Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Connor Wickham heading to Wearside

Wickham scores for Ipswich Town
When I first found out about our interest in Connor Wickham, I have to say I was surprised that we were going for that calibre of player, pleasantly surprised though. I know he's not a major world star but he has been attracting the attention of clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea in the past, and the former were odds on favourite to acquire the signature of the Ipswich starlet. Us Sunderland fans know all too well that Liverpool aren't afraid to splash the cash, with Jordan Henderson completing his move to Merseyside earlier on in the month. However this deal looks to be one that they aren't interested in pursuing any further, and the £13m price tag may be the reason. They already have ex-Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, Uruguayan talent Luis Suarez, Kop favourite Durk Kuyt and back up in the form of David N'Gog, a player that has been heavily linked with a move north to The Stadium of Light.

Although I would be very impressed with Bruce if he does pull this deal off, I still think we need another striker that has proved himself in the Premier League, at the moment we only have one fit striker that we know is capable of playing at this level, I'm sure Wickham will adapt in time but at the moment, an 18 year old player at a new club thrown into the deep end isn't who you want to be relying on to score goals and help assist them. Ji Dong-Won is the other striker that we have all but signed this transfer window, but again, at 20 years of age and no experience of the Premier League, I have my doubts about him making an instant impact.

With this in mind, I'd like to see us go for a striker that has played at this level before and is at a good, mature age to make an instant impact, somebody like Kevin Doyle. I think he's an unrealistic target though as he is the first choice striker at Wolves and a move to Sunderland may not be that appealing when he sees the competition for places in Steve Bruce's starting eleven. Aside from that, Wolves will be less than willing to let him go and he'd only be available at an inflated price, probably around the £8m mark. So, again, as that avenue is probably well and truly closed down, I'm hoping for a fourth striker at the club in on loan, Danny Welbeck will do just fine thanks.

Monday, 27 June 2011

A typical game last season in the form of a Flow Chart

Just a bit of fun!

New Training Wear

Today the new training wear was unveiled by the club and it looks very smart. Umbro have gone with a sky blue theme and a claret and gold theme, the former being the colour of the new away kit. I often prefer some of the training kit to the official kits and tend to buy them more, however I can't help thinking they'd sell a lot better if 'Tombola' wasn't plastered all over the back, front, collar, arm and pretty much anywhere else the logo will fit.

You can see a full gallery of the new training gear on the club's official website; click here.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

It's what we've been missing

Gardner scores for England U21s
This morning I staggered downstairs to the news that 'Gardner should sign today'... I thought my dad meant Ricardo or some other Gardner quite underwhelming. But no, it's Craig Gardner of Birmingham City who had a very impressive season last season, scoring 11 goals from midfield. I think he'd be a brilliant signing and would slot nicely into the centre of our midfield. I was also surprised to hear that the alleged price is only around the £5m mark, which isn't a lot at all for a good player nowadays. Goals from midfield are something which Sunderland have lacked for a lot of years, in fact, I can't remember having a decent goalscoring midfielder since we were promoted in 2007. I'm hoping that Gardner will provide this, and hopefully take some of the weight off the shoulders of Gyan and whoever his strike partner may be next season, a luxury that Darren Bent didn't have. Although I'm not going to start on him. In summary, I think £5m for a goalscoring midfielder that is still only 24 years of age, particularly one with three years of Premier League experience is a brilliant piece of business for the club. I have to admit, I didn't see this one coming and all of a sudden our transfers look to be progressing nicely, with 4 new players through the door, assuming that the Gardner and Dong Won deals go through.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dong Transplant

We have a new Dong! In the shape of South Korean forward Ji Dong-Won of course, he's reportedly joined Sunderland from Chunnam Dragons in a deal which has cost the club around £2m. He's relatively unknown in football, although he did once have an unsuccessful trial at Reading in 2007, which is slightly discouraging. However four years have passed and he's been quietly getting on with his career, representing his country 11 times, finding the net on 6 occasions. I know absolutely nothing about the lad, other than things I've read on the internet and videos I've seen on youtube. He looks to be a very pacey forward with the added bonus of being 6ft2. It's rare that you get pace on a taller player. Anyway, for the price I think he's probably worth a gamble, and at 20 years of age, there's plenty of time for him to improve and learn from some of the more experienced lads in the squad. However, it could go the other way too. After all, not all of Bruce's signings have been the gems that we had expected at the start of his reign, is this going to be another Paulo Da Silva, Christian Riveros or Marcos Angeleri? Time will tell, but I sincerely hope not.

