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NEW KEEPER PLEASE…
VITO ISSUES GOODBYE MESSAGE

Simon Grayson is stepping up his search for a new keeper after selling Vito Mannone to Reading for £2m. Before departing Mannone issued the following emotional tribute to SAFC fans: "I want to start from that special night. The roar coming from the stands when I saved that penalty at Old Trafford still give me goosebumps - the chant "Oh Vito Mannone" will never leave my head and heart. You fans just gave me the night that as a kid I always dreamed for, on top of that the final at Wembley, the great escapes against all odds beating massive clubs, the many derby wins, the chance to have met that little special angel Bradley Lowery and the amazing bond with you fans that no matter what you always been there for me and supported me. I will always be grateful of that, it has been an incredible journey, full of highs and lows, full of people who supported me and people that wanted to get rid of me at all costs but I fought through and that made me just stronger and made me a man. I have learned so much in the past four years and lived some of the best moments with my wife and my family up in the North East so these memories will be with me forever. Remember Sunderland fans despite last year and the low that you are living now, you have to look forward. You are the real force of the club and only with your help Sunderland will bounce back where it belongs. I want to thank all the people and friends I have met along the way from the team mates, coaching staff, medical and fitness departments, cleaners, kitchen staff, media guys, kit men, you guys at the offices and everyone that work or worked at the club. You made me feel at home and I felt you were part of my family. You fans will always be in my heart as you made me give 100 per cent anytime I was wearing a Sunderland shirt and ultimately enjoy the game I love the most. Now I am sad I close one chapter at Sunderland but so exited to open a new one with my family at Reading with the hope to fulfil even more dreams and live many more special moments in my new adventure. I will give my all as usual. Good luck to the boys and to all the people related to Sunderland #hawaythelads see you soon."

Former Sunderland manager, Sam Allardyce, has been chatting about his nightmare two months in charge of England and getting busted and subsequently sacked by the FA. These events ultimately paved the way to our relegation. Allardyce said: “There’s not a day goes by you don’t regret it. I got caught up in the sting and the reaction was something that you couldn’t imagine. But when everything calmed down and the family and I reflected, looked at the trauma of it, this was all about corruption and there was no way I was involved in or was seen to be involved in any kind of corruption, let’s get that clear. The conversation went to third party ownership and third-party ownership was verified by the FA and by the Houses of Parliament as not breaking the rules. Then it went to a criminal investigation; can you imagine that!? I’m thinking ‘what have I done?’ I’ve gone to try and help someone I’ve known for a very long time and it’s turned in to all this trauma and turmoil, but I didn’t break any third party rules. Scott (the agent) was really down on his luck and I felt sorry for him, which is why I agreed to the meeting. I was daft and I shouldn’t have entered into the conversations that I entered into which I thought were private. I’m embarrassed about the things that I said and I am deeply regretful about that.”

Allardyce continued: “I do feel the FA were too quick in deciding to dismiss me. They could have given a little time and patience to find out exactly what went on. It’s very difficult for them. I understand that, and I understand it was my fault that I went to these meetings. But I think the decision coming the day after was something that really shocked me. I was in shock for two or three weeks just trying to get my head around what happened. I was in a daze, I was staring into the abyss. And of course, the good thing is when you’ve got your partner next to you to help you through these situations then you have to come out of it at the other end. You have to get over it and as disappointing and as devastating as it was for me – I am bitterly disappointed that I am not the manager of England – but I have recovered from that. I’ve moved on and everybody’s seen that I have moved on by taking a very good position at Crystal Palace. I am very grateful to Crystal Palace – hugely, hugely grateful. Because Crystal Palace was one of the things I felt I had to do to overcome the depression and the disappointment that I had suffered in the short spell I had with England. I had to get back to work and I had to get my teeth into another position to get over and move on, move forward, and life is very good at the moment.”

Finally, Tickets are on sale for the first game of the season against Derby County, with prices for junior (under 16) seats for the game only £10. Adult tickets are available from £25, seats for supporters over 65 are £19 and under 22s can buy a ticket for £16. Simon Grayson said: “You always want a home game to start the season with and this is a great one to kick off with. We have been working hard to ensure that we are fully prepared and now we just can’t wait to get started.  My first competitive game in charge will be a special occasion for me personally and we’ll be doing everything we can to get off to a winning start.”

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late, late win...
vito to reading for £2m

Sunderland narrowly squeezed past Hartlepool on Tuesday night in a hard-fought game at Victoria Park. Josh Maja scored from the spot before the break and Ryan Donaldson levelled for Hartlepool on the hour mark. But Jeremain Lens grabbed the winner in the final minute with a free kick making it 2-1 to Sunderland.

Afterwards, Simon Grayson praised youngsters Joel Asoro and Josh Maja. “Every time you lose a game a manager questions certain aspects of the team,” he said. “You want to see a reaction and yesterday we worked on certain aspects that I want to see from the team and I think we saw that tonight. We were good without the ball, we worked and pressed them and we worked a lot harder with our shape. There are things with the ball we could do better but that will come. Winning games breeds confidence and I thought we did ok. At the top end of the pitch we could’ve been a little bit more patient with the ball. I thought overall the team ethic and the work rate that was questioned at the weekend (was much better) and I think we saw that tonight. Joel and Josh are doing ever so well because they have got that youthful exuberance and willingness to run around. When they get the ball they are talented players so they have both got a chance.”

Grayson also singled out Ty Browning, who looked solid at centre half. “I know centre back is his strongest position,” said Grayson. “At Preston, he predominantly played at right-back but I thought he did well tonight, showing strength, power and calmness on the ball. It was nice for him to get 60 minutes and we’re building up the fitness. A few of the lads got 90 minutes under their belts but one or two players had a couple of niggles, so we’ll see how they are for the weekend.”

Sunderland: Stryjek, Jones (Love 59), Matthews (Djilobodji 70), Browning (O’Shea 59), Kone, Gibson, Cattermole, Honeyman (Ndong 70), Maja, Asoro (Lens 59), Vaughan (Khazri 70).
Subs unused: Mika.
Attendance: 4,728

In other news Sunderland have accepted a £2million bid from Reading for Vito Mannone. That leaves us with only Mika and Max Stryjek available and makes it essential that we bring in another keeper ASAP. "We’ve agreed a fee with Reading," explained Grayson. "The player is going into the last year of his contract and when a suitable offers comes in you have to consider it. We’ve made it clear to Vito it was up to him what he wanted to do, he felt for his long-term security it was probably best to go. I know he’s discussing personal terms and potentially having a medical. With any player, when they go into the last year of their contract, you’ve got to consider it. We’ll see where it goes, if it falls through for any reason Vito will be welcomed back. It was put into his hands what he wanted to do and he made the decision that he wanted to go."

Elsewhere, Josh Maja, who has impressed during preseason, is setting his sights on a run in the first team this season. He explained: “The next three preseason games are really important for me as a player because I want to try and make my mark so I’m in the side – or on the bench – against Derby County. Hopefully I can stay in the squad and keep impressing the manager, and if I do that I’ll hopefully get my opportunity and take it this season. It was another tough game but the lads worked hard and grafted for the win. I’ve been working hard in training, listening to the players and coaches who have helped me get through the sessions and the games, and that’s helping me improve as a player. I think I’ve done really well because I’ve dealt with the physical side of the game as well as the technical side, but I have to keep pushing and make sure I maintain that standard. We [myself and the other youngsters] are just trying to improve as players.”

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MCGEADY SET FOR POOLS FRIENDLY
CATTS/GALLOWAY/VAUGHAN

Aiden McGeady is set to make his Sunderland debut at Hartlepool United tonight. Simon Grayosn said: “Aiden’s a little bit behind the schedule so he stayed down [when we played St Johnstone] and did a double session, as well as training the day of the game. He’s been training at Everton and we’ll wait on the results of how fit he is in terms of whether we use him on Tuesday, but it shows when you have a little bit of bit hunger, desire and pace in the side you can become a different team.”

In other news, Lee Cattermole reckons he was considering retirement after his injury hell during the last few seasons, but after his intensive rehab feels much more comfortable playing and is looking forward to the season ahead. Cattermole said: “I felt I was just getting going the last week of the season, we didn’t finish strong but I felt my performances myself were alright and I was getting somewhere. For a couple of years now I’ve not really had much of a pre-season, I just want to get through and get it under my belt, it’ll stand me in good stead. I reckon I’ve had problems going back probably four or five years, coming and going. When it came on last season I was worried, I honestly thought I’ve got some problems here, it has become too much. The last three or four years, the back end of the season, you don’t worry, there’s some many big games, the adrenaline is flying, you get through. I went to America and it turned out to be serious. Since there I’ve noticed a massive difference, in myself as much as anything. At home, you don’t realise how much it affects you, you just keep battling on. You got to bed thinking, am I going to be alright in the morning, then sometimes you’re not and sometimes you are, it is a weird experience to be honest. I’m just glad to be out the other side of it, it is a new challenge. Everyone wants to be fit when the new manager comes in,” he added.

Meanwhile, Brendan Galloway is hoping to get some serous game time under his belt at Sunderland after a nightmare loan spell at West Brom, where he made just three Premier League appearances. It also turns out that he turned down Newcastle, so that will count in his favour when getting the fans on his side! He explained: “There was a chance I could have gone to Newcastle last summer, but now I prefer Sunderland anyway! Originally, I was a centre-back but I have learned how to play left back, I have a lot of experience there and hopefully it puts me in good shape that I can play both, at the moment I am just happy to be on the pitch giving my all. I feel good, I feel strong, happy to be part of the team and I think the team is working as hard as it can. The manager is putting us through our paces as we gear up towards the season.”

In other news, it seems that Jermain Defoe is one of the favourites to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award following his friendship with the late Bradley Lowery.

