It would be completely rude to overlook Niall Quinn rightfully receiving the freedom of the city. It underlines what has been almost a fairy tale relationship reminiscent of the most heartening of love stories and maybe gives just a tiny bit back to the Irishman we will be forever indebted to. As a player he oozed professionalism and class and as a man he oozed exactly the same.
Carl von Clausewitz once said attack is the best form of defence though that only works in the Premier League if you have a decent back four to start off with. Sadly for most of this campaign we have been sorely lacking in that department. Yesterday’s defensive performance and composure against Manchester City is the type of showing we need to see every week to make sure the unthinkable doesn't happen and we stay up.
With the reign of Gus Poyet well underway, albeit (hopefully) not in its hay day, it would only be customary to review the rabble which he succeeded. Paolo Di Canio’s short yet radical period in charge of Sunderland definitely brought with it massive change – as the Italian promised - in the club's philosophy and how it was ran. Opinion on Di Canio, however, has much divided us fans ever since his name was mentioned in relation to the vacant post all the way back in April. There are ways in which the management aided the club and those which contributed heavily to the current, unsavoury situation…
It would be pretty easy, in the heat of emotion following Sunday’s almost stereotypical Sunderland meltdown, to dismiss Lee Cattermole. The same Cattermole that many of us have lauded this season for perhaps being the one player who was up for this relegation dogfight. Most footballers have their pros and cons – but which outweigh the other?
I think it is about time we dust ourselves down a little and try to shed a little perspective on the aftermath of 2-1. With that in mind, I had a bit of a think about three things which were huge encouragements to me and three things which get the pessimism flowing once more.
One of the key tasks for Guy Poyet is to bring some semblance of stability at Sunderland. His challenge is all the greater with more than a third of the 27-man squad he inherited facing uncertain futures even before his arrival.
Before a ball was kicked this season, Niall Quinn hit the nail on the head when querying whether Paolo Di Canio has the right interpersonal credentials to make Sunderland succeed. “The big question mark is over Di Canio's man-management skills. Will he be able to get the players he has kept to gel with the many new signings he has brought in during the summer? That is a big ask because, make no mistake, the Premier League will punish weaknesses”.
In a recent Sunderland Echo article there was short quote from Paolo di Canio which gives an indication on the financial situation at the club, which determined much of the summer transfer activity and the supposed “revolution”:“We have to be honest, at the end of the transfer market we couldn’t spend any more money and in Borini we were able to loan a player with the characteristics I had asked for”.
Keep your own and your employee’s rallying calls to yourself, I’ve grown weary of such repetitive, meaningless drivel. I am sick of being lauded as part of the best group of fans in the country, like this pretentious accolade would somehow make everything alright. In times gone by this customer (that’s all I feel like these days) would beam with pride when professing his allegiance to the troops in red and white, even the talentless group that took us down with a meagre 15 points. Now I see an unstoppable pandemic starting from the top and ending with the almost exclusively spineless set of players who sheepishly stroll around the pitch. The pride has gone, but I am too tired to be angry.
It was a hunch and as hunches go, I find them rarely come true. After so many decades following Sunderland and seeing, I have no idea, 1,000 plus matches, I should have known better. The belief at the back of my mind was that the team would be enthused with the arrival of a new head coach, raring to go as they had shown under the interim management of Kevin Ball, but even more so. Getting a result at Swansea seemed far from being an impossible task, followed by defeating the Mags and Steve Bruce's Hull. It would be as it were: 'What crisis!'