Vito Mannone has by far and away been the brightest star in our gritty squad, sending us to Wembley amongst other heroics and I’d be surprised if anyone would contradict that belief. It isn’t the first time Sunderland have relied heavily on the man between the sticks and last season our Premier League survival was almost exclusively secured by now Liverpool number one Simon Mignolet. I was gutted when we lost our Belgian keeper, he was so pivotal to our season, as is Mannone to this season – so who is the better goal keeper?
With Wembley sitting so faintly yet distinctly on the horizon, it's time for the tedious transfer tug of wars and talk of relegation to stop. Just stop. Quite frankly, since Ki Sung-Yeung's immortal winner against Chelsea a month back I've thought of little else than the possibility, however big or small, of wandering down Wembley way in a sea of red and white.
Roberto De Fanti has been axed as Sunderland’s Director of Football in remarkably quick fashion. Rumours were rife as this afternoon grew old and were promptly confirmed by the club’s recent statement that they have ‘parted company’ with the Italian. This move, whilst surely welcomed by most, certainly throws up an awful lot of questions.
After the impressive introduction of a young Duncan Watmore in last week’s F.A. Cup with Budweiser at home to Carlisle, talk immediately began to filter through of how he should now be included in the first team on a regular basis. Of course, that was inevitable, after the former Altrincham forward put in a fantastic cameo performance, which nearly included his first senior goal and injected some much needed energy into a placid home crowd.
Paolo Di Canio is sacked. The preverbial roller coaster ride has abruptly halted as the Sunderland hierarchy feel there is something amiss with its direction. How much of this is down to results and how much of this is down to Di Canio’s relationship with the players will likely be revealed in the coming days – you can’t imagine him keeping schtum like Martin O’Neill.
I have been told to stop questioning the appointment of Paolo Di Canio and that whatever he says should not be criticised. Instead I should back him and help him, but I am unsure what that means. Does it imply just have blind faith and act merely as his apologist? Then and only when the time comes that he may be sacked - am I allowed to be a sheep and mouth him off?
Gus Poyet seems to have learnt something about the Sunderland team since arriving on Wearside. They aren't really that good. And, despite having come from a lower league club, the Uruguayan is seemingly losing patience with the squad. With the transfer window open and survival looking a formidable feat, in recent press conferences the Head Coach stated a desire to make some changes in a squad starting to wear him out. However, after the unfruitful fortunes of a destroy and rebuild strategy last summer, the extent of January's dealings must be monitored.
It always irks me when managers start flapping their gums about signing players from other teams. Neil Lennon doing just that about Steven Fletcher, even going to the extent of throwing out some valuations. Ironically, he goes on to say it is purely speculation and that there has been no contact between the clubs. Anyway, so here we are talking once more about strikers – but would cashing in on Fletcher be a wise decision?
I was out celebrating my step-son’s birthday as the lads were (eventually) battling their way to a point on our very first visit to the Cardiff City Stadium. Checking my Twitter feed for updates I decided it was a lost cause at 2-0 down after around 75mins. A final check getting in the car home brought the surprising news that somehow we had managed to haul ourselves level for a vital point. Very un-Sunderland like this; first passing, now comebacks? What on earth is going on Gus?
After the much welcomed novelty of winning at Goodison Park – in this of all seasons – we head for our first ever league match at the Cardiff City Stadium in good cheer for once. The same can’t be said for the Bluebirds (or is that Red Dragons?). Bonkers, despot leader sacked manager Malky Mackay on Friday in the least surprising managerial axing ever. Scant reward for ending Cardiff’s 50 year plus exile for England’s top division last year. Often when a team change manager there’s a big response from the players due to a sense of relief, being able to draw a line under past performances and move on. You can’t quite see it the same way this time though, with players and fans lining up beside Mackay rather than Bond-esque villain and owner Vincent Tan. So a possible chance to capitalise on a club in chaos perhaps?