Elsewhere, James Vaughan is loving our fans already after his debut last weekend and seems well up for the battle ahead. “It was fantastic [to get that reaction from the fans at St Johnston] and since I’ve signed they’ve been unbelievable with me. I knew it was a big club anyway but since I’ve arrived the reception has been fantastic like I said and it’s given me that extra 10% to do it better for them and give them what they deserve. There’s a lot to work with within the squad and the hard work starts now. There’s some quality players and I don’t feel like Sunderland is a Championship club, but we have to put the work and the graft in to get back into the Premier League. The manager has shown faith in me before and now he has again I’m just grateful for the opportunity, so I’m going to get my head down and work as hard as I can to help the team. I hadn’t trained with the team before I played a game so it’ll be good to get some training in ahead of the game against Hartlepool United.”

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MY FAVOURITE SAFC TEAM
BY ADAM GILL

In this series, we ask fans to name their favourite eleven Sunderland players, they are not necessarily the best players…

GK: JORDAN PICKFORD
Even though Sunderland have had some awful players over the years, the goalkeepers have been of good standard. Players like Craig Gordon and Simon Mignolet have been just some of the top keepers to play for Sunderland in my time, however Pickford comes out on top. An academy product, Pickford really showed his worth over the course of tlast season, and it is no surprise to have seen him seal a £30 million move to Everton. Gifted, with world class distribution, any target man would love to play in a team with Pickford in goal. His reflexes and shot stopping also made him a brick wall to get past, despite our crap defence, which explains his price tag and the interest from top clubs. I’m sure no doubt that Pickford has the potential to become a world class keeper in the future and one of the Premier League’s best.

RB: PHIL BARDSLEY
Phil Bardsley may have not been one the best players to play for Sunderland, but he was certainly a big character for the squad. He was a very influential player in Sunderland’s relegation battles, and often popped up with a goal or two. With a very good long strike, most of Bardsley’s Sunderland goals came from outside the box, one of which he scored in the Capital Cup semi-final against Man United, which despite being scuffed was super important.

CB: WES BROWN
A Champions’ League winning defender with Man United, Brown’s experience was a crucial factor in Sunderland’s squad. He formed a partnership with John O’Shea, which really helped Sunderland in their efforts to stay in the Premier League. His awareness and strong tackling made him a dominant figure throughout the team. Liked by many Sunderland fans, the best thing about Brown was the song that was sung about him.

CB: YOUNES KABOUL
If only Kaboul stayed at Sunderland, then maybe the club wouldn’t have got relegated to the Championship. Signed from Tottenham, Kaboul quickly adapted to life at Sunderland and proved to be a stand-out performer under Sam Allardyce. In the second half of the season, the signing of Lamine Kone turned out to be a good one as the centre back partnership between the two was one of the best heading towards the final games of the season. Kaboul will be remembered for his Pirlo-esque cross to assist Steven Fletcher in a 3-0 win over Newcastle.

LB: DANNY ROSE
A loanee from Tottenham, Danny Rose proved to be a very good signing and established himself quickly in the Sunderland side. A quick, strong full back that got up and down the wing, Danny Rose was a crucial part of Sunderland’s team under Paulo Di Canio, but went on to bigger and better things with Spurs.

CDM: LEE CATTERMOLE
If you ever need someone to slice in half a Newcastle player, Lee Cattermole is the man to do so. An aggressive player, and well known for getting a red card now and then, Cattermole has all the capabilities of a defensive midfielder. His presence, experience and leadership in the heart of midfield has been seen as a positive factor over the years for Sunderland. His passion for the game has a big part in his relationship with the fans, who see him as a crucial figure in the squad, when he’s not injured, or suspended.

CM: YANN M’VILA
Another loan signing, from Rubin Kazan, M’vila was an important part of Sunderland’s fight for survival. A very good passer of the ball, M’vila thrived under Allardyce and was liked by most fans at Sunderland. His work rate and attitude were two traits that he possessed, which he carried on to the rest of the team. Another loan signing that most fans would have wanted to see make a permanent move to the Stadium of Light, M’vila will be missed by most after playing such a huge role in Premier League survival.

CM: DIDIER N’DONG
A club record signing for £13.6 million from Lorient, Didier N’dong was, eventually, one of Sunderland’s best players during a very bad season. N’dong’s energy and tackling made him one of the few decent performers in Sunderland’s torrid season. His work rate is undoubtedly the best in the Sunderland squad which he brings to the team every game we play.

CAM: WAHBI KHAZRI
An attacking midfielder who mostly played left wing under Sam Allardyce, Wahbi Khazri was a crucial player in Sunderland’s survival in the 2015-16 season. His creativity and linking of play were his best capabilities which were shown when he played. Obviously, Moyes ignored him

ST: JERMAIN DEFOE
I don’t know how we got Defoe for Altidore but it was a very good piece of business. A clinical striker, called by some the best finisher in the Premier League, Defoe saved Sunderland from the drop two seasons in a row, but even his goals couldn’t help us last year. His intelligent runs and eye for goal made him the best striker that Sunderland have had in recent years.

ST: KENWYNE JONES
A physical striker who was good in the air, Jones was one my favourite strikers. His aerial prowess was thought of as once the best in the league, even if his work rate was poor. However, Jones scored 26 goals for Sunderland, making him the club’s 5th highest Premier League goal scorer.

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GRAYSON ANGRY
SAFC LOSE 3-0

Simon Grayson was not at all happy to see his side lose 3-0 to St Johnstone  on Saturday afternoon. He said: "There’s certain players that are buying into the ideas and certain players that aren’t. If players are not willing to work hard for this shirt they can go somewhere else. I’m not prepared to work with players who aren't prepared to run and do the basics that millions would give their right arm to do. We have to address it and we will address it. I was disappointed because it has been coming a little bit anyway. If you look at the Bury game, we were too easy to play against when we were 2-0 down and it could have been 3-0. And then today, if you give good opposition chances then they are going to take them. No disrespect to St Johnstone but they wouldn’t be in the top half of the Championship, and if teams in the top half of the Championship get opportunities like St Johnstone got then it is going to be a tough season for us. The only excuse I would make for the players is that they have had a tough week already but ultimately they have to do better without the ball. We were playing better opposition and for the first 15 minutes we played well, we won the penalty and Vaughany was brave enough to take it. We had some other opportunities in and around it, but it was the other side of the game that was disappointing. It’s no surprise that when the young kids come on, they run around, they show desire to run forward and back, to do everything that is required to make a successful team. The three biggest cheers from the crowd were when James Vaughan won two headers and then chased down a centre-half who put the ball out of play. That’s what the rest of the team have to do, and if they are not prepared to do that, they won’t be here. It was a little bit about concentration, but also desire and hunger," he added. "That’s what it’s all about. All the best teams have the desire to run about, to run forward, to run back, to chase, to put their bodies on the line, and that’s how we will be. We’ve only been working for two weeks and I am still getting some points across, but we will certainly be working hard in the next three weeks to get it right."

James Vaughan may have missed a penalty in the 3-0 defeat in Perth, but he was still pretty upbeat afterwards. “At the end of the day pre-season’s about fitness but I’m not going to get into a habit of missing goals and chances – that’s not what strikers do. On Saturday, they didn’t go in but I’m going to keep working as hard as I can, getting into positions and the goals will come," Vaughan said. “It’s been a real whirlwind few days. I haven’t trained with the team, I missed a pen, sung a song and played a game. But it’ll be good next week to train and get to know the lads. The hard work starts then.  The age I’m at, sometimes you see people drop down (a division) and don’t come back but I was very determined to show what I’m about. I believe I’m good enough to be here. The gaffer’s shown tremendous faith in bringing me here and I just want to repay him and the fans for the support they’ve shown me. I’m chomping at the bit. This opportunity for me is fantastic. I do believe I’m good enough to be here but I need to show that to the fans and the manager. I’ll just keep working hard and hopefully that’s enough. I’m going to be there regardless – missing them, scoring them, I’ll be there. All you need to know is I’ll be trying. I’ll get on the end of a few (chances) and the goals will come. I played the most games I played in a season last year and touch wood I’m feeling even better than that this year. I’m ready to knuckle down and get going again. I’m definitely wiser but it’s in my nature to put myself on the line and throw my body around. I’m going to get knocks but at the end of the day as long as I manage myself and get into the positions hopefully my style of play will benefit the team. To be honest, I expect it [promotion]. You look in that changing room and there’s some players there that shouldn’t be in the Championship. We’ve just got to show the work ethic that everybody deserves. If we do that, I’m sure we’ll be at the top of the division.”

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NEW PLAYERS LOVE IN…
BROWNING BROWN NOSES

New boy Tyias Browning reckons that Simon Grayson is the main reason he came to Sunderland He said: “Sunderland was ideal to me, I knew Brendan (Galloway) was coming here, I knew the gaffer, so it was an easy decision. It’s a big club and a Premier League club in terms of the facilities and the fans. We just need to get it back where it belongs. The gaffer is a good man-manager. A few of the lads have asked me as well as Brendan ‘what’s he like?’ I found him and Glynn Snodin easy to work with. They just expect 100 per cent from you when it comes to game time and work time, then enjoy yourself the rest of the time,” he added. “I’d say he is definitely capable of giving everywhere a lift if it is needed. Obviously, I didn’t experience what it was like last season, I’m not sure of what the vibes are like, but it seems quite a good vibe here at the minute. I am just excited to be here and to get started.”

Meanwhile, Simon Grayson reckons that Aiden McGeady will set the Championship alight, like he did under him last season at Preston. “Aiden’s career speaks volumes,” said Grayson. “He’s been an exceptional player and we managed to get him going again last year at Preston where he was an outstanding performer. He was recognised by the league with Player of the Month awards and he already knows a few of the lads from his Everton days. He has the pace to take people on and carry us up the pitch, and he’ll excite the supporters. Hopefully [he’s a player who will thrive playing at the SoL] because he’s done it at Celtic, Moscow and Everton in front of big crowds. He’s one of the most gifted players I’ve worked with and hopefully he can carry on the form he showed last year and show everyone what he can do.”

