As Salut! Sunderland edges ever closer to a two-million hits milestone, readers are invited to enter the smart-alec competition at https://safc.blog/2013/06/salut-sunderlands-two-million-hit-party-even-newcastle-are-invited/. I have attractive prize details to announce very soon. Meanwhile, Lars Knutsen looks ahead to what is needed in the coming season – and back at the efforts PDC has been making to impose a new disciplinary code …
In 40-plus years of watching Sunderland I have accumulated some knowledge of what our fans want. We like players to put in a lot of effort to win games, can keep going for 90+ minutes and are disciplined. We like characters as well.
It goes without saying that we like to win, but we know that we are playing in the best league in the world. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best moments have been when coming back from an away trip, having plundered three points and outscored the opposing team in an open and exciting game. That buzz post-match is terrific.
As fans, who do we prefer? Dedicated professionals such as Kevin Ball, in the mould of athletes like Steve Cram, who make a great example to young players, or the now infamous Phil Bardsley? I am not writing off the ex-Man. Utd full-back, who has had some great seasons for us, but “that picture” did not go down well. Bardsley’s allegedly drink-fuelled (which he denies) casino escapade – unless he happened to be trying a new floor stretch manoeuvre taught by his osteopath for back injury – was not a way to endear himself to a new manager.
Despite that piledriver against Southampton, “you only have one chance to make a first impression”.
We do not mind rascals such a Frank Worthington either, who was, and presumably is still is a womaniser, but he always seemed to produce his best for us on a Saturday.
Fellow fans tell me on good authority that some of the recent highly publicised disciplinary issues and fines at the club resulted from players not paying enough attention to relatively minor matters such as signing shirts, destined for charities, at the Cleadon training ground. Going home straight after training and avoiding their civic duty did not help their case with Paulo Di Canio; it becomes easy to see who signed a shirt and who did not.
Again, what do we demand from our highly-paid players, delinquent “rock star” lifestyles, with prima donna behaviours, or a willingness to focus on fans’ needs? Di Canio will not allow that, most fans would back him in his crusade and to be honest I applaud him.
We all want players showing up for a game totally focused and ready to give their all as they pull on a shirt with a Sunderland badge on it. I don’t care how many ‘ologists we need to get our players ready, that is what we as fans demand, a total dedication to the cause…the willingness to sweat blood to get a result.
We will see by the start of next season how our new manager can recruit and motivate key players. He will look at their character before deciding on them.
People have divided opinions about our club captain Cattermole. Will he be the one to show maturity and crack the whip when needed, under Paulo Di Canio’s strong “guidance”, the same guidance which attracted the close attention of the PFA?
I like Catts, he makes us play like a team. He does not score goals but he protects the back four, and that is why we conceded so few at the start of this last season. He makes sure the team is organised, and we celebrate goals properly when he is on board. I suppose if you do not score them yourself you’ve got to be happy for your teammates and for the team.
It is clear from talking with fellow fans that we do need an attacking central midfielder in the engine room, à la Souness or Roy Keane in their prime, and Vaughan, despite his injuries, is not the answer based on last season’s form. That is something that PDC must address as a matter of urgency. Larsson delivers the ball well, but he only scored once last season, and must go down as one of the players who underachieved in 2012-13.
Where else does the team need strengthening? The full-back positions are an issue after Rose’s return to London and I saw Wes Brown score his only Sunderland goal when we won 3-2 at QPR late in 2011 and believe me, he can play. Cuellar has not really convinced, so let’s see who PDC brings in…nice to read reports of recruitment for the defence.
PDC and our other managers are lucky – this is a football hotbed. The Italian knows that after the 3-0 destruction of Newcastle. It does not take much to fill our great stadium; we need to see energy, effort and commitment. Skill should be natural. Organisation comes with good leadership on and off the pitch.
A lot of football is about psychology – learning to win, expecting to win, being fearless. In March, 2012 we went to Man. City and were 3-1 with 10 minutes to go against the team later crowned as Champions. A year later we won 3-0 at Newcastle. More of that, more often next season, please. That is what dedicated professional footballers at the top of their game will provide for our long-suffering fans.
Don’t forget to add your clever, sharp or amusing verdict on the 2012-2013 season at our Two Million Hits competition: https://safc.blog/2013/06/salut-sunderlands-two-million-hit-party-even-newcastle-are-invited/