Did you know?

Did you know that when Spanish flop Arnau Riera joined Sunderland from Barcelona B team, he was offered a choice of top of the range cars as part of his contract? You're probably thinking 'Well, that's not very interesting' however... When looking at the list of posh, flashy and expensive cars to choose from, he said something along the lines of 'I can't drive a car as fancy as any of these when forty thousand people pay money to watch me do my job week in week out.' And that was that, Arnau drove out of the sales room in a modest Mini Cooper.

Click here to go to my list of top 10 SAFC flops, where Arnau features.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

My favourite Sunderland commentary...

Above I have compiled a video of some of my favourite pieces of commentary on Sunderland games.

It includes;

1973 Cup Final v Leeds - Ian Porterfield goal
Ian Porterfield scored the only goal in one of the most famous FA Cup finals of all time. Second division Sunderland had beaten the very reputable Leeds United in the infamous tie.
1990 Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg v Newcastle - Marco Gabbiadini goal
Marco Gabbiadini secured a 0-2 win over our nearest and not so dearest with a placed shot in the 85th minute to send us to the Play-off Final at Wembley.
2000 Newcastle 1-2 Sunderland - Niall Quinn goal
Local lad Micky Gray swung in a delightful cross from the left hand side which landed perfectly on to the head of the big man, who headed home past a flapping Shay Given.
2000 Newcastle 1-2 Sunderland - Your boys took one hell of a beating
Remember Bjorge Lillelien's rant after Norway beat England in 1981? Well Simon Crabtree cleverly bettered that with his own version upon the full time whistle at St. James' Park in 2000.
2003 Derby County 1-1 Sunderland - Mart Poom goal
Mart Poom dramatically equalised for Sunderland against his former club Derby County in the dying minutes of the game in 2003, he came up for a last minute corner and produced a bullet header which saw the ball fly into the back of the Pride Park net.
2006 Sunderland 3-2 Burnley - Carlos Edwards goal
Simon Crabtree again produces another piece of sheer commentary brilliance. He's going to get a reputation for exaggerating the situation!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Top 10 SAFC flops

10. Marcos Angeleri
There's a few different theories as to why Angeleri's time on Wearside has been unsuccessful to say the least, one of which is that we didn't really want him - and Quinn made a balls up of the whole thing so we ended up stuck with him. How true that is I don't know, however I do think there's more to this than meets they eye. He's represented Argentina four times and reportedly failed a medical at Inter Milan a couple of year ago, having said that though, Jonas Gutierrez (Marcos' long lost brother, surely?) is one of the first names on the Argentinian team sheet. We paid roughly £1.5m for the right back, money which isn't a lot in today's market, but it's certainly unnecessary expenditure. The only thing that has stopped Angeleri being higher up in my list of flops is that he may actually play for us again - God forbid. For now, though, his future is lying in the balance,  it looks as if he'll be on his way back to South America. That would suit us fine.

9. Greg Halford
There were no theories about this signing, the sole reason for him being a flop, in my opinion, was his lack of ability. He was signed from then Premier League side Reading for a fee of £3.5m, he went on to play 8 times for the lads - scoring twice. I don't actually remember a lot about him tbh, other than him being poor and having a long throw, which he didn't really use that much anyway, not that he had much of the chance to anyway. I'd say that Halford was a typical 'Roy Keane signing'. Just not good enough. After those 8 appearances, Keane said that he was willing to listen to offers for the services of Halford, despite being excited by the signing just a few months earlier. Charlton came in for him on loan and he moved to The Valley till the end of the season. Upon returning to Sunderland, we failed to get rid of him permanently again and he ended up back on loan at Sheffield United. We eventually offloaded him to Wolves in 2009.