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AIDEN MCGEADY & JAMES VAUGHAN IN…
GRAYSON WELCOMES THEM

We have completed the signings of winger Aiden McGeady from Everton and striker James Vaughan from Bury. It seems that McGeady has cost just £250,000 with Vaughan costing an initial £500,000, which is pretty amazing bargain basement shopping. Simon Grayson said: “Aiden’s career speaks volumes. He’s been an exceptional player and was an outstanding performer at Preston last season. He was recognised by the league with Player of the Month awards and he already knows a few of the lads from his Everton days. He has the pace to take people on and carry us up the pitch, and he’ll excite the supporters. James Vaughan has good experience and he scored a lot of goals last year. He’s a player who will come into the squad and give us something different because I think we were missing a striker with a physical presence – and he certainly brings that attribute. He’s mobile, he knows where the goal is and he fits in with the ethos that we’re trying to bring to Sunderland."

McGeady reckons that Simon Grayson was the main reason he came to Sunderland. “He was probably the biggest pull for me. A club like Sunderland is difficult to turn down but, at this stage in my career, I had to choose my next move carefully. And with Simon Grayson coming to Sunderland, and having worked under him last year at Preston he got the best out of me - probably the best I have played in a few years - the two factors together meant I couldn’t turn it down. I’ve only worked with him for a short period of time but I suppose last year I felt that he took the shackles off me and allowed me to play freely. He gave me the confidence to just go and play and not care about giving the ball away. I wasn’t scared to try things, and that probably brought the best out of me. I think the way that I play is a little bit off the cuff. I’m a creative player and I like to excite, as well. I like to set up goals and generally work as hard as I can. I’m delighted. I’m just relieved now it has happened because it has been in the pipeline for a couple of weeks, and there have been negotiations as we have tried to get it over the line. But I am delighted to come and play for a very big club with a very passionate support. I have played here a couple of times and I know from first-hand experience how big a club it is and how much the fans want to get back to the Premier League. It’s a Premier League club and it probably doesn’t deserve to be in the Championship but the way things went last year, you just have to get on with it. My aim and the manager’s aim and that of every player here is to try and get the club back to the Premier League where it belongs. Obviously I know a few of the lads - Sheasy from being involved with Ireland for quite a few years, I was with Gibbo at Everton, Brendan and Tyias as well - so it’s good to come into a dressing room where you know a few players and that will be helpful for me. I just want to get started. I suppose when you join a new club it is a bit like your first day at school again. You’re a little bit apprehensive walking into the canteen because you hardly know anyone - although I suppose I do know a few players here. I want to get started and settle in, and start playing football and enjoying it. I want to hit the ground running, this is my new club and I want to make an impression straightaway. The Celtic game will  be interesting. I grew up a Celtic fan, had a lot of good times there and left on good terms. I played against Celtic a couple of times in the Champions League when I was in Russia, got a decent reception. But that’s not paramount for me at the moment. The main thing for me is playing for Sunderland and doing well for Sunderland. It’ll be great. I just want to get started, show everyone what I can do, and repay the faith that the manager has shown in me.”

In other news, James Vaughan is set to make his debut for us against St Johnstone and can’t wait to get going. "Hopefully I can ruffle a few feathers, put myself about and get some goals. I am striker - I always want to play as many games as I can and help the lads win, if I can score a few goals as well, that's the main thing. You see how passionate the fans are here and I am sure the type of player that I am the fans will take to me. I am delighted. it has all come about pretty quickly but as soon as I heard about the interest I knew this was where I wanted to play my football. The gaffer took me to Huddersfield and I enjoyed my time with him there. As soon as I found out about his interest here I couldn't wait to get the ball rolling. He is a great man manager. He wants you to play to your strengths and can get the best out of you. When I played against them (for Bury last week) I noticed how good some of the players were. It looked like the type of team you want to be a part of. I am really excited by the challenge of trying to get in the team. It's a big ask (promotion). The Championship is tough. From what I have seen of the players I am sure we can put up a challenge and we can be right up the top end of the league. I am really positive about it (Sunderland's chances). I am sure when the team gets the chance to gel together I am sure it will be a very good squad."

Meanwhile, Simon Grayson has been setting out some of the main differences between Premier League and Championship styles of football “What you’ve got here is players who have probably played 90% of their games in the Premiership, and it is a different game there, it is a bit slower. You look at Sunderland last year, they probably spent most of their time without possession, so without it they’re sort of just slotting into holes and gaps to stop the opposition,” he said. “This year I don’t want to play like that, I want to show we’ve got mobile players who will get up against people, win individual battles and second balls, because that’s the nature of the Championship. Our players have to be mentally right for a tough slog, getting ready for the higher tempo. It is something we have worked on and made the players aware of, in the Premiership most of the time it is in front of you, it is nice, attractive football. It’s not that you don’t get that in the Championship but you will get different styles, people will ask questions. At QPR you’ll have 6ft 5in Matt Smith, you’ll have quick strikers getting down the sides, you have to be aware of every eventuality. It is a different mindset and a different game.”

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TONY MACARONI
BY SOBS

One of the most evocatively named football grounds, Tony Macaroni Stadium at Almondvale, hosted stage two of our wee Scottish adventure. I'd visited several years ago on an FA Cup Final avoidance day. I forgot who they were playing, but the referee was an orange version of Pierluigi Collina, the standard was more Willow Pond than Werder Bremen, and when I enquired about the opening time of the brick shed that doubled as a bar, the reply was "when Shuggie gets back from Sainsbury's" and refreshments came in as many carrier bags as Wee Shuggie could carry. They've obviously upgraded the ground, which gave Crook Town's Millfield a run for its money in the dilapidation stakes back in the day. A nice ground these days.

At least there was no repeat of Sunday's train strike, so it was straight to Darlo, and a journey spent watching the online attempts of someone who appears to be a Man City fan to buy the ALS.SAFC Facebook page - because he "collects football Facebook pages for a hobby". Add to that the persistent demands for new crowd-surfer flags at the drop of a hat, and the journey flew by. A couple of halves in the city, watching Murray in the tennis, was followed by three failed attempts, lasting thirty minutes, to get into my hotel room while busting for the netty, finding there was no tv remote and being in the shower (to cool down) when the replacement arrived meant that Oor Andy was well and truly oot by the time I got the telly working.

Ah well, he's Scottish again.

Livingston was as I remembered it - a poor man's Peterlee, and after avoiding the Macaroni pies, while watching a home keeper called Marciano, at Hibs, I feared I'd be sleeping with da fishes if I didn't at least try a pie at the stadium. It turns out the eponymous Tony Macaroni is nowt more dangerous than a restaurant chain.

A swifty in Monty's (how could I not!) and it was off to concrete city and the inevitable Spoons, after letting a young and skint Sunderland fan share my taxi for free (hey, I was 17 and daft once)with the biggest match ticket I've seen away from Wembley. The macaroni pies are exactly that - pies filled with pasta.

Mika
Jones O'Shea Papy Galloway
Love Khazri Rodwell Ndong Gibson
Gooch
Wee Goochie was again chosen to lead the line, and we essentially went through the motions in a first half that saw moments of brightness from the home side and plenty of patience from us- which is exactly what you'd expect from a pre-season game at Livingston. There was a healthy proportion of our folks, familiar faces, in the 1,118 crowd on a sunny evening, and I think we were we quite happy with the way things went.

Khazri once again starred as we won a string of corners away to our left, and it was no real surprise when we went ahead. It might have been our first effort in target, but when Gooch worked his way into the box on the left and fired in a shot that the keeper couldn't hold, there was Wabi to bang it in. Happy days.

For the rest of the half the home side showed little bits of brightness, but for the main part it was what it should have been - a comfortable ride for us. We put a few efforts off target, their keeper safely collected a few others, and we were well on top.

During the break, I asked a steward if he could recommend a taxi to save me the hike to the station after the match - he rang and booked me one. That's service.

There weren't the wholesale as at Hibs for the second half, with Lens replacing Jones the only swap, but on the hour there were ten, with only Lens surviving the cull. Stryjek Kone Ledger Beadling Matthews Catts Embleton Honeyman Lens Asoro Maja

There was plenty of liveliness up front, plenty of talking from O'Shea and Catts, and enough to keep us entertained, apart from more goals. When the home side changed keepers, that changed as we went further ahead. This time, with fifteen to go, Lens produced a fairly moderate free kick, but the new keeper showed he was equal to his predecessor by failing to hold the ball, and Maja was at the front of the queue to pop it away. To be honest, if hadn't there were three more who would have done the job, which is a good sign.

With the front two looking very lively, prompted by Catts, there was never going to be a way back for Livingston, and with only a couple of minutes to go Lens nearly burst the net with a rocket that the keeper barely saw. A glimpse of what he can do when he wants to, and if he wants to he could be a tremendous asset in the coming season.

Man of the Match? At the risk of being repetitive, Wabi. Head down, get at the opposition. They'll not like it, but it all depends on what money is waved at us, I suppose. Things are looking sort of OK, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, and wait until the real stuff starts.

Keep the Faith

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VAUGHAN IN…
AND A 3-0 WIN

We are finally on the verge of signing Aiden McGeady and the Irish winger has been joined by Bury's James Vaughan on Wearside today as both undergo a medical. Grayson said this about Vaughan. “I know negotiations and talks are going on between the two clubs, but I’d be surprised if it is at that level [£900,000],” said Grayson. “He is a player I have worked with and I know about, but we have to bring in bodies and they have to be the right ones - whether it is James Vaughan or any other player we have been linked with. They have to be coming for the right reasons, and they have to give us something different. If we bring James Vaughan into this football club it is because we think he will affect the squad in a different way to what we’ve already got. But we’re moving forward with quite a few new faces. Over the next few days I’d like to think we’ll be getting very close to doing a couple of deals, and hopefully after that there will be another couple. We’re bringing in people because we need people because of the shortage of numbers, particularly at the top end of the pitch. We’ve brought Brendan and Tyias in defensively, so we are moving along in the right areas but from now until the start of the season and even the end of the transfer window, anything can happen. Some players might go out and that will mean that others will have to come in to replace them.”

