Pre-season there is always the speculation about what teams are capable of breaking into the top six of the Premier League, of course you get the typical teams of Tottenham, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton but in recent times you will always hear the pundits fancying the Black Cats as an outsider to disrupt the usual top six teams.
Fans over the past may have thought of this statement as preposterous but in recent times it seems that with the players that Sunderland have been able to attract, then European places should be something of a minimal expectation rather than optimism. The shock of the last summer transfer window saw Sunderland bring in the Ghanaian World Cup sensation Asamoah Gyan for a record club transfer fee of 13.2million, previously breaking the club record of 10million paid for Darren Bent.
They also broke the British transfer record for a goalkeeper when they brought Craig Gordon from Hearts for 9million. Just these three players’ shows that there surely was some intent to get to higher and better things by Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce but nothing has materialised. Maybe that’s why Darren Bent left?
Sunderland always seem to be able to pull off some huge victories throughout their league campaign but can never string together a good consistent run, they will always falter against the minnows of the league.
Their biggest scalp off the season was thrashing Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge! That was no fluke, they battered them for the whole 90minutes of the match, and it was an incredible achievement. Although results like this don’t come along very often (in fact basically ever), what will be infuriating for the fans is that they don’t play consistently well, of course they aren’t able to play to that intensity every week but the fans will demand something to the sort of level that allows them to climb up the league rather than playing when they feel like it and finish mid-table, and this year, due to it being one of the closest relegation fights in its history, Sunderland may be dragged down into it if they continue to slip up against the teams below them.
Currently, Sunderland sit in 9th position and only seven points adrift of sixth place and that final European spot. With eight games to go, they have probably left it too late to try and mount a considerable comeback and replace Liverpool in that lucrative place. But in football as we have seen throughout this Premier League Campaign anything can happen, but knowing a typical Sunderland side, they will probably find themselves in 13th place come the end of the season.
It really does not make sense how a team with such strength in depth including over six internationally recognised players, can only manage to either just escape relegation or finish in a mid-table position. Sunderland fans know that they cannot compete financially with the top dogs of Manchester City and Chelsea and won’t be able to attract the world beaters but they have proven that they are able to bring in some exceptional players. You cannot forget that they also have some brilliant young talents through the likes of Jordan Henderson, although it does look like Henderson will be snapped up in the near future by teams like Manchester United who have been more than rumoured to be interested in the young Englishman. With this in mind it does seem unthinkable how they haven’t managed to break into the top ten in the last few years.
Maybe next season will be Sunderland’s year, but this has what has been said for the previous two seasons. There will be only so many years the loyal Black Cat fans will be able to stand, before they call for some urgent chances. Although Niall Quinn – who has been a brilliant chairman since his involvement – will know that chopping and changing a manager will not necessarily mean success, and that a long-term manager will bring stability to the side, there is no doubt that Sunderland are underachieving.