Sunderland AFC – What’s the plan and where’s the dough?
Finally down and out at the end of last season Sunderland have started the 2017/18 season in the poorest of manners. Nearly halfway through the league campaign sees them reside in the bottom 3 staring a second straight relegation and trips to Walsall & Oldham a frightening reality.
The Stadium of Light is fast becoming The Stadium of Plight, No wins at home for almost a full calendar year, they have only led in a match at The Stadium of Light for three minutes since their last win here.
The parachute payments have begun and much like years of Premier League cash most of us are left scratching our heads wondering just where all those millions have gone?!
Nearly £140m in debt and owner Ellis Short has cut off the financial supply chain. Sunderland are still paying the price for the shocking mismanagement that has been allowed to continue for years.
You only have to look at recent seasons and you’ll see that there will be very little in terms of funds made available. The Black Cats generally spend what they recoup but with years of the insane Premier League money behind them it’s hard to fathom just where the £100’s Millions are going year on year.
Sunderland were reported to have the 14th highest wage bill in EUROPE! What?!? One thing is for sure and that is that they have very little in terms of saleable assets to provide funds for a January spree.
The last 3 seasons has seen 15 players arrive for a fee be it a high of £13.6M for Didier N’Dong (nope we hardly remember him either) or a minimal £250k paid for Aiden McGeady. A total transfer outgoing of £75.6M, the equivalent of a Romelu Lukaku
In the same time span they have seen 12 players depart providing an income of £76.5M
They have somehow brought in more than they have spent?!?
The squad doesn’t make for pleasant viewing or provide any neutral with grounds to argue that they are contenders for a playoff spot never mind an automatic return to the top flight.
Littered with cast offs and players who had lost their way years ago, Players who quite simply are stealing a living. Disgraceful.
Just to give you an idea the reported combined salaries for Billy Jones, Bryan Oviedo and back up goalkeeper Mika are costing the Wearsiders £92k per week
They are a club that has fallen foul of modern football, it became all about the money and not the 90mins on the pitch. It doesn’t matter how…just stay in the top flight. The succumbed and now are in a whole new world of pain.
Simon Grayson is a proven manager at Championship level and even he was powerless to turn around the fortunes of this frustrating club. Chris Coleman shocked many by walking away from Wales for one of the most unappealing jobs in British football, you can only assume that he sees himself as some sort of messiah that can become a managerial legend if he turns this all around. He’s picked up his 1st 3 points with a win over fellow struggles Burton so he’s at least off the mark.
The side from Wearside need a complete club overhaul to have any chance of returning to the Premier League anytime in the near future. In their current state you have to envisage a mid-table Championship season is the best they can hope for.
We all know the North East of England is a hot bed for football, the fans are extremely passionate with generally very little return from their heroes on the pitch. Big rivals Newcastle were able to bounce straight back but unless Coleman can work miracles we wouldn’t be expecting Sunderland to follow suit.
The fans deserve better than what they’ve had to endure that’s for sure.
Andy Robertson – From Amateur to Anfield
Another 3 points gained under the Anfield lights on Saturday evening and another outstanding performance from one of Liverpool’s star men. Nope we’re not talking about Salah, Mane Mane or Bobby Firmino because it’s all about Robbo, Andy Robertson.
The left back who has made the position his own and is quite rightly receiving the plaudits he deserves.
Just 5 years ago Andy Robertson was playing for Scottish 3rd Division side Queens Park, a club in which he signed for after having been released by Celtic for being too small earlier in his career.
His move to Dundee United saw him instantly catch the eye of many north of the border. A renewed contract was agreed within just weeks of his debut and was followed with being PFA’s “Scotland Young Player of the Year” and a subsequent place in the PFA “Scotland Team of the Year” for the 2013-14 Scottish Premiership season.
All of this convinced Hull City to swoop with a near £3m bid to get their man, United accepted and the left back was on his way to the EPL.
3 seasons with Hull under the stewardship of former Man Utd stalwart Steve Bruce allowed him to gain what is deemed acceptable experience in England and it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature.
An absolute bargain at a reported £8m and his dream debut season is showing no signs of slowing down.
He has even earned the approval of Kop legend Stevie G. He told BT Sport: “He’s done terrifically well since coming in and the fans have taken to him. It’s not just about Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres, the top players that come, the fans love someone who gives 100 per cent.”