Bury boss Lee Clark seems to have accepted that he’ll lose Vaughan. He said: "Another bid from a Championship club has been turned down since we came away (on a training camp in Marbella). It did not meet the valuation we have for James. We don’t want to sell him and no matter what we won’t be selling him to another League One club. If James wants to go to a club that is in a higher division then that’s up to James, but his valuation must be met. We made that perfectly clear to James, he has given us his feedback and there are no issues."

Grayson was also happy with the 3-0 win over Livingston last night and had this to say after the final whistle. "We’re trying to build some partnerships, different formations. You saw in the second half we played with a 4-4-2 rather than the 4-1-4-1. We’ll pick a team for St Johnstone again where the lads need minutes as well as looking at our options. In goal, I wanted to give Mika 60 minutes and Max 30. Vito will start on Saturday, Max will probably get another 30, we’re just trying to rotate."

Lee Cattermole has been chatting today about Simon Grayson and his football philosophy. "I kept looking at the next manager odds throughout the summer, everyone gets excited about the big names, but I honestly don’t think that’s what we needed," he said. "He’s got a lot of experience in the football league, that’s what we need, particularly in recruitment. Since he has come in, his approach to training, the way we’re going to work, he’s been different class. We just need to buy into and trust what he says because he knows the league better than most. It isn’t always going to be pretty football but you need to find that way to win. The North East is renowned for the passion of the fans, sometimes that can go the other way when you’re playing better teams [in the Premier League] and you have that expectation as well. That’s where you need the right characters, people who can handle it, people who can get the fans behind you. We know the fans be there with us, and once the start of the season comes round, they’re getting a good vibe off the manager, he suits the club, he’s from the North and very straightforward. I’ve been really impressed and I think he’ll pull us all altogether. We’ve had four, five years where nothing has changed. It might be the best thing, to get out the spotlight, have a look at things, rebuild the squad, because we need hungry players who want to come here with a point to prove and to make a name for themselves at Sunderland," he added. "We need players who know the league, I’ve been 12 years in the Premier League, and a lot of those you’re just trying to hang in there, win games, get a draw. Hopefully now we can fight at the top and get a different energy around the place."

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NEWS & STUFF…
THIS & THAT

Aiden McGeady will not travel with Everton's 25-man squad to Tanzania, which must be the most random pre season destination ever. We have agreed a fee with Everton and personal terms with McGeady, but there are still some contractual issues to sort before the player arrives on Wearside.

In other news, Simon Grayson is still getting used to who is who and what they can do at Sunderland, but I guess that’s what pre season is for. He explained: “Some of players I’ve not seen in the flesh before I came, so it is nice to see them around. We have got this week now where we have got two more games. That will give us an opportunity to build up the fitness which we will do by players getting extra minutes on the pitch which is going to be valuable. There still will be a lot of work to be done on the training pitch. We are pretty pleased with how things have gone. It would’ve been nice to have won another game but if you don’t win we have to make sure you don’t lose. The players knew they were only going to get 45 minutes each so whatever position they were going to be it was important they got something out of it. If you are a full-back do your defensive work but if you can, are a joining in on the attacking front? If you are a wide player do your work up front but make sure you are helping your full-backs and other midfielders as well. That is all it has to be and I thought for 70 minutes (against Hibs) the players did really well in those aspects. We know we need to work on things and we will keep doing that on a regular basis.”

Elsewhere, Vito Mannone has not had his future confirmed at Sunderland, but in the meantime, he’s just getting on with the job in hand. You’d have thought he’s be more than capable of doing a job in the Championship. “I am actually focusing on what I am doing every day, that is my first aim,” said Mannone. “I come in, I work hard during the pre-season and that is my aim from now on, to take it day by day, work hard and try and be ready for the games. We will see what is happening. To be honest I haven’t had a proper chat with no one, with the manager, so we wait and see and I just focus on my job which is getting ready for the first game. Pre season has been good so far. It was a hard, tough week in Austria. We had three sessions a day so it has been tough on the physical side. We need to get keep going with the physical side and be ready for the Derby game.”

In other news, it turns out that Jason Denayer wasn’t that arsed about coming to Sunderland last summer. To be fair, he always put in a shift and was a decent player, unlike some you could mention. “Last year, at the last day of the transfer period, there was an atmosphere at City like at the last day of school. Everyone was leaving. Joe Hart to Torino, another one to Spain and then they told me that I had to go to Sunderland, where I would be battling whole season against relegation. I wasn’t too happy about that, but I decided not to sulk too much. It could have been worse.”

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McGeady deal close...
defence needs to be tighter

With the Sunderland squad in Scotland for two more pre season games, Simon Grayson is working on the loan deal to bring Aiden McGeady to the club. Hopefully we’ll land the Irish wide man sooner rather than later, as it’s starting to drag on now. Also, reportedly on the radar are Bournemouth forward Max Gradel, who was formerly at Leeds with Grayson and Brentford midfielder Ryan Woods.

Meanwhile, Grayson reckons that our defence needs to tighten up after the way we conceded two sloppy goals at Hibs on Sunday. He said: “When you’re a team that comes down from the Premier League, you have to have quality. There are certain ingredients that are different from the Premier League, and the players are going to have to get into that mindset. Without the ball, you’ve got to stop the opposition from playing and you’ve got to defend better. Teams in the Championship are probably going to ask more questions of you in a more direct manner. We have to deal with that, and that’s what we’re going to be working on a lot over the next four or five weeks before the season starts. With the ball, it isn’t a problem because they wouldn’t be at this club unless they could handle it.”

In other news, Tyias Browning is still to join his new team mates at their training camp, north of the border. Grayson explained: “He’s a little bit behind schedule in terms of where we are with the fitness side of things, so the likelihood is that he won’t be involved on Wednesday. He may be involved at St Johnstone on Saturday, but we need to get some more work into him.”

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SUNSHINE ON LEITH
BY SOBS

An interesting start to my personal pre-season sort of began with news of the rail strike that meant there was to be no 08.12 from Bishop. A quick call secured a seat on Russ's minibus to Darlo, then it was a performance of Kynren (get yerselves there) followed by a full-on hooley at the Merry Monk. Half two to bed, half seven up, swift stroll to the Aclet, minibus to station, train, accompanied by the away game soundtrack of clinking beer bottles, compulsory hen party (on a Sunday? Ha'way man woman man!), and polis. Into Auld Reekie and a few planned cocktails in the Cafe Royal ('cos I'm posh) went wrong as I should have been at Theatre Royal bar - always read your messages carefully.

The place didn’t open anyway, so we tried the nearby Spoons where the doorman made the near-fatal mistake of refusing us entry as my local guide admitted to wearing a Sunderland t-shirt beneath the jumper he had no intention of taking off. On another day, there’d have been an incident, but things calmed down for a curtailed catch-up at the Conan Doyle. A dash through the rain got us to Easter Road and Mr Stephenson’s testimonial, where just under 1,000 of us, in a crowd of 9,000-odd, assembled to resist the temptations of macaroni pies – I kid you not. I might try one on Wednesday.

Kicking North, which was away from the visiting fans, we lined up:
Vito
Love Kone Djilibodji (“we’ll just call you ‘J’”) Jones
Khazri Honeyman Rodwell Gibson (c) Embleton
Maja

Having followed the Bury game on social media and via Sixertext, it was interesting to see the Lads in the flesh to work our who was going to do what and where, and it was fairly straightforward with that line-up. Grayson stuck with the now compulsory one up front, although we don’t really have enough options to deploy two strikers. The Easter Road Herring Gulls were there in force, bigger and louder than the home fans as we started brightly and won a free kick on the edge of the box when Maja was fouled following a good run by Khazri. Wabi’s shot was deflected onto the bar and away, at which point we became aware of a fat bloke in a barcode shirt to our east – an easy target for a bit of abuse. Childish, I know, but deserved.

The publicised applause for young Bradley on six minutes went well as we found our voices for the coming season.

There was plenty of decent defending from Kone (was there a scout or two in attendance?) and Bodge, which was nice to see, and some determined tackling from Jones. Maja ran the front line well, but could have done with a bit closer support, and Khazri produced a few of those runs that we all like. It had been a fairly entertaining first half, with some nice touches from Honeyman and several bits of good goalkeeping from Vito, who’d been the busier ‘keeper of the two, when folks started heading for their pies and we went ahead. Jones did well to keep the ball alive and put in a good cross which Wabi got on the end of and placed beyond their keeper from ten yards or so. Winning away – who’d have thought it?

Well, that was a nice end to the proceedings, so we settled down to watch some of the usual testimonial half-time nonsense which included Anthony Stokes messing about in a penalty shoot-out into an inflatable goal.

With the second half came eleven substitutions. They don’t make things easy to follow, do they?
Mika
Matthews O’Shea Beadling Galloway
Catts Ndong Lens Greenwood Robson (E)
Gooch

I know we’re short of forwards, but Gooch up front? Anyway, he did hold the ball up well, he’s strong in possession and rarely gives it away, so I suppose it’s an option…

Catts showed from the off that he’s up for whatever fight the coming season might bring, putting in a few tackles that were strictly not of the testimonial variety and thus getting the crowd going. There had been a few grumbles when Lens showed up, but they were put away on the hour when Greenwood’s clever flick put him into space in the box and he fired across the keeper from the right to double our lead. Nice beard as well.

That should have been it, really, as Catts was running the show, ably abetted by Ndong, and we played simple stuff that worked. Catts saw his shot cannon off the post before he put the rebound over our heads and into the Firth of Forth. Then it went a bit wrong following a couple of iffy reffing decisions – I know it’s a friendly, but ha’way man, a foul’s a foul. Less than ten minutes after that goal, Hibs broke through on our left and beat Mika low down at his near post to get the home fans singing. Our lot responded with some daft English ditties, apart from a well-known fan from Shields who rejoiced in his Scottish heritage by singing about it on his own.

