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Sunderland
August 7, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 08/07/2012

We have less than 4 weeks to go to attract new firepower to the club in this transfer window, and I do really like the idea of Wolves’ Steven Fletcher joining us, after news of today's improved £12M bid for the Scotsman. He has always done well against Sunderland, he is a proven goalscorer, and he seems to have the right temperament, interacting well with his team-mates

July 24, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 07/24/2012

What is it with Sunderland and strikers these days? And I don’t mean the ones who may hold them up in passport control as they return from the Peace Cup in South Korea.

The love-hate relationship with Asamoah Gyan ended a few days ago, with the club recouping their outlay as he signed for Al-Ain in the UAE. I do feel let down by the guy and his agent, as he was part of one of our most dramatic wins in recent times, the November 2010 3-0 rout of Chelsea.

But former manager Steve Bruce ultimately lost his job by not being able to provide consistent goalscoring in the first team, which along with the Darren Bent saga, resulted in what was a real slump for the team in 10 of the 12 months of 2011.

July 9, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 07/09/2011

Sunderland fans had to endure hard times in February and March when we had a whole team out with injury. In late April we eventually won 4-2 against Wigan without a recognized striker, and as a squad member, if you could walk and had a pulse, you were in the team!

Players like Gordon, Onuoha, Bramble, Turner, Meyler, Cattermole, Richardson, Campbell, Welbeck and Gyan were just not available, and we had a hideous 9-match winless winter run, comprising 8 defeats, which took us from 6th spot on January 22 after winning at Blackpool to the fringe of the relegation zone in mid-April. Then 3 wins out of the last 5 games provided an eventually respectable 10th place finish on 47 points in the Premiership, but the club management planned an internal inquiry to find out:

1. How these winless runs can be stopped (we had a barren15 game run in 2009-10!)
2. Why we had so many injuries
3. How we had such contrasting first and second halves of the season

July 6, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 07/06/2011

The Black Cats must be the busiest club in the country in terms of recent transfers. So far the summer break has provided some dynamic signings by the management team at Sunderland Football Club. Again, we look like a very well-run club, determined to make long-term plans for Premiership progress after a series of decisive moves to bring quality players to Wearside. Signings confirmed so far include:
Sebastian Larsson (26) and Craig Gardner (24) (midfield – Birmingham)
Connor Wickham (18) (striker - Ipswich Town)
Roarie Deacon (18) (striker – Arsenal)
Ji-Dong Won (20) (striker - Chunnam Dragons, S. Korea)
Keiren Westwood (26) (goalkeeper - Coventry City)

February 1, 2011
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 02/01/2011

What is going on across the Tyne? We know that Andy Carroll the footballer has a physical presence and has made an impact this season with 10 goals. But as Fox Soccer pundits said last night, £35M is a lot of money for potential! I suppose one could say that yesterday was all driven by a domino effect known as the Champions League. Chelsea decided that they need Torres to have any chance of winning the trophy this year, and that set off a series of related events, ending up with Newc**tle apparently pushing Carroll out of the door. Soccernet.com and other media reports suggest that he did not want to leave Newcastle. The striker told the Evening Chronicle: I didn't want to leave. Make sure the fans know I didn't want to leave. But the next moment he suddenly became the 8th most expensive striker in history!

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.

July 11, 2010
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 07/11/2010

As emphasised strongly in this SAFC Blog, we need at least one defensive midfielder at Sunderland, to help kill off those games, especially away from home, when we are leading or about to gain a point, and we just need to bore the pants off the opposition. In this context the sale of Lorik Cana was a real loss, even though last season's tactics way from home did not bring out the best in him.

May 5, 2010
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 05/05/2010

So it was a solid if unspectacular performance against the reigning champions on Sunday. As Steve Bruce said, a little craft was missing, that final telling ball to unlock the United defence. We missed players like Andy Reid, who is now having surgery.

Given that we have one away game left this season, versus Wolves on Sunday, it gives a chance to reflect on the season away from the SSOL. The away form was generally unimpressive, but with a few highlights.

I went to an away game at Stoke in the then top league, Division 1, in 1983, where the Lads played really well. We won 1-0 with one stunning piece of attacking play that saw a great move finished by Gary Rowell. The feature of that team was an ability to kill games off, without just “parking the bus”. I use the phrase “parking the bus” to describe a totally defensive performance, like Sunderland at Old Trafford under Ricky Sbragia last season, when they very nearly pulled off a 0-0 draw, rarely crossing the halfway line.

The early-80s back four of Venison, Atkins, Chisholm and Nichol/Munro seemed to be able to just lap up pressure all day. I don’t want to romanticise the 1980s, especially the hairstyles (!) and I was there when we lost 8-0 at Watford in 1982...but with that back four we went 6 games without conceding a goal (see http://www.thestatcat.co.uk/Mseasons/MSG104.asp). The team then had at least one specialised defensive midfielder in the Colin Todd mould.

I have met a few Sunderland managers in my time, Len Ashurst, Jimmy Adamson and Peter Reid, as well as a caretaker who eventually turned the job down in 1984, Dave Merrington. The Black Cats’ manager in 1983-4, Alan Durban was dismissed by the then chairman, Tom Cowie, and in my view unfairly, for playing too defensively, especially away from home. His “mistake” was to sign two defensive midfielders, Paul Bracewell and Mark Proctor. Having said that, when Alan Durban was Stoke manager, they played out a particularly tedious 0-0 draw at Arsenal, and the Welshman was quoted as saying “if you want entertainment, go to a circus”!

The current Sunderland team have a great goalie and back four when they are all fit. The question is now, as mentioned previously, do Sunderland have a true defensive midfielder? I guess the closest we have is Lorik Cana. Jordan Henderson has great energy, but his strength is as a box-to-box player. Cattermole could certainly do the job; when playing away from home we need someone who can just sit in front of the back four to help protect them, and after winning the ball, to then set up counterattacks. If I was Steve Bruce, I would make the signing of that sort of player a priority – he could even make a cheeky bid for Owen Hargreaves…

©Lars J.S. Knutsen

January 27, 2009

It seems that Harry Redknapp can't keep his mouth shut when it comes to talking about other team’s players.

His public pursuit of Sunderland striker, Kenwyne Jones, is an annoyance that new boss, Ricky Sbragia, could do without.

The Tottenham Hotspur manager has not been shy in expressing an interest in the Trinidad & Tobago international, a move that has not been welcomed in 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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