The world has gone mad. A Hammer comes to Salut! Sunderland and promises to buy drinks for all our readers (later modified, wisely, to “a select few of our favourite commenters”) and a Premier manager talks about the importance of the Carling Cup. Luckily, it was our manager and some drinks, at least, are still on Sam the Hammer …
Hammers fans: go straight here
We must welcome Steve Bruce’s promise to put out a strong side to play West Ham in the Carling Cup tonight/tomorrow night (depending on when and where you’re reading this). And news that Asamoah Gyan will make his first start since arriving for £13m from Rennes, should give all Sunderland fans a great buzz.
SAFC, it is safe to predict, will not win the Premier League title just yet. We have every right to expect a distinct improvement on last season’s 13th place finish, but 12 places higher may still be out of our reach.
It is feasible, however, to hope the club can produce a serious run in the Carling or FA Cup, or both. These are competitions teams still want to win, but not at any cost in terms of fitness.
Fans of clubs with other priorities, top or bottom, openly admit they couldn’t really give a hoot.
In Sunderland’s case, it is absolutely vital that we do give a hoot. We can aim for as strong a league campaign as possible, and leave the club in no doubt that the top half should be a non-negotiable return on the investments made by Ellis Short (and us). But we need a morale-boosting string of cup successes to give us a real chance of reaching Wembley again.
Bruce told the official club site: “I’ve said since I walked through the door here that we must treat the cup with the utmost respect. We’ve got a home tie against Premier League opposition – we want to try and get through to the next round, it’s as simple as that.
“We are capable of winning the trophy. We can win five or six games; any team in the Premier League can do that. We’ll be treating it very, very seriously and I’ll be putting out a team which will merit that.”
I don’t expect West Ham to be a pushover despite their poor start to the season, and nor does Bruce. “They’ve had a good result at the weekend so that will give them a lift just at the right time,” he said. ” … when you look at their team they have England players throughout the team – in goal, defence, midfield and up front. It’ll be a difficult game.”
Difficult, but eminently winnable. Ha’way the Lads.