Hibs sprung a surprise by bringing on Jermain Pennant, who we all thought had retired a decade ago in a puff of smoke, and then raised their game a bit more to level things when Galloway couldn’t prevent the cross from their right and the ball arrived invitingly in the middle for a straightforward finish. There were still 17 minutes or so to win it, and we have it a go. Catts put in another of those tackles, which had a scrum of players threatening violence on each other in the centre circle. Their man protagonist was subbed almost immediately, and it was the home side who looked the more likely to get the winner for much of the remainder. It took some great defending by Matthews at the back post to keep out a third, then they hit the woodwork with about five to go as we looked more than a bit shaky.
 
Testimonial man Stephenson left the field in the dying minutes, to generous applause, then Catts drew another fine save from their keeper to win the first of a flurry of corners as we pressed for a late winner. Greenwood received one low at the front post and saw his effort scuffed off the line – then that was it. 2-2 in a vastly more entertaining game than our last visit, and for me a sprint for the 4:30 train. The strains of Sunshine On Leith could be heard over the rooftops, and I wish I’d had time to be in the ground to hear it properly.

All in all, a decent warm-up and a chance to see a bit of Galloway, the only new boy on show, and be reminded that Adam Matthews still exists. Galloway looked half decent, Matthews looked OK but probably a fair way down our list of left backs. Of the youngsters given a go, Maja was probably the pick but there were decent games from Robson, Embleton, and Beadling. Of the keepers, I reckon we’re fine with Vito but if we can get money for Mika, I’d take it.

Man of the Match? Probably Khazri for those runs in the first half.

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POST HIBS CRAIC…
more NEW PLAYERS ON THE WAY

Sunderland drew 2-2 with Hibs on Sunday afternoon, after leading 2-0, with goals from Wahbi Khazri and Jeremain Lens. Simon Grayson had this to say about our performance: "I think for 65/70 minutes we were very good. We passed the ball at a good tempo, looked a threat going forward, a lot more secure than the other night because we kept the ball well and played with a real tempo. Last 20 minutes we took too many touches, let them get tighter to us and gave them a bit of momentum. That was disappointing but for 70 minutes or so it was very encouraging. It is nice to get the experienced players back, the international lads who I’d not seen since I’ve been back at the club. They’re all looking in decent shape, they’ve had 45 minutes, we’ll build it up again in the training sessions and the games that we’ve got this week, and keep moving along. We’d have liked to win and get a clean sheet but ultimately it’s about getting minutes in the legs of the players."

The gaffer also chatted about more players coming in.  Everton wide man, Aiden McGeady, and Bournemouth forward, Max Gradel, look like they’ll be the next to arrive. Grayson added: “Things are ticking along. We’ve been linked with a host of players. Some are players that might interest us, others are players that are totally way off the mark. We’ll just be moving along with the players that we are in contact with at the moment. There will be players coming in without a shadow of a doubt – they might not be the ones that people are talking about though."

Grayson gave new boy, Brendan Galloway, a 45 minute second half run out and had this to say about his performance. “I thought he did okay. He was comfortable on the ball, defended well and got forward effectively at times. To say it was the first time he has been with the group, he’s only going to get better for us. He’s a left-back that can play centre-half. You want versatile players. He can play on the left side of a three because I’ve played 3-5-2 quite a bit in my time. Players that are athletic, flexible and versatile are going to be a big bonus for us."

Elsewhere, Simon Grayson has been chatting about the possibility of Wahbi Khazri staying at Sunderland for the season ahead. He said: “He’s a talented player and that’s why he is at Sunderland. He’s played at the Premiership. Time will tell who will stay at the football club. Every player at every club has a price and you will be looking to see what is happening at different clubs, but, while they’re here, they’ll do what’s required and do everything to try and get in the team for the first game of the season. You’ve seen in the two games that he’s a good player, and we want to keep good players. It’s then up to other clubs or the individuals to decide possibly if they don’t want to be at this football club. While they are still here, we will utilise them, and do whatever is needed to keep them or get rid of them, whatever the case might be. Who knows what’s around the corner with any of the players? Somebody might come in and offer money for one of our players that nobody is talking about at the moment. That’s just football. Lukaku goes for £75million when a few days ago nobody really expected him to go to Man United.”

Jeremain Lens is another player who is featuring in pre-season who could be a major asset in Championship. Grayson added: “While they’re still here and being paid as Sunderland players they’ll be doing every session with the rest of the lads, they’re not out here for a jolly up, they’ll earn their money. While they’re here, we’ll utilise them and if anything changes, so be it.”

Finally, Brendan Galloway had this to say about his first few days at the club. “Myself and a few of the other lads have only done a few days’ training back at the Academy of Light, but for me it felt good to be back on the pitch finally and I just want to push on. It’s good that all the team is back together now so we can focus on having a good week in Scotland. But it’s been very good so far. Everyone has been very welcoming and all the lads are nice, the people are nice, and it’s a great club to play for. We played well as a team and for most of the game we were in control. For the second game of pre-season, we saw some good stuff and hopefully in our week in Scotland we can push on and improve.”

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THERE TO BE SHOT AT
BY PADDY HOLLIS

The start of the pre-season fixtures is always an indication of how quick the summer break flies by. The end of last season couldn’t come quick enough, but I couldn’t wait for the pre season optimism to kick in. It did, eventually, and now we get the first look at the squad since the mauling at Stamford Bridge.

We enter into the Championship as a team who don’t have much experience in its ranks of this level. It’s been a decade since we were promoted out of the division and since then it has changed a great deal. Teams such as Brentford and Burton have come up from League 1 and held their own, the former making it to the Championship play-offs just two years ago. It’s a much stronger league than the one we last played in and we will be seen as a prize scalp.

Why exactly will we be the team to beat? It’s got nothing to do with our where our position will be, to be honest we’ll probably be mid-table with a slight chance of play-offs maybe. But we’ll be seen as a team to be shot at due to the size of the club. Yes, we won’t be one of the top teams in the league. However, we have a big stadium, we should have more money to spend than most teams in the division and our huge fan base puts us ahead of many of our rivals next season.

This won’t be a bad thing, however. If teams come out against us all guns blazing then we need to be ready for it. It will be a wake-up call early on and it will show to the players that if they get complacent they will get punished. Home games in particular will see teams come up to the SoL and play attacking football which should be an improvement on some of the matches seen there last season.

The pre season optimism is well and truly shifting through the gears at this point in the summer, the campaign always feels so much closer once the fixtures come out. Our first two home games bring to the SoL two of the biggest clubs in the championship. However Derby and Leeds are just the first sides to come up to Wearside and have a go at claiming the scalp of a freshly relegated side.

It’s hard to tell what sort of team we’ll have or how well we will do next season, however it’s going to be a reality check for many of the players when the likes of Burton Albion and Bristol City give us their all. It will give them a huge buzz if they can come up here and silence the SoL, it is these situations which we need to avoid; there were enough of them last season. However, there is still plenty of time in the transfer window and Simon Grayson will know who he wants. If he can get these players in and settled before kick off on august 4th then we might just be ready to welcome the Championship to Wearside.

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BYE BYE BRADLEY…
WE'LL MISS YOU SO MUCH

Well, we kicked off our preseason by coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Gigg Lane on Friday night, but the passing of Bradley Lowery earlier that day was the main thing on people’s minds. There was a minute’s applause before the game, the players wore black armbands and Bury have donated all revenue from the game to Bradley’s Fight Charity. One day we will beat cancer, one day.

Vito Mannone spoke about Bradley afterwards: “I had these moments many times in my life – I had it when I lost my father and it hit me the same way. Bradley was a special kid, a kid who gave me a lot and I am very honoured to have met him and his family. You realise that football is just a game and life is something more. This little boy kept smiling and smiling, everywhere he went he had a smile on his face. He gave me so much. Sometimes a child can give you much more than an adult – that is what Bradley did to the world. He kept smiling and that was always amazing for me. My condolences go to the family. His parents are lovely people and you don’t want these things to happen to lovely people. Sometimes I think God realises you have a place up there, I believe so. My prayers go to him and his family and I hope they can hug each other and think of the good memories and not the bad episode now, which will last for a while unfortunately. All I can say is God bless him.”

Simon Grayson was delighted with Josh Maja’s performance and two goals. Grayson said: “He is a willing kid and his two goals were very good. They all have an opportunity, the younger players. There will be strikers coming in, but he has done well, he has to keep working and improving. It is good to see what the players can bring to the table. Second half, the younger players performed very well. Josh took his goals very well, but there were some encouraging performances elsewhere too. This is only the first game of pre-season and it is out of the way now and we know there is a lot of hard work to get us to where we need to get to. The first 10 days of pre-season is all about the fitness work and getting the work into the legs of the players. We have a game Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday so it is more about concentrating on the tactical stuff and how I want to play. You keep progressing as pre-season goes on. We will have a stronger party up there for the three games.”

HERE’S THE GAME STATS
Sunderland: Mannone (Mika 45), Jones (Love 45), Kone (Ledger 60), Djilobodji (Beadling 60), Matthews (T Robson 45), Cattermole (Gibson 45), Molyneux (Khazri 45), Rodwell (E Robson 45), Greenwood (Maja 45), Gooch (Hume 60), Honeyman (Gamble 60)
Goals: Rodwell (37), Maja (77, 86)
Attendance: 2,110 (724 visitors)

In other news, Tyias Browning has joined Sunderland from Everton on a season-long loan deal. Simon Grayson knows all about the defender, who spent the second half of last season at Preston North End.

