Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Friday November 25 2011
This week I managed to grab a chat with Vital Sunderland editor and Black Cats fan Tom, we shared a brew and a packet of chocolate Hobnobs, anyway, lets take a look at how it went:
worbo - Hi Tom, good to meet up, how's it going? Can I ask if you are one of the famous, or is it infamous, group of Sunderland fans sliding down the grassy bank at Springfield Park back in 1988?
Tom - It's going well. No I am afraid I'm not one of the fans sliding down the bank at Springfield Park - before my time unfortunately!
worbo - Let's get straight down to it, Steve Bruce, he came in at the Latics when we were really struggling, steadied the ship so to speak and built a half decent side around some good players, Heskey, Zaki, Palacios, Valencia and Cattermole, but then he seemed to get found out around the back end of his last season and we couldn't buy a win, obviously he left in that summer for Sunderland and after starting off quite well it looks like the wheels have come off, what's happened?
Tom - Well that is the question. If Bruce knew the answer to that question no-one would be on his back!
First and foremost, we've lost our goal-scorers. Darren Bent obviously moved to Villa in January, Asamoah Gyan left for a heap of money, and Al-Ain late in August, Frazier Campbell is only just back in training and Danny Welbeck has returned to Manchester United after his loan spell. All that has left us with Nicklas Bendtner, who doesn't look like he will fit in; Connor Wickahm who is young and injured and Ji Dong-Won who is young and very naive to football in this country.
There is clearly a good player in Bendtner just waiting to get out, but he does not suit Sunderland. He is used to playing alongside better players and you can see that he is one or two moves ahead of certain players in the side. When it doesn't go his way he sulks and comes deep or works the channels to try and move the play forward. Wickham and Ji are both young and need time to bed in. If we didn't have these striking problems, they wouldn't have featured as heavily as they have so far.
Secondly, we are missing the excellent loan additions we had last season. The afore mentioned Danny Welbeck was excellent whilst Nedum Onouhah added defensive stability. John Mensah and Sulley Muntari might not have ripped the league up but they are good players and the depth they provided was invaluable.
As a result of losing all those players we have signed plenty too, and thus continuity has gone out the window. Bruce may not have spent as wisely as he could though this summer. £5m on Craig Gardner?! £8m+ on a player with 'potential' in Wickham - we are crying out for a first-team striker ready to get the goals!
worbo - I usually ask opposing fans if they could choose any Latic player to take who would it be but with your track record under Brucie regarding our players I'm a little nervous! Only joking, if you could take one of ours, who would it be?
Tom - Very true! I would have to say Hugo Rodellega - probably the stock answer to be fair, but he is an excellent player. I can only imagine what he would do in a better side. No offence intended; we're not that far ahead of you!
worbo - When Bruce managed the Latics he liked to play a 4-5-1 formation, usually with Heskey out wide on the left, at times it was very negative but when we had our big name players all together we were very hard to beat, how has he got Sunderland playing and are the fans happy with his style?
Tom - It's a flat 4-4-2 usually, but with Bendtner the senior forward, Stephane Sessegnon usually floats around behind in a free role so it becomes 4-4-1-1. When you throw in Bendtner's tendancy to drift it, annoyingly, becomes 4-6-0. Sort of.
The style is fairly unclear. With Bendtner and Wickham on the books, the temptation is to go long but there are good ball-players on the books in Sebastian Larsson, Jack Colback, Kieran Richardson and Sessegnon. Does it appease the supporters? Not really, but if we string a few wins together and have a decent season I think most detractors would quieten down.
worbo - Who should we look out for in the Sunderland side and what are his strengths?
Tom - Larsson and Sessegnon are both excellent. They love the ball at their feet and Sessegnon in particular causes havoc when he runs at his marker. If we were going to score in the 0-0 draw with Fulham on Saturday, it was going to come through Sessegnon who turned Aaron Hughes inside out on multiple occasions.
Larsson has a brilliant set-play delivery on him but can pass too and utilizes his excellent vision in doing so.
worbo - How do you see your season panning out?
Tom - It's not looking too good to be honest. The squad have not gelled and with continued bad luck in the injury department we're down to the bare bones.
Re-enforcements are needed in January, which is essentially accepting that we are in for another season of transition because a good number of players are needed to get the squad into the position which would see it motor up the league.
After last season, we would have wanted a top-half finish, but I really can't see that happening. There are worse sides than us so I am expecting somewhere between 11th and 16thpersonally. That isn`t good enough for the investment made and Bruce would be going if a manager who could progress the club was available.
worbo - Finally Tom let's get down to business, you might be feeling quite confident of turning round your dreadful form that's seen you plummet down the table and fancy your chances of beating us, but I was quite pleased with our performance against Blackburn last week so I am going for a 1-2 away win, what's your thoughts and prediction?
Tom - I'm not confident at all. Owing to Wigan's poor defence I reckon we will actually run in a goal or two. I cannot see many goals in this - 1-0 to the Black Cats.
Ha'way the lads!
Thanks very much for the chat Tom
There is an interview with yours truly over on Vital Sunderland and can be accessed right here
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Date:Friday November 25 2011
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