We really shouldn’t exaggerate. There are no reports, at least not yet, of exiled Sunderland fans in the West Country making their way to the suicide hotspot of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Chemists on Wearside have not warned police of disturbing increases in demand for over-the-counter products that can cause death.
And Monsieur Salut has made no attempt to tear out what remains of his hair.
All the same, the news we did not wish to hear was that Martin O’Neill not only admires the footballing abilities of Karl Henry, which could just about be forgiven, but wants to bring him to Sunderland, which could not. Or, indeed, that his sights are set on other characters now playing at Aston Villa, West Brom and Henry’s club, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
This is how I noted the speculation at the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group this morning:
Transfer speculation has started early, the Sunderland Echo saying Steven Fletcher and Karl Henry from Wolves, Keith Andrews from WBA and Villa’s Carlos Cuellar have been mentioned. Fletcher apart, is there anyone here who would improve the squad? What would be the benefit of bringing in Henry unless Catts needed competition for disciplinary points. Thank heavens Graeme Alexander writes in the Echo ”the idea of Sunderland being in for Wolves midfielder Henry, who is still under contract at Molineux, seems bizarre”. Or has he qualities I have missed?
It would be unfair to say that when I typed Karl H—- into Google, this came up: ”Karl Leon Hawley (born 6 December 1981) is an English professional footballer who plays for Crawley Town (On loan from parent club Notts County) …”
But there, I’ve been unfair.
And maybe Karl’s gifts are much greater than I have ever noticed, making it absurd to be so downbeat that we might even think of signing him. But I was sceptical about signing players from relegated clubs last summer and, Seb Larsson’s generally good season apart, reserve the right to be sceptical again.
Seb shows there is the occasional gem to be had, and Fletcher may be it, but I really do not want the club I support to be taking on a midfielder whose main attribute in our colours would be to ensure Lee Cattermole had competition in the disciplinary bad boy table. Is not Karl Henry the sort of player managers are always under pressure to find different ways of defending (eg ”he’s really not that sort of lad”)?
Sorry, but I hope our ambitions and our notion of how football should be played make it highly unlikely that O’Neill has the slightest interest in most of these rumoured targets.
And I would remind you of what I have said in the past, that the ”rumour mill” so apparent in end-of-season and close-season reports, which even spread to safc.com, is usually nine parts out of 10 complete nonsense. In any list of 20 players supposedly in MON’s sights will be 15 or so he’s never even thought of, while there will be names absent from the list that he has been trying very hard to acquire.
So who should we be chasing? Which positions absolutely have to be MON’s priorities? And who do we need to move on if we can? We all have our own ideas on each of those questions. I will restrict myself to stipulating what must not, in any circumstances, be allowed to happen: the departure, to any destination, of Stéphane Sessegnon without a) a whacking great fee and b) proper replacement already lined up (ie no repeat of the Darren Bent fiasco).