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ASORO STAKES CLAIM…
BURY TONIGHT

Joel Asoro is hoping to take advantage of the fact the he’s currently our only striker and stake a claim for a run in the first team this season. He will start against Bury in our first friendly tonight. “You have to show that you are good enough,” said Asoro. “Everybody wants to be involved in the first team, of course, but the first thing you need to do is perform for the Under-23s. If you do, then you may catch the eye. We trained with the first team regularly last season so they are aware of us. Other young players breaking through are all an inspiration, definitely,” added Asoro. “Because then you feel like you can achieve that too, provided you keep working hard. That’s what it comes down to, working hard. The game goes quick, you need to be ready to perform.”

In other news, the club have announced another pre-season friendly and it's no surprise to see us making our annual trip to Hartlepool. The game takes place on Tuesday the 18th July, nestled between our games with St Johnstone and Bradford respectively.

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GALLOWAY ARRIVES…
MORE TO FOLLOW

Simon Grayson has completed his first SAFC signing in the form of Brendan Galloway from Everton, who arrives on a season-long loan. He can operate at centre-half and left-back and is expected to be the first of three arrivals from Everton, the others are Tyias Browning and Aiden McGeady...Galloway had this to say about the move: “It is really exciting and I am looking forward to working with the new manager and the players to hopefully work hard and get promoted this season. Just knowing that Sunderland is a massive club (was a real attraction to me). Everyone I have spoken to have told me that it is a huge club and the ambition of the club and the manager to get the club back to where they belong. It didn’t take much (to persuade me) because the club speaks for itself. It is a massive club, everyone is aware of that, and the ambition of the manager as well – he is a great manager and he just wants to get them back to where they belong. I’m a hard-working player, I am a player who likes to win, to tackle and I like to get up and down.”

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford has been chatting about his move from Sunderland to Everton. “Funnily enough my home debut came against Everton,” he said. “The result didn’t go our way that day but stepping over the white line at the Stadium of Light for the first time, after growing up a Sunderland fan, was a dream. I kicked on and played the rest of the season. The results weren’t ideal. We got relegated but I hope I did the fans proud. The fans have been top draw with me. I’m still a fan myself and hopefully I’ll come back and watch the games still when I can - I might get myself in the South Stand. “I’ve not put anything on my social media accounts. No tweets and paragraphs on Instagram because I just thought it would be better to speak to you on camera and give the fans something to listen to.”

In other news, if you’re hardcore enough to want to go to against Bury on Friday 7 July (KO 7.30pm) you can buy tickets from the Stadium of Light ticket office until 2.30pm on Thursday, or pay cash turnstiles at Gigg Lane. Adult tickets are priced at £10, with under 23s and over 65s just £5 and under 5s get in for free. ALS are running transport to the game, which cost £25 return and leaves the SOL at 2pm click here to book the coach

With so few strikers, Simon Grayson has been bigging up 18 year old Josh Maja. “Maja has been good. I knew about him before we came. He is an exceptional talent,” said Grayson. “The way we are in terms of the squad at the top end of the pitch then these younger lads will get an opportunity over the next few games at the very least. We said from day one the Under-23 players are not here to make up the numbers, but to make an impression. Do that and they have a chance for the season and I have been impressed with the younger players as well as the older players. It has been a whirlwind four or five days. I feel like I have been here three years already! I have been constantly on the phone, trying to do some deals, getting to know the players and the staff. We are not the finished article with the squad and what we have been doing, it has been about the fitness levels. We will put out a team as another training exercise and then, over the next few weeks, it will build towards the start of the season.”

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TRIO OF TOFFEES
POSITIVE NEWS AND COMMENTS

We are expected to announce the loan signings of defenders Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway today with winger Aiden McGeady to follow. The Everton trio will bolster our paper thin squad and hopefully all three will feature in this weekend’s pre season games against Bury and Hibs.

Meanwhile, it seems that first-team coach Robbie Stockdale and goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker will not be shown the door by Simon Grayson. Grayson said: “I’ve brought Glynn Snodin with me who is my assistant manager, who has been with me at the last four clubs. We’ll be bringing in somebody to the scouting and recruitment who will play a big part in that, but the likes of Robbie Stockdale and Adrian Tucker will be crucial. I’m coming into the club blind if you like, not knowing my way around, but I’ll learn very quickly and get everyone singing off the same hymn sheet.”

Assistant manager Glynn Snodin added: “We want to bring enjoyment and we want to get the best out of everybody from the players to the office staff – we’re all one and we all have to work together. When the players come into training we want them to enjoy it and when they leave we want them to be looking forward to the next day, but it will be a high intensity and we want them to train as they play. If they give the ball away we want them to react and we want them to work hard, as we have a feel for the club and an idea about what the fans want and that is a team that is going to give everything. We have a manager who will make sure they do that because he’s very hands-on and the lads will enjoy that, but at the same time they have to show why they deserve to be in that starting XI – or at the very least the 18 – when we face Derby County. We have a fanatical support at home so we have to make it a fortress and we know we’re going to be backed by thousands away, and hopefully many more will come because we’re playing exciting football. We want to get this club promoted and it might be easy to say that now – there will be 23 others teams saying exactly the same – but this club can.”

In other news, Simon Grayson is determined to realise his Premier League ambitions with Sunderland. Grayson explained: “It is a sad indictment of British football, to a certain degree, that the only way a British manager can get a job in the Premier League is to take a club up from the Championship. I don’t see too many Championship managers getting poached to manage in the Premier League and I would like to think managers should be given the best opportunity. Two of the best Premier League managers are British-based – Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche – but they only got that opportunity because they took teams up. It is an ambition and every manager in the Championship knows if he wants to manage in the Premier League the only way to do it is by taking a team up and that is an ambition of mine. My phone has been red-hot with players, managers and friends wishing me good luck and say I’m deserving of the opportunity to manage this club on such a big stage,” added Grayson, who is currently in Austria with the Sunderland squad on a training camp. I will give everything that is required to be successful.”

Elsewhere, fan favourite, Lee Cattermole, has been chatting about his new boss man, Simon Grayson. Cattermole said: “It’s exciting. Grayson’s come in really early. If you look at the last couple of pre-seasons we’ve been in and out without managers and things, but he’s came in really early, which is great for the club. He’s been really refreshing with his approach. He’s brought all the players and the staff together and between us we’re working really hard as a group. He talks a lot about togetherness and work rate and he’s nailing these things early days. He’s stressing how important that’s going to be in the Championship. If you look throughout our squad I don’t think we have much experience of the division, so I was delighted with his appointment because he can guide us and tell us what is going to be needed. It’s up to us to trust that and believe in what he’s telling us and then go out and deliver. He’s come in with Glynn Snodin too, which is important. We’ve only been together four or five days but it’s been brilliant. It’s been tough but that’s what you’d expect and that will set us up for the season. It’s been difficult so far; everything you’d expect for pre-season. The boys are working really hard and the attitude has been spot on. Obviously, it’s a new manager with a new approach and the lads are all working hard to impress and take on board his new drills and his exercises. It is hard. You go up and down. You see some boys struggle one day then they’re at their best the next. It’s all about just getting the work in with the legs. It’s still early days and we’re just getting miles in the legs and increasing the tempo as we go. It’s been competitive and there’s been a real buzz around the place, which is nice. Once you get the first week out the way and the games start it tends to become a little bit more enjoyable. But it’s been everything you’d hope a pre-season would be for yourself really, to set yourself up to have a good season.”

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EVERTON DUO SET TO BE FIRST THROUGH THE DOOR FOR GRAYSON
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

Simon Grayson has been in charge less than a week; however, the first signings of his tenure look set to be announced sooner rather than later.

Everton defenders Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway are expected to sign on season long loans, but what do we know about the pair?

Tyias Browning is 23 and can play at either right back or centre back. Browning has been at Everton since he was ten but he has been restricted to just 7 appearances at Goodison Park. On the international stage, Browning has represented England at under 17, under 19 and under 20 level. He might be short of experience; however, he looks to have a lot of promise and hopefully the lack of action will have made him hungry for a chance to impress for a new side.

Brendan Galloway is 21 and can play at left back or centre back. Galloway started his career at MK Dons, making his debut in the 2011-12 campaign. He moved to Everton in 2014 and has made 17 appearances for Everton. He was a regular for the club's youth side, however, he held his own in the Premier League at Everton and last season when he made three appearances for West Bromwich Albion whilst being on loan at the Hawthorns.  Galloway also brings with him his fair share of international experience, having represented England from under 17 level all the way through to the under 21 side.

The versatility brought by both players will be key to our paper thin-looking squad in the upcoming campaign. Granted, we might have the look of a ‘stepping stone’ club at the moment. However, there isn’t a great deal wrong with this. If players, hopefully, this pair included, are willing to come to the club and show some fight, in order to improve their credentials, then it can only be seen as a positive. If they show more passion than 95% of the current squad who took us down then there shouldn’t be an issue, this also shouldn’t be hard to achieve. These two young defenders come with a lot of promise and, hopefully, will be the first of several new faces through the door at the SoL.

Another Everton player, Aiden McGeady, is also on the radar. Grayson is said to have bid £2million for the winger, who was also on loan at Preston last season, but the deals for Browning and Galloway are said to be nearer completion, with Everton still hoping to prise Lamine Kone away from Wearside with some big bucks plus McGeady helping the deal go though.

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WATMORE & MCNAIR TO MISS START OF SEASON
MANAGERIAL CRAIC

As if we weren’t short on players already, both Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair will miss the start of the season while they continue their ACL rehabs. Duncan Watmore explained: “I have to make sure I keep working hard throughout my rehab and continue that when I come back to make sure I’m in the squad. But unfortunately, the Derby game will come too soon for me but the lads are fully focused on making sure the season ahead is a positive one. There’s a real buzz around the place at the moment and hopefully we can take that into the campaign. Having Paddy helped a lot. You never wish injury on anyone but we’ve both said that having each other throughout our recovery has really helped kick us on and motivate us. Binners – our head physio – has been brilliant and he’s been with us every step of the way, and now I’m with Scotty running so I’m very lucky to have had great people helping me. It’s nice to be with the lads again because you spend a lot of time in the gym and with the physios, so It’s really nice to be back in and amongst it and I’m really enjoying it. You want to be with the lads as much as possible because when you are you feel much more included. It’s been a long time which is frustrating but I’m back now and looking forward to getting back playing.”