8. Kelvin Davis
I have to admit, when we signed Kelvin from Ipswich I thought it was a bargain buy. He cost us around £1.25m and I thought it was money well spent by Mick McCarthy. Sadly it wasn't to be, he came with a reputation of being 'a decent keeper' and I'd thought this when watching him play for Ipswich. The thing that did leave my slightly baffled though, was that MicMac had let two very good goalkeepers in Mhyre and Poom go, to bring Kelvin in. He appeared 33 times for the lads in a season that we'd all rather forget, as we suffered relegation with a measly and record low 15 points. Following this, he was sold to Southampton where he would attempt to resurrect his career, we amazingly got the majority of what we paid for him back - moving south for approximately £1m.

7. Jon Stead
Stead will be forever remembered for being the forward that just couldn't score, well, he did, twice. In 35 games. Stead was a target for Sunderland when he played for Huddersfield and he was widely regarded as a hot prospect, Blackburn Rovers beat us to his signature though and he was signed for £1m. However it seemed that Sunderland and Stead were destined to meet, it was just meant to be, and we eventually got our man in June 2005, as he completed a £1.8m switch to Wearside. As I mentioned before, Stead only found the net twice for Sunderland, his first goal came in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park, his second and final goal was in the 3-1 defeat to Southend in the following season. Stead didn't fit into the plans of new manager Roy Keane and he was loaned out to Derby, where he scored one more than he did at Sunderland, in 16 games less! He was later sold to Ipswich Town for £1.2m.

6. Rade Prica
The Swede was signed from Danish side Aalborg for a fee of around £2m. He was snapped up by Keane after Prica finished the 2006/2007 season as top scorer in Denmark, and with International experience behind him it could surely be nothing other than a bargain. Wrong. It was shocking business in hindsight. He played 6 times for Sunderland, making his debut in a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City, guess what? He scored. It looked to be a sign of things to come as Prica lifted the ball over the Birmingham goalkeeper to seal an important victory. The following game, however, would be a more realistic sign of things to come. Price was brought on as substitute for the injured Kieran Richardson at Anfield, before later being substituted himself for being absolutely shocking. We eventually offloaded Rade to Rosenborg in Norway, and he finished the season as their top goalscorer with 17.

5. Arnau Riera
Arnau Riera was unbelievably signed by Spanish giants Barcelona in a bid to regain Premier League status following relegation. He played just once for Sunderland, as you can't count his second appearance - getting sent off inside 3 minutes in the League Cup game away to Bury. He would never play again. He was then shipped out to Southend United on a month's loan, where he played twice, before going to Falkirk on loan, which was quite a success. He returned to Sunderland and was told he was free to find a new club. He had an unsuccessful trial at Blackpool before being loaned to Falkirk again. He was released in 2009.

4. William Mocquet
William Mocquet really is the mystery man. Aged 23, he chose to accept the offer tabled by Sunderland and make the move from his homeland, France, to Wearside. His old club Le Havre agreed an undisclosed fee for the midfielder with Sunderland and he completed the move in August 2006. The most bizarre thing about this is he never ever played for Sunderland, not even once. He was loaned out to League 2 club Rochdale where he played 7 times and scored once. Upon returning to Sunderland, he was quickly shown the door again and he was on the move to Bury, in the same league as Rochdale, where he would play 9 times. Upon being released by Sunderland, he signed for FC Pau in the 4th tier of France.

3. Tore André Flo
Tore André Flo was signed by manager Peter Reid in 2002 on the final day of the transfer window, for a fee of £6.75m from Rangers. The reason he is so high up in my list of flops is because of the extortionate price that we were forced to pay the Glasgow club for his services, not because he was a particularly bad player. His career achievements suggested otherwise, turning out for Chelsea nearly 150 times. However he only played 33 times for the lads, managing just 6 goals, nowhere near enough for the price we paid. He fell out of favour after the departure of Reid, and following Sunderland's relegation, he was released and moved to Siena in Italy.

