The prophets of doom are out there – remember that old quote “be a pessimist and you will never be disappointed.” So I did get some negative comments to my last post from the “Bruce out” contingent – suggesting that some of the players were “cast-offs”. Well, we reached the League Cup final in 1984/5 with almost an entire team of cast-offs, and I’d rather take cast-offs from Man. Utd., though than from, say, Wigan. One anonymous punter has commented: “The players Bruce has bought are rubbish, in my opinion. He could use the money to get 1 or 2 top players who will actually improve the team. Right now, the team looks stagnant”.
The truth is that we don’t know until August 13th whether the team will gel. The fact is that the bar has been raised so dramatically in the Premiership that all teams, even those finishing on around 40 points, have some very good players. We saw just that in 2010, the first part of last season - that nobody was safe; all the teams were beating each other. Arsenal kept being outsmarted by “lesser” teams, as did Man. City and Liverpool, and Birmingham won the League Cup. Man. Utd. won only 5 times away from home all season.
So signing the better players even from relegated teams is not a disaster in my humble opinion. I do have some concerns though – Titus Bramble and Michael Turner were both injured for the latter part of the season and the friendlies give them a chance to re-establish that defensive dominance we saw up to December last year. John O’Shea has gone back to England for treatment so in reality, we have only one defensive reinforcement at present in the shape of Wes Brown.
Where will the goals come from next season? I predict that with improved service and a season in the Prem. behind him, that Gyan will hit 20 goals. We will also score goals from midfield, with Sessegnon, Gardner, Vaughan, Richardson and Larsson all chipping in. But will we be able to rely on young guns like Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won to hit the target regularly? The pre-season looks good already for Sessegnon and "goal-machine" Phil Bardsley…but who are our natural wide players?
Will we sign any further players? We will obviously need to lighten our load in terms of wages before that happens. Soccernet reports that Sunderland boss Steve Bruce says he will not be overly disappointed if he is unable to capture any more transfer targets before the window closes. He has brought in 10 new faces to the Stadium of Light this summer, including former Manchester United duo John O'Shea and Wes Brown.
Bruce told BBC Radio Newcastle: "You can never say never, we'll keep trying and we'll keep plugging away. But I'm very, very pleased - I'm delighted with what we've done."
The Black Cats started their pre-season campaign on Wednesday with a 2-1 win over York City at Bootham Crescent, Phil Bardsley and Oumare Tounkara scoring first-half goals for the visitors - Jamie Reed grabbing a second-half penalty for York.
And having already landed two players from his former club, Bruce is now hoping to make Darron Gibson the third player to arrive from Manchester United, while Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia has also been linked with a move to the Stadium of Light. "A manager's job is always to keep knocking on the door - that's my job," he continued. We've bought in something like eight or nine players which is a huge amount and my job is to keep asking for more - believe me I'll do it. There's still a bit to go [until the transfer window closes] and it's important because there's still 3 or 4 players that need to go out as well and we'll see what happens after that."
So once the SSOL revolving door turns a couple more times I would be looking for an experienced striker to join the club, perhaps on loan. And No, it will not be Kevin Phillips, he has just been snapped up by Blackpool...
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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