Watmore also reckons that the introduction of Simon Grayson has really lifted the mood in the camp. He added: “From what the lads have said they’re all loving it. It looks really intense and there’s a lot of competitiveness and a desire to work hard, and the manager seems to have really taken to the lads and they’ve taken to him. You can see the positivity. There’s a real buzz around the place at the moment and hopefully we can take that into the campaign.”

Meanwhile, new assistant manager, Glynn Snodin, who has been Grayson’s assistant since they joined Leeds in 2009 has been doing some press. Here goes. “We want to bring enjoyment and we want to get the best out of everybody from the players to the office staff – we’re all one and we all have to work together,” said Snodin. “When the players come into training we want them to enjoy it and when they leave we want them to be looking forward to the next day, but it will be a high intensity and we want them to train as they play. If they give the ball away we want them to react and we want them to work hard, as we have a feel for the club and an idea about what the fans want and that is a team that is going to give everything. We have a manager who will make sure they do that because he’s very hands-on and the lads will enjoy that, but at the same time they have to show why they deserve to be in that starting XI – or at the very least the 18 – when we face Derby County. We have a fanatical support at home so we have to make it a fortress and we know we’re going to be backed by thousands away, and hopefully many more will come because we’re playing exciting football. We want to get this club promoted and it might be easy to say that now – there will be 24 other teams saying exactly the same – but this club can.”

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mcnair out again…
CONTRACT SHUFFLE

Paddy McNair has suffered a rehab setback to his ACL injury and will miss the start of the season. It seems ironic that since the club have spent the last few weeks posting pictures of McNair and Duncan Watmore looking super fit. Poor lad.

The visit of Leeds United to the Stadium of Light on Saturday 19 August has been moved to a 5.30pm kick off, meaning that our first five games have all changed kick off time or date!

Simon Grayson reckons that he won’t stand in the way of want away players, but at the same time he won’t let the likes of Lamine Kone, Vito Mannone, Jeremain Lens and Wahbi Khazri leave on the cheap. Grayson said: "When the team is relegated from the Premier League, footballers at any club always have egos and they might think they deserve to be somewhere else and they deserve this that and the other. But it will be down to individuals who will hopefully buy into what we do and hopefully enjoy it here and think 'do you know something I can see this place developing and doing really well and I like working with the coaching staff and the management and I can see myself enjoying that.' If players come to me and they say I don’t fancy being part of what we are trying to do then I will allow them to leave. But they will only leave at the right price for this football club. I want players to stay, to enjoy themselves and work but if they don’t want to do that we will obviously bring in players that do want to do that."

One player who Grayson can count on is John O’Shea, who has re-joined the club on a reduced salary, one year deal. “I am delighted,” said Grayson. “He is still a current Ireland international who can play a key part with the experience and we will integrate some of the younger players in and around the first team. He can be the guidance for them. It is good for him he is going to stay and he can be a soundboard for me as well because of his experience, where he has played and what he can bring to the group in general. I have signed John O’Shea again because I want him to be here for a successful Championship campaign.”

It also transpires that Seb Larsson has been offered a new contract too, despite being released just two weeks ago. Like O’Shea, Seb would have to take a reduction in wages to stay at SAFC.

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JOS BACK…
GRAYSON COMPARED TO REID

John O’Shea is over the moon to be re-joining Sunderland, just weeks after being released by the club. The club skipper said: “I was delighted when I got it all sorted and I’m now looking forward to the season ahead. We know we have a big job on our hands but now the new manager is in we can be fully focussed on making sure the squad is together and ready to challenge. I saw some of the quotes from the manager about the players he wants to bring to the club and that they have to have the right attitude and determination – and that will be essential. Playing in the Championship will be a new experience for me but I’ve spoken to the lads in the Irish team and friends from other clubs about the league, so I hope it can be a positive experience for me. I played into the middle of June so I have an extra week before I’m back in training, but I can’t wait to meet up with the boys when they get back from Austria.”

In other news, Simon Grayson has also been compared to Peter Reid, which the new boss was happy to take as a compliment. Grayson said: "I think I’m better looking than him! Peter is a down to earth bloke, says it how it is, he’s a character, demands the best from his players and those are characteristics I take forward as well. If I am successful here like Peter Reid, I will be well happy. It doesn’t matter what football club you are at, you have to understand you’ve got to give everything. Many times at clubs I have been at, I have told the players, make sure when you wake up the morning after a game that you have no regrets and that is a big thing and I want the players here to be like that. Any talks you have with players, you have to make sure they are here for the right reasons but ultimately you can sense that when you are talking to them. I don’t sign players on the back of DVDs (Reid signed Milton Nunez after watching him on DVD), I sign them after meeting them because I want to get a feel of the player and know that they have the same drive and determination and hunger that I have to make this club successful again. That is what is required."

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WEEKEND NEWS ROUND UP…
BAIN/GRAYSON/BIG VIC/BORINI

Martin Bain, who celebrates one year as SAFC’s CEO this weekend, reckons that Simon Grayson will have a half decent budget to stabilise the club. Bain explained: “We may not have the biggest transfer budget in the Championship but it won't be the smallest. We made a big sale recently in Jordan. Does that all go to the transfer kitty? Well you take a drop in revenue of roughly 58 per cent TV money but we still have legacy payments, so it all goes into the mix. It's not what people have called a perilous situation, we have an owner who supports the club and TV money, but we're going to have to juggle and at times it will be difficult. Simon said there’s players we can attract. We aimed to appoint someone sooner, but takeover talks, which Ellis put a deadline on and we decided not to carry on. That was in the interests of Sunderland Football Club. Ellis wanted to listen to someone he felt he could take the club forward, but the time came to stop and move forward. This has led to Simon’s appointment – one of only a couple of people we spoke to with the qualities to take it forward. He comes to give something to the club, not what the club can give him. He has an abundance of Championship experience. I’m sure we will achieve success together. It’s been a busy 24 hours and we aim to move forward quickly. If you want to work with someone closely there’s no point in doing it if there’s uncertainty about the future. We had a certain time frame and only then could we sit down with clarity and look with a plan going forward. The club is no longer for sale. At this moment in time, Ellis has said he would set a deadline and if they could take the club forward, he has a love of the club, then he has a responsibility. He has owned the club, he has a commitment to the club, he funds it and many clubs would be envious of an owner like Ellis Short. Bear that in mind when there’s speculation about the ownership.’’

Meanwhile, Simon Grayson knows he’ll have to move fast to rebuild the squad, with time running out and the new season just one month way. Grayson said: “We’ll want to do one or two things quite quickly because of the low numbers that we’ve got. We’ve got a few players who’ve not come back from international duty yet as well. We want to do one or two as quickly as we can, but that still gives me a chance to look at the Under-23s and players in the existing squad. We’ll be looking for players that know it [the Championship]. They might be 30 years old or 21. They might have been at a big Premier League club and think, ‘right, I want to go and make a career in the game’, with that hunger and desire, and understand what is required. I would think they would have that Championship experience. If you look at the four previous clubs I’ve been at, this will be the biggest budget I’ve worked with, but it doesn’t faze me. Whatever I’ve been given in the past, I’ve always tried to make sure I get the best value for money, whether it is loans, free transfers or money in the market. Sometimes it isn’t about what you spend, it is about what you bring into the football club to make it successful.”

We have been linked with Aiden McGeady, who was on loan under Grayson at Preston last season and forward Jordan Hugill. He said: “Well, there you go, two players I’ve worked with before and people have been linked with me. Time will tell if they land on our doorstep. Time will tell whether we go back to Preston, but I’ve got a huge amount of respect for that football club and I don’t want to do too much to harm that. I’ve already taken my assistant manager from there, so maybe not too many there.”

In other news, Victor Anichebe has joined Chinese second tier side Beijing Enterprises and left Sunderland fans the following message: "I just want to say a big thank you to everyone at Sunderland l for the kindness I was shown throughout my stay. The season wasn't what we all wanted and I'm sorry for that but I just wanted to say a big thank you for the support you guys continued to show me throughout my time there, during both the ups and the downs. The support and messages I got here and at the stadiums was amazing and I'm truly grateful. I really do wish you guys the best of luck for the upcoming season it's going to be a tough one but I pray that the season is a success and you hopefully get back to where Sunderland belong. Thank you so much again. God Bless."

Fabio Borini's also left the fans a goodbye message as he left for AC Milan. Borini said: "Thanks for all the support and great memories you gave me, not forgetting that you made me feel home every single day I stay in the North East! Loads of love! Now I can't wait to begin this new experience and, as always, I will give my everything!"

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TRANSFER TALK…
GRAYSON CRAIC

Simon Grayson has been chatting about his transfer budget and his passion to improve Sunderland. "I have had conversations with Ellis Short and Martin Bain, we have a realistic budget," said Grayson. "It isn't going to be the top budget or the bottom one. Whatever club I have been at, either Leeds United or Preston, Blackpool, whichever budget I have been given I have made the best of. I am a Yorkshireman and don't spend money unwisely! That will be the case while I am at this football club. I want players that want to play for this football club. There are a lot of players that have been at this club that have probably come for the wrong reasons. The ones that are going to be coming will be coming to play football and improve this football club. When you look at the group of players, it is short on numbers," he added. “We will bring a group of players in now that will be coming in to improve the squad, different characters. They might not all be household names but you don't need household names to get you out of this division. Burnley have done it with really hungry players, players with a desire to succeed. Anyone coming here under me will be coming to give everything for this football club. Not just for the glamour or the money or the trappings that come with it. It is hard work on the training pitch and getting a team spirit that is willing to do anything for this club. To give a working class city something to be cheerful about on a weekend."

