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Sunderland
January 31, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/31/2011

The Black Cats showed their determination to succeed at very the top of English football by making two excellent midfield signings with Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari joining on loan until the summer, and Benin playmaker Stephane Sessegnon arriving from PSG for a reported fee of € 7M, as reported on Soccernet.com. Muntari was a regular for Milan in their amazing treble season under The Special One last year, and will join Ghanain compatriots John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan at the Stadium of Light. The fans will be delighted that such acknowledged international talent has been attracted to the Stadium of Light, and I believe that our league position and the stability at the club have contributed to the increasing credibility of Sunderland as a force to compete at the very top of English football. Ambition is one thing, but having the wherewithal to execute a strategic plan and have the resources to propel the club into European competition is something else.

January 28, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/28/2011

OK, this high-profile return fixture with Chelsea is a really huge game and Steve Bruce, as quoted on SAFC.com, wants the fans to show up in great numbers at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday. But when you are in the top 6 of the best league in the world, every game is huge. And as we have come to understand as the season has progressed, there are no easy games in the Premiership this year. The bar has been raised significantly as each team made really good preparations for this campaign, and now, with all due respect to Wigan, clubs near the bottom have made some excellent signings to avoid the ultimate horror of relegation. Currently there is a www.bottom3 with Wigan, Wolves and West Ham featuring, but the 18th club is just 10 points behind Liverpool in 7th spot, but that will surely change.

January 23, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/23/2011

Sunderland provided the ideal riposte to what was a traumatic week, with a great performance in an end-to-end game at Bloomfield Road. The Black Cats were looking to avenge the only defeat at the SSOL this season, that really weird game dominated by Sunderland, but won 2-0 by the Seasiders thanks to a brace by DJ Campbell; oh, the fascinations of football! The way things ended up on Saturday, an excellent away win by the Lads meant a consolidation of our top 6 position, where we lie 7 points ahead of Newc**tle in 7th spot. The world’s top league is such an unusual Premiership this season, with so many teams beating each other, that only the top 6 have won more games than they have lost, and Sunderland are comfortably in that category with 9 wins and 5 defeats so far. Some of the middling sides have improved, coinciding with slumps of form by traditional top 8 regulars Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa, and no team has been left behind at the bottom of the league..

January 19, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/19/2011

Darren who? Oh, you mean our ex-striker...

I can't believe how well it's gone. If the offer of an extension came up I'd be more than happy to sign it. It's all about the football up here. It's all passion, passion, passion, but the supporters' intensity has never scared me. They are looking at me to get the goals and that is a massive confidence booster. Darren Bent, December 2010.

So money was not a factor in this move, says Darren Bent. Villa is a massive club, he asserts. With Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, there’s a fantastic supply line. It’s just up to me to work on my finishing and try to put the chances away…

One day we might find out the truth behind all this. But for now Sunderland just have to collect the money, and move on. £24M is a lot for player just 3 years off his 30th birthday, and this has been a shock for the fans. It all happened so quickly. Inevitably, we feel let down by someone who scored so many goals for us, but also a person whose career we got back on track.

Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/19/2011

The much anticipated Tyne Wear Derby provided good entertainment in what was a tense battle. Both teams were missing key players, and the home fans were happy to see Andy Carroll absent from the visitors’ line up, given his performace at St. James' in the Oct. 31 clash. Sunderland were without Welbeck and their influential skipper Lee Cattermole. Overall, the home team were sharper in the first half, coming forward well, with Newcastle threatening on the break.

January 17, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/17/2011

The media is full of reports that Darren Bent has handed in a written transfer request, and Steve Bruce has confirmed to ESPNsoccernet that the England striker is talking to Aston Villa. Like many Sunderland fans, I must admit I am stunned, but on reflection this could also be very good business for the Black Cats, if they can secure a replacement during this transfer window. Nobody wants to see a good, even great goalscorer leave the club, but Darren Bent has not had a great season by his standards – he has been struggling for form. He has been missing "easy" chances and did not trouble Steve Harper much on Sunday; he was playing as if he was carrying a burden, and now this news has come out today.

January 16, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/16/2011

One thing that has bugged me a bit over the last couple of months to be honest, is how often Steve Bruce has mentioned the Halloween disaster at St. James’ during TV interviews. We all want to exorcise the ghost of that game which should not still be haunting us after what has been an excellent recovery and turnaround to hit 6th spot in the Premiership, despite the catalogue of injuries suffered by the Lads. So Steve, my advice is forget about that game and its post-traumatic shock, and get on with the real business of overhauling Chelsea, and looking at realising the Black Cat’s somewhat understated ambition of Europa League football next season.

Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/16/2011

So yes, I was there at Roker Park in January 1973 when Sunderland met Notts County in the FA Cup third round, and although they went on to win the competition in legendary fashion, they did not have it all their own way even then. Steve Death played a blinder in the County goal, and the game ended level at 1-1, with Sunderland winning the replay at Meadow Lane 3-1. How we would have liked that outcome looking back on Saturday’s repeat game!

January 8, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/08/2011

Spending so much time in the USA and being so often far away from my home town of Sunderland means that it is real pleasure to take in a live Premiership game featuring the Mackems. To be there at Aston Villa for one of their best performances of the season was really special. So despite the efforts of accidents on the M6 to stop the away supporters getting there on time, we were in our seats in the Doug Ellis stand with the rest of the Red and White Army, eagerly anticipating this game. What became clear early on was the lack of confidence that has been troubling Villa, and this limited the entertainment in a first half of very few incidents, with the home team struggling to string more than 2 passes together. Sunderland probed but despite going close now and then, neither team had any shots on target in the first period.

Posted by Lars Knutsen on 01/08/2011

So football surprises us yet again, which is what makes The Beautiful Game so fascinating. An excellent performance from the Black Cats in an absorbing game; they put their injury woes behind them and put Blackburn and their hard to beat image to the sword. This was a performance of almost total dominance, despite the post match comments from opposition manager Kean, and each of Sunderland’s recognized strikers scored a goal. I wrote in my last blog that we have come to expect at least a goal a game from one of Bent, Welbeck and Gyan, and Bruce needs to ensure a rapid return to form for the strikers ahead of Saturday’s visit of Blackburn Rovers to the Stadium of Light. Well our top-class manager did just that, with the top 3 scorers providing the ecstatic home supporters with excellent goals, even though the first was a little lucky. But I believe you make your own luck, and Welbeck obviously had to shoot to score. Being 2-0 up after 19 minutes after that terrific Darren Bent header meant that there was a cushion, leading to some relaxed football and dominance from Sunderland.

About
Lars Knutsen Lars Knutsen was born in Sunderland of Norwegian parents across the Wear from the SSOL back when shipbuilding not car manufacture was the city’s main industry. His first game was in 1968 and he has followed the Black Cats since then, with great memories of the 1973 FA Cup. He hopes the “yo-yo” days are over and defines supporting a team by whether the result affects your mood (but maybe not in the way portrayed in the book “Fever Pitch”!) so has been cheerful recently. He endured school in Newc**tle, has a Ph.D. in Chemistry, a Professorship at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, and works in the Pharma industry as a consultant Medicinal Chemist.

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