Eric Sweeney* is the latest addition to Salut! Sunderland‘s stable of writers. A lot of us have been fretting about false dawns. Eric – flanked in the photo by friend and brother – rightly identifies the substantial positives we sometimes overlook …
As another transfer window draws to a close it’s worth reflecting on how far Sunderland have come in the past four years.
Niall Quinn brought with him serious investment that propelled the club back to the Premier League where we know the club belongs. Roy Keane seemed to be buying a new player each passing week and our potential knew no boundaries.
I recall Richardson talking of Europe and who could doubt him after Chopra’s late winner against the mighty Spurs?
Reality soon sank in and the limitations of our bulging squad and use of financial resources soon became evident.
Keane had brought optimism and promotion but also a huge degree of ego coupled with inexperience in management.
Steve Bruce wasn’t a popular appointment; we’d been promised a world class manager with proven pedigree only to get a Mag from Wigan with a colourful past in management.
And yet … since then we can have no complaints about how he has directed this club towards the next level. Every weakness the club had under Keane has been rectified and is hardly worth mentioning today.
Keane had spoken of players and their wives being reluctant to move to the North East, justifying his panicky moves in the transfer market. We now have a patient team of screwed (surely shrewd, someone says below, though Eric may have meant “heads screwed on” – ed) negotiators marshalled by Bruce looking for value at every opportunity. It is no longer a case of Sunderland reserves topping their league while the first team languishes close to the relegation zone of the one that actually matters.
How Bruce has turned the club around should be a lesson to all would-be managers.
First he set out to move players on rather than beg the chairman for new funds to acquire more players. Then he targeted young and hungry players, nevertheless insisting on quality rather than quantity. The players are growing under his man management and the club can profit from any player’s departure.
Bruce will replace Bent and the club will continue to grow under his management. Football is a crazy game; we give the reins to people with no business education and expect them to make wise financial decisions.
But Bruce is a behaving like the seasoned CEO of a major company. Every penny is spared and accounted for when the opportunity arises.
Niall has been an excellent chairman but he needs to do one thing very quickly and that is to get Bruce under a long term contract.
We only have to look at the plight of Wigan, Chelsea, Liverpool and Inter Milan this season to be reminded of how important our managers are today. We could be the next team on that list, or be in Europe next year and beyond. I look forward to the latter.
* Eric Sweeney on himself:
I’m not a local, born in Limerick, Ireland and I have two sporting loves – Munster Rugby being the other. I am living in Switzerland at the moment because of the recession back home. Sunderland people are similar to people from Limerick, so I’ve loved them since I went there. Great fans who love football. I am obsessive about the team and I miss having my say so I need to write instead since no one here knows anything about football. I’m 27 and I come over twice a year or whenever I can afford! My jersey has Cana on my back so I need another but at least it doesn’t say Bent!