Voice of America: Kilgallon, Noble, Mandron and the substitute debate

Jake flies the flag for Robert Simmons
Jake flies the flag for Robert Simmons

Our occasional contributor from the far-off USA, Robert Simmons, is due to become a father for the fourth time today, a boy to throw a helping of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails into the sugar and spice and everything nice served up by three waiting sisters. We wish all the Simmonses well. But while Mrs S prepares for labour, Robert turns to his labour of love, writing about Sunderland AFC – he has substitution policy on his mind …


While at this point
in the season most Sunderland fans expected the club to be climbing towards mid-table and comfortably out of sight of the relegation zone, it seems that Sunderland are still just trying to fill all the spots on their bench.

This past Saturday Martin O’Neill made headlines for only putting six players on his bench. This seems quite inexplicable considering we are the 8th highest spending club in the past 5 years, but it is the situation we found ourselves in.

What was even more surprising was that Sunderland went with a traditional 4-4-2 lineup and with both Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham in the first 11, there wasn’t a recognized* striker available on the bench.

Of our six players available as subs we had one goalkeeper, three defenders, and two midfield players. It was a quite baffling situation to find ourselves in. O’Neill did say Matt Kilgallon was scheduled to be on the bench, but adding a 4th defender to the bench isn’t exactly what we needed against Fulham.

When I logged in to twitter about half and hour before the match there was quite the uproar over a) our formation for the match b) the lack of a recognized striker on the bench and c) an open spot on the bench.

It seems like there are two opinions on why that bench spot should or shouldn’t be used, and I’m curious as to which camp the readers of salutsunderland fall into.

Position 1:

When there is a circumstance like these and a regular outfield players gets inured or is ill and isn’t fit for the match, O’Neill should give that spot to one of the young players who is playing well for the U-21s. This will give them some valuable experience and it gives them a bit of hope that they can move through the ranks and get some time on the senior team.

A player like Ryan Noble could have filled that spot and been a potential option as an attacker in case of an injury during the match (Danny Graham did in fact get subbed off, but we changed tactics a little rather than making a like for like sub). Another young striker who has impressed is Mikael Mandron and a spot on the bench would be a nice way to reward the young player. Essentially with this position, we have seven bench spots and it does us no good to not use them all, so reward a young player and fill the entire bench.

Position 2:

A spot on the bench is not something a young player just gets because there are no other options, it must be earned. If you are only getting that spot because of illness or injury, and the manager has no intention of using you, it isn’t really a reward to get that spot. There is a lot of pride that comes with getting a spot on a match roster in the Premier League and the manager doesn’t just give that place unless you’ve earned it.

The American college football team that I support does this with all their first year players. Those players must practice* in generic gear until they’ve earned the right to be given the team gear, and the same logic can be used when it comes to earning that spot on the bench. You don’t just get it, you must earn it.

So where do you fall in this argument? Should young players be rewarded and given a place on the bench, or should those opportunities only be given once you’ve earned the right in the managers eyes to be there?


* Firstly, for anyone new to Robert’s contributions, please note the usual style rules at Salut! Sunderland are suspended to allow an American to write like an American. Secondly, does anyone know whether the rules would even permit a new name to be added to the list of subs when the need arises so close to kick off?

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5 thoughts on “Voice of America: Kilgallon, Noble, Mandron and the substitute debate”

  1. Option 1 for me. I posted on this subject earlier in the season when O’Neill named 6 subs (can’t remember when). I even used the phrase “shame on you O’Neill”. I think it is embarassing for a club a big as Sunderland purport to be to to only name 6 subs. Just imagine how good it would make a youngster like Mandron/Noble etc feel to hear 3-4000 fans away from home chanting his name (even if we don’t know who he is)! You’re allowed 7 subs, name 7.

  2. Congrats Robert, on the arrival of your baby boy…hope all goes well.Must be a source of real joy,a boy in which to entrust and share your love of all things red and white,…….poor little mite ; ).

    MON substitution plan would be to take off a striker and reverting to the 4411 system, and he the usual options to do that.Having an extra striker on tye benchwould have been a wasted spot anyway, as he would likely never have used one.

  3. I was told the manager has to submit the squad sheet an hour and a half before kickoff. Not sure whenKilgallon fell ill, but surely if he wanted to fill that spot he would have had time to get Noble there.

  4. I do not know how close to kickoff Kilgallon’s illness presented a problem. I would argue that at Premier level, the manager should have one or two additional players on call, ie in the stadium and ready to respond if required, to cover such eventualities. This may, of course, have been the case but if Malcom’s hunch is right, it might not have helped if Kilgallon was sent home at or later than 2.30pm

  5. Only Ryan Noble is included in the squad list given to the FA (as posted on the club’s website) – squad number 33. Presumably even young players who can be added to that list have to be registered in time. Was Noble in the ground?

    Of the rest of the squad – Pickford, Ji, Elmo and Wickham are all on loan and Brown, Rose, Cattermole, Egan, injured.

    If Kilgallon became unavailable late on then there would appear to be no option for the manager if Noble was nowhere near the ground. (I’m not 100% but in the back of my mind I have final team sheets need to be given to the referee 30 minutes before kick off).

    From the club’s point of view it is easy to see why Saha was released and thought given to re-signing McFaddon on a short term deal and the manager explained the thinking about the Wickerman loan deal but it has left MON with a very small squad and limited options.

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