2. Nicolás Medina
The most expensive player to never play a league game for Sunderland, £3.5m to be precise. He was signed, again, by Peter Reid in 2001, hooking up with Argentina U21 team mate Julio Arca. Fans and pundits often questioned Reid's decision not to give him a chance, and some thought this was down to a fall out between the two. He did eventually make an appearance in the red and white shirt, playing in an FA Cup game against Bolton Wanderers, he was substituted in the game. He played regularly for Argentina U21's and played once for the seniors. As his spell on Wearside was unsuccessful to say the least, he was loaned to CD Leganés, before permanently signing for Spanish side Real Murcia.

1. Milton Núnez
Yeah, you guessed it, in first position in my list of flops is Honduran forward Milton Nunez. Nunez was signed by Peter Reid in 1999 for a fee that nobody knows, or if they do, are too scared to admit to. He played once for Sunderland in the league, and that was in a 2-1 win at home to Wimbledon. He's become somewhat of a cult hero on Wearside, well, I see it more as a running joke, this is mainly due to his size and lack appearances/ability. Rumour has it; Reid was meant to sign Nunez's strike partner at previous club PAOK FC, Adolfo Valencia. The rumour is that there was another Milton Nunez and Reid had signed the wrong one. I suppose we'll never know the real truth. After his spell in England, he returned to Uruguay side Nacional, who he had left in 1998. Today, Milton plays his football for CSD Comunicaciones who play in the highest league in Guatemala. That's according to wikipedia, how whoever has written that knows where he plays God only knows.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

My view on the Henderson saga

David N'Gog - Wearside Bound
Whilst I'm a big admirer of Hendo, I think, possibly, this move may work out well for all parties concerned. Liverpool have got a gem on their hands, Henderson will have a better chance with England and silverware, and Sunderland? Well we've got a fair bit of money to play with from the deal, and a striker. A striker that has split our fans down the middle. Yes, I'm talking about David N'Gog. I dare say that neither of us have seen the lad play enough to make an accurate judgement on his ability, similarly to those Liverpool fans who have already decided Henderson isn't worth £20m. Let's be honest, N'Gog isn't going to be the big name striker we're after, and he isn't the answer, however he is a striker, we need at least three in my opinion and I'm more than happy for him to be one of those. The amount of people that have written the lad off before he's even kicked a ball for us, in fact, before he's even had a medical with us, is quite ridiculous. How many people discarded Titus Bramble as a poor signing and a poor player? I did, as did many others, oh how he proved us all wrong. I was also sceptical about bringing Welbeck to Wearside, and a few others were too after his failed spell at Preston. Again though, he turned out to be a brilliant signing, so much so that Ferguson has him in his first team plans for next season. I'm probably rabbiting on a bit now, but my point is that every player that pulls on the red and white shirt deserves the full backing of the fans (Unless it's Daryl Murphy) and at least the chance to prove he's worthy of the shirt.

As for Henderson, I wish him the best of luck. He deserves this big move on the back of his outstanding performances the last two seasons, it's just a shame that his ambition has outgrown Sunderland's position. It was always going to happen, though. At least he didn't do the dirty on the club like other players that we've sold for £20m+, he's been a true professional throughout the deal and I respect him for that. Thanks for your contributions to our Premier League establishment, good luck for the rest of your career.

Never forget your roots, Jordan. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Elmo: Egyptian Beckham

Elmo's immediate future appears to be on Wearside, and for the £2m reported fee I think it's a smart move from Bruce. Although we haven't had official confirmation on the loan deal being made permanent, Bruce has said so himself that that's his aim. Hopefully the deal can be sorted out quickly and smoothly, with the fee being agreed prior to the loan deal I'm hoping that will be the case, especially as Elmohamady is keen to join us permanently. It's a rarity for Egyptian players to play their football outside the country, with just 3 of the current Egypt set-up playing their football in Europe, Elmohamady being one. 
Elmo, Elmo, it's down the wing he goes...

