticks with Bracewell and Stockdale. They have done a great job working with the current squad and can provide continuity. Moyes might well want to bring in his own men, the Neville brothers have been mentioned, but there’s not a lot wrong with the men in situ in my view.
Now with less than three weeks to go I am back to my familiar state of mind when it comes to the new season. Anticipation tinged with trepidation. Can’t wait.
We may be humouring ourselves in describing the post-match missives of Sunderland’s successive managers as being all their own work. It is much more likely that the press office team works on the seeds planted by the incumbent in any immediate press conference or TV interview.
But the views expressed remain, essentially, those of the manager concerned – unless you hear of a position suddenly becoming available in the press office.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..all change at Sunderland AFC on Saturday morning with the official appointment of David Moyes but one thing remained constant. Pete Sixsmith took the trip down the A1 to see the latest game in the club’s pre-season preparations and provide us with his unique take on events. Still no new faces to beef up the squad but nevertheless things look to be on track with the new manager quick to take stock of his inheritance.
ROTHERHAM UNITED (a)
“The King is dead, long live the King” is a fitting French proclamation as we set off for France and a seven day training camp with a new man in charge. It’s an ideal opportunity for David Moyes to look at his squad, weigh up their strengths and weaknesses and find out what type of people they are – and vice versa. He would have gained a few insights at the impressive New York Stadium on Saturday. This was a half decent friendly which gave the majority of the Sunderland players a good work out after the canter in Hartlepool a few days earlier.
The Merry Millers are no longer from Millmoor, but they offered a tougher challenge particularly in the early stages of the second half. There may well have been some tired limbs in the away dressing room at full time as they had to work hard to challenge and eventually overcome a side who are at least a week ahead of Sunderland in their preparation. The Championship season starts in two weeks’ time and Rotherham had been away on a week-long training camp in Poland as they limbered up for games against Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Newcastle United.
The two men in charge for this game – Messrs Bracewell and Stockdale made a couple of alterations from Wednesday with Billy Jones and Lee Cattermole dropping out to be replaced by Josh Robson and Charles N’Zogbia. Robson struggled at times, allowing his winger to turn him, but he grew in confidence as the game progressed and he got forward well in the latter stages of the game, combining well with Duncan Watmore. A good loan placement in Divisions One or Two for either 4 months or a full season, would help him.
N’Zogbia, who was barely involved at Victoria Park, looked far better here. His wonderful pass set up Borini (whose hairstyle is reminiscent of a large white egret) to score the opener and he won the game five minutes before time when Gooch and Robson (J) played him in and he placed the ball very effectively past Lee Camp in the Millers goal. He has a week and three more games to show Moyes if he is worth a contract and he certainly did his chances no harm with a thoughtful performance in the centre of the pitch alongside a quietly impressive Jack Rodwell.
The others did well enough. Defoe nearly scored in the first half with a good shot, Khazri buzzed, Lens showed some delightful touches but was in and out of the game, while the back four was well in control in the first half.
United stepped the pace up in the second and levelled after 19 seconds due to some sloppy defending, although Jerry Yates did well to beat Mannone. As a no nonsense centre half, Moyes will demand that the defending is tighter and that balls are not watched as they zip across the back four.
It was a decent day out at a very fine example of new ground building for a smaller club. It is close to the town centre and, unlike Millmoor, is not surrounded by scrap yards. The area of Rotherham is called New York and the stadium was built on the site of the Guest and Chrimes Brass Foundry which specialised in all sorts of Cocks , Stop Cocks, Fire Cocks, Sluice Cocks – although the biggest cock on display was the man at the end of my row who was so drunk that he had to be taken to hospital by the ever patient St John’s Ambulance workers.
It was a good piece of PR for David Moyes to come on to the pitch at the end and acknowledge the Sunderland support. A shame the departing manager had not done the same on Wednesday; let’s assume there were still a few i’s to cross an t’s to dot on his contract.
And I wasn’t enamoured with the pink third strip; but what do I know about fashion and design.
Stop press: Sixer was at Rotherham, along with David Moyes, to see an efficient 2-1 win friendly win. His Sixer’s Sevens verdict: “Good workout in front of new boss”
The Observer digs deep one again into its coffers to recruit our own Pete Sixsmith for a few words on Big Sam. How deep? Er, not enough to pay for the ice cream you see him licking; Sixer’s reward may well have to await his arrival on heaven (rather as is the case here at Salut! Sunderland. He was naturally writing before the David Moyes appointment was known) …
When Sam walked into the club, he inherited a group of players who were unfit, disillusioned and whose collective will was on a par with the recent Shadow Cabinet.
Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson writes: and the second worst kept secret in English football over the past few weeks at last is confirmed. Ex Everton, Man Utd and Real Sociedad boss David Moyes is quickly installed in the hot seat at the SoL. No doubt we will be doing a more in depth piece at some point but this hastily added offering will at least give you somewhere to post your thoughts as the Lads head to Rotherham.
Malcolm Dawson writes…in all honesty I’m not sure many of us in our heart of hearts expected a win but as always most of us will have wished for a performance that would produce an upset. We always go in hope, even when we don’t go in expectation and for a while on Saturday, it looked as if our hopes and dreams just might come true. It was a gutsy first half followed by the down to earth reality which is part and parcel of being a Sunderland fan. As usual Peter Sixsmith was perched on his eyrie, high in the East Stand and as usual he brings us his version of events on the pitch.