“He’s come in and he’s a very humble kid and gives it his all every game. To be fair to the kid. He’s been excellent.”
His lung bursting closing down run vs Man City made him a social media sensation but for those who have watched him for the past few years this was nothing out of the ordinary.
International recognition has obviously come his way and with 20 caps already under his belt, his partnership with Kieran Tierney gives The Tartan Army a strong looking left side for years to come.
He’s has never given up and has taken every chance that has come his way.
One of the signings of the 2017/18 season has undoubtedly been Liverpool’s Number 26.
Nick Pope – From League Two to Russia as Englands most in form keeper?
Some pretty daft things are said in the wake of a team winning promotion. Players who, in the depths of winter, you were berating for not being able to pass a ball two yards are suddenly going to be providing the names of your first born. You claim that you believed in the team all along, when in reality, after a home defeat by Dagenham & Redbridge, you had sworn never to go again. Most stupidly of all however, you claim that your young loanee goalkeeper will go to the next World Cup. Or at least that’s what I did after Bury’s promotion on the last day of the 2014/15 season. While little Thomas Daniel has yet to show his face, the latter statement may actually come true as Gareth Southgate takes a look at Burnley’s Nick Pope in his latest England squad.
Nick joined Bury in January 2015, on loan from Charlton Athletic. Our promotion campaign wasn’t running particularly smoothly. The day before Pope’s debut we sat 9th in League Two, two points outside the play off places and nine points off the automatic promotion places. We’d lost nine games, shipped as many goals as Tranmere, who went on to be relegated and the aforementioned Dagenham & Redbridge had managed to do the double over us as they fought at the wrong end of the table. Three goalkeepers had already worn the ‘keeper’s jersey before Pope. Shwan Jalal, Rob Lainton and Scott Loach had tried and failed to provide the solid goalkeeper David Flitcroft was looking for.
Pope’s debut was a pretty forgettable home draw against Wycombe Wanderers. He conceded a goal, which was to be rarity during Nick’s time with Bury. In the following 21 games, Pope conceded only nine goals, won fifteen games and lost only four. Pope exuded a calmness rarely sighted in the fourth tier of English football, instilling a new confidence in a defence which had underperformed for most the season. Come the final day of the season, Bury needed to win to be promoted. Away at Tranmere, who had already been relegated, the nerves showed. Pope was called upon to make crucial saves to keep the scores level. In the 61st minute however, Tom Soares wrote himself into Bury folklore and at the end of game, Bury found themselves in League One.
The following season, Pope was back with parent club Charlton. He began and ended the season as Charlton’s first choice goalkeeper, not playing all the games as Charlton preferred Stephen Henderson through the middle part of the season. This season was to be one of disappointment however, as Charlton were relegated to League One. Rather than drop down to League One with Charlton, Pope’s career took a different path. The winners of the Championship, Burnley, decided to take Nick onto the Premier League, signing him on a three year deal in July 2016. Pope played only cup matches in his first season with the Clarets. Even when Tom Heaton missed Premier League matches, 37 year old former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson was the preferred option.
With Robinson retiring in July of 2017 and a further injury to Tom Heaton opening the door, the 2017/18 season has seen Pope grasp his opportunity with both hands. To date Pope has kept ten clean sheets in twenty seven Premier League appearances, working behind a defence containing fellow England hopefuls James Tarkowski and Ben Mee.
Could Pope go from League Two to a World Cup in three years? Despite being arguably England’s most in-form goalkeeper heading into the tournament the chances are probably slim. Without any injuries, Gareth Southgate will take Joe Hart, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford. Despite being woefully out of form, going into a tournament without Joe Hart would be seen as a mistake by most, given his experience, even if he is just there to lend a helping hand to the number one. Butland doesn’t seem to be losing any favour from being embroiled in Stoke’s relegation battle while Pickford could claim to be Everton’s best player of this season. However one mistake, a loss of form or injury could see Pope take the place of any of these three.
Back at Bury, nearly three years have passed since that rainy day promotion at Tranmere and we have never properly replaced Nick Pope. Since that day twelve (!) different goalkeepers have been used, seven during the 2015/16 season alone. As we head towards relegation back to League Two, the summer would be that little bit more bearable knowing that an ex – Shaker was on the biggest stage of them all. All the best Nick, lad. UTS.
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