Elmo enjoyed a good first season in England, making 37 appearances for Sunderland in both the right back and right midfield position, the former his more natural position, and where he frequents for Egypt. At the age of 23 he has a fair amount of experience, with a completed Premier League season and an impressive 42 appearances for his country. I, personally, rate Ahmed. I think there's aspects of his game that can be improved and I'm fairly certain they will be given time. His crossing has been a little suspect, especially with the nickname 'Egyptian Beckham', it's fair to say that he hasn't really lived up to that - however in the Egyptian league he may have been just that. He has however got a lot of pace and energy, he can support the winger when playing right back and can link up well with the right back when playing on the wing, however next season I'd like to see him try to beat his man more, and get to the byline. All in all though, it's a very shrewd signing for Sunderland and he can only really get better, worst comes to worst and his time here doesn't work out, we can always ship him out to our second string, Stokerland.

Let's talk about Sess baby

Silky Sessegnon was on international duty on Sunday, but despite his brace for Benin, he couldn't prevent his country from losing unfashionably 6-2 to the Ivory Coast. Didier Drogba and Newcastle target Gervinho both scored twice to help The Elephants cruise to victory in the Benin capital, Cotonou. However despite the loss, Sessegnon starred in his 37th outing for his country, and added his 6th and 7th goal, the first being particularly good, as he took it on the chest and half volleyed past Boubacar Barry in the Ivory Coast net. Sess' second goal came from the penalty spot, a trait that he looks to have perfected.
Sessegnon - Benin

As much as I think Sessegnon is a fantastic player, and a key one for Sunderland, I fail to see where he fits in next season. With Bruce talking about signing a big target man to play alongside Gyan, there'll be no need for an attacking midfielder to play in behind. You could also play him on the wing, and he did so early on in his Sunderland career, but it wasn't until he was moved into a more central, free-roaming role that he really excelled, finishing the season with a respectable 3 goals in 13 appearances. I don't think the wing suits his style of football, although with a run of games there, he could prove me wrong.

Friday, 3 June 2011

In danger of becoming a selling club

Lee Cattermole: Liverpool bound?
It's obviously nice to have quality players at the club, but with that, unfortunately, becomes the attention of bigger clubs. Only this week have we seen arguably our most prized possession in Jordan Henderson linked with Liverpool, and it's also common knowledge that Fergie is an admirer. As well as Henderson, there's also talk that Liverpool have made a bid for Lee Cattermole, another bright prospect who is only 22 himself. It's alright saying 'yeah we should sell if the money is right', if we had that attitude to every player we wouldn't have a squad! If players like Henderson and Catts do move on, then it means we're pretty much having to rebuild the spine of the team from scratch. Mensah and Onuoha have returned to their parent clubs, as has Welbeck. Darren Bent moved on a while back and if Hendo and Catts do too then the spine of the team has virtually been removed. That puts us in massive danger of heading in the wrong direction next season, even if we do replace said players with suitable replacements, a team takes a few games to gel, and I'm worried we may not have time to do that, especially with Quinn hinting that we may not sign anybody till July/August time. However that's the worst case scenario, I don't think we'll sell either as hopefully Bruce has learned his lesson from the Darren Bent saga.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Christian Basilla > Asamoah Gyan?

Asamoah Gyan
Christian Basilla
Christian Basilla. Remember him. Unfortunately I do, and he brings back terrible memories of that terrible season. Of course now I can look back with a certain degree of pleasure, as if to say 'look how far we've come' and 'it could be worse- Basilla could be playing'. He only featured 13 times for us, some might say 13 times too many. Anyway, after we were relegated he was moved on to Larisa, where he stayed for a year before moving on again, it seems as though teams can't get shot of him quick enough. Hardly surprising mind, the picture on the left sums the individual performances of Christian up. Comical. Comical actually sums up that season too. Anyway, enough about that. After leaving Energie Cottbus in 2008, he moved to French side EA Guingamp where he would taste some cup success. He captained the side to a 2-1 win over Rennes, who were a whole league higher, in the French Cup. Guess who was in that Rennes squad? Yep, no other than Asamoah Gyan. Who would have thought that such a below average football in the shape of Christian Basilla, would get one over on the future African player of the year? Anyway, sort of a pointless blog post but I thought I'd write about it anyway, just for the sheer hell of writing about Christian Bassila - The face of pure evil.