Grayson also explained how he jumped at the chance to come to Sunderland. He said: "I reported for training at Preston on Thursday to take training there, by 11am I was summoned back to the ground to say that Sunderland had permission to speak to me. Once I was aware of that I was in my car and up here very quickly. The talks were concluded very quickly. I am delighted to be here and looking forward to the future. Leaving a football club that which had been very good to me, four and a half years making me the second longest Championship manager, gathered a group of players on a low budget, I have a unity with those players and the supporters and the owner. But when a club likes Sunderland comes knocking it was too good an opportunity. A fantastic club with tradition and history. This club is in the Championship now and we want to make it proud again. We want to achieve success. Every club I have managed I have left them in a better state than when I walked in. I like to think when I leave here we will be in the Premier League. Once it got announced I was in talks my phone even driving up the A1 was going, players I have had at other clubs, other players I didn't know appreciated what I have done as a manager, agents coming out of the woodwork. This is a big attraction. It will be the right recruitment. We have players in mind and will hopefully move very quickly on decisions to enhance the squad and improve it."

Meanwhile, Grayson has confirmed that John O'Shea has signed a new one-year deal with the club, despite being released just two weeks ago.

In other news, Ellis Short has taken SAFC off the market after failing to sell the club. Martin Bain explained: “At this moment in time, Ellis has very much said, ‘I will listen to the parties, but I will set a deadline and if they can take the club forward on and off the pitch...’. He has a responsibility to this club, he has a love of this football club and he decided it wasn’t in the best interests of the club to carry on those discussions any further. What I would say is, he has owned the club for nearly nine years now, he has funded the club hugely. He is still very much committed to the football club, he still funds the football club and there are many clubs that actually would be envious of having an owner like Ellis Short.”

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SEE YA BORINI
BY GARY BURRELL

At the ripe old age of 26, Fabio Borini has deserted the sunken ship that is Sunderland AFC, to join AC Milan for £5.3m, the 8th club of his career to date.

In summing up his time on Wearside, it's important to remember that he undoubtedly brought the fans moments of joy, especially in his time on loan in the 2013-14 season.

His goals that year were more than meaningful, his strikes against the Mags were special for very different reasons - the first a wonderful winner in Gus Poyet's first home game in charge of the lads, and the other a penalty at their place that was the epitome of 'coolness personified'.

Add to those goals against Chelsea (Cup QF & Jose's first home defeat), Manchester United (Cup SF), West Brom (to secure PL status), Swansea, Southampton and of course the opener in the Capital One Cup Final against Manchester City, and Borini appeared to be the man for the big occasion. Yes he was frustrating, inconsistent and at times his finishing was wayward to say the least, but he was the one player to call upon when the game was tight and we required something special.....we ended that season on a high, and hoped that Fabio would climb aboard the Gus Bus for the journey ahead.

The summer of 2014 is where it all went tits up.

Now who can blame the lad for wanting to make a go of it at Liverpool? He had a decent enough season with us and scored some important goals, his confidence was up and his ego had been suitably massaged... but let's attempt to remove the benefit of hindsight here, we all knew that was never going to happen. He wasn't good enough for Liverpool. Nowhere near good enough.

So, having been found out at that level, forced to train with the kids, and wasting a year of his career, he eventually, and reluctantly, decided to pop back up the road to join up with those he hoped he never have to endure again...

Now forgive me at this stage if I've started to sound ever so petty, however from the moment he re-joined SAFC, he appeared to not only regret that decision, but seemed to believe he was too good for us.

The last two campaigns seen Borini either go completely missing in games, or he spent the time he had on the pitch whinging, moaning, trying to con referees into awarding us a free kick (which became his only strength) or just generally playing shite.

Energy and effort had morphed into huffing and puffing. Crucial winners became consolation goals.

Running off on his own, chomping on his hand, eyes glazed and depicting the wild passion and desire of his Italian counterpart Marco Tardelli, is all very well and good after putting us 1-0 up in a Cup Final... not so appealing when we're already 3-0 or 4-0 down at Old Trafford, Etihad or Stamford Bridge.

And unfortunately, that will be my overriding thoughts when I reflect upon Fabio Borini's time at Sunderland.

Maybe because relegation is still raw. Maybe because it's hard to view the majority of last season's squad with anything other than utter contempt, or maybe because his time on loan here seems a lifetime ago.

But instead of saying "thanks for the memories", I say "good riddance".

And my search for the next Don Goodman continues...

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NOT SO FAB NOW
BY MATTHEW KEELING

So, Fabio Borini has joined AC Milan for £5.3m… We look back at his time at Sunderland.

Not much really was known about Fabio Borini and when he came in on loan from Liverpool for the 2013/14 season, other than his goal in their 6-0 win up the road the previous year.

West Brom away in 2013, was the first time we saw Fabio Borini line up for Sunderland and in a game, that brought to an end Paolo Di Canio's reign, his anonymity probably went largely unnoticed. Basically, we had signed a striker on loan from Liverpool that on first viewing would struggle to really make an impact. Marked out of the game with barely a kick, he was hardly a talking point given Mr Di Canio's post-match antics. High hopes though, were not apparent.

His next real appearance wasn't long after but it was slightly different. Coming on at home to Newcastle at 1-1, bottom of the league and with one point, he didn't bring with him at wave of expectation, but he didn't half deliver. What a goal and what an introduction. The first of many highs as we fast forward to the end of that season. We had a new hero. Add in further goals against Newcastle, the cup final, the cup run and the penalty at Chelsea, hitting the bar at Manchester United after THAT passage of play. He was instrumental in The Great Escape, his celebration something re-created all over Wearside. The aforementioned cup final goal had generations of fans in tears; "we just might do it". Imagine if we had held on. We didn't obviously because we are Sunderland but the moment (and the roar) we will have forever.

Borni was tireless during his loan spell, and while not always providing an end product, his efforts and commitment to the cause were there for all to see. He really seemed to 'get' Sunderland and the fans.

We were desperate for the club to sign him. So was Gus Poyet as we (rather embarrassingly so at times) tried for the whole summer to persuade him to come having had a bid accepted by Liverpool. It was to no avail. He wasn't coming back and he wanted to stay on Merseyside. In hindsight, really, that's where the Borini and Sunderland relationship should have ended.

We did finally sign Fabio permanently a year later, but it has never really been the same. Like visiting a favourite childhood place, only to find the amusements have closed down and the main attraction is Wetherspoons. Perhaps some things are best left in the past. He's given us some decent enough performances since joining permanently, some good goals, but ultimately, he hasn't lived up to what we all hoped and expected. Maybe when he was on loan he felt he had it all to prove to get back in the Liverpool frame. Fair enough, and maybe he was upset it didn't work out and Sunderland was plan B. Perhaps he thought he could rest on his laurels. It doesn't work like that Fabio.

Last season in particular, Borini rather summed up the club in recent years for me. Such great memories of him smashing the penalty in at Newcastle, the day at Wembley, seemed a lifetime ago as his appearance on the team sheet began to be met with groans rather than expectation. This was sad. But it was of mostly his own making. Maybe he was to some extent an architect of his own downfall with the massive highs he previously had provided. Had he come back straight away, things may have been different. For many once he had turned us down once, that was his chance. Momentum lost

He goes though having provided some of the best SAFC memories in recent years. So, for that I thank him, those memories money can't buy and what times they were. Sadly, though his SAFC career fizzled out and unfortunately, maybe some things are just not meant to be.

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SIMON SEZ…
ALL THE RIGHT THINGS

Simon Grayson has been outlining the way he wants his team to play in the hard and fast league that the Championship is. He said: "What I want to bring to Sunderland is a winning mentality. To win football matches, whether you have the ball for a long time or if whether you don't. It is about winning matches, that's what you want to try and create, a happy environment, players wanting to come into training and making it a special place to train, not turning up and it being a chore. Come here to enjoy yourselves. The matchday situation is the same, we want to get winning football matches," he added. "We'll play different systems, I've never been one to set my stall out and play in the same system week in, week out. We want to keep people second guessing. I keep repeating, it is about winning football matches, and we'll do whatever it takes to do that."

He was pretty upbeat at his first press conference and seems over the moon to be here. Grayson said: “I am delighted to come to Sunderland, a club with such wonderful history and tradition. I’m excited by the opportunity to manage this club and I want to bring the good times back. Sunderland are so fortunate to have such tremendous support and I want to give these fans a team they can be proud of. I want a group of players full of desire, team spirit and a never-say-die attitude – that’s the very least that we should expect from a Sunderland player. The Championship is a demanding league, but, with all the attributes I have highlighted, our aim has to be to get the club back to where it belongs as quickly as possible. I can’t wait to get started.”

Glynn Snodin will be Grayson’s assistant manager, as he was at Preston and the gaffer has joined the club just in time to head out to Austria this weekend for pre season boot camp. Grason said:“It’s been a whirlwind as you mentioned but first thing I’ll meet most of the staff, meet the players and get out onto the grass to get some work done. I can show the staff how I work, I can see how they work and there’s no better place to do that than abroad, and we also have to make sure we’re all together because whether it’s the football staff, the administrative staff or the players we're all in this together. We need to make sure the players are fit and ready for the first game, so they’ll have a tough pre-season. I know Adrian Lamb our head of performance and Robbie Stockdale and Adrian Tucker, so it’s going to be full on for the next five weeks and we have to be prepared for the challenge of the Championship. It’s a demanding league but the players have got to bring some heart and soul back to this area, while giving the supporters something to be proud of again.”

In other news, Fabio Borini has signed for AC Milan for £5.3m. More money for Grayson I guess…

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NEW BROOM, SWEEPS CLEAN
BY GARY BURRELL

When David Moyes walked away at the end of last season I don't know of any Sunderland fan that wanted Simon Grayson to replace him.

We can kid ourselves by researching his managerial career statistics, spouting out win percentages, reading what fans of other clubs have to say on his previous tenures or we can even boldly claim "I've always rated him" but to most it simply not true.

We were landed with not only a Manager we didn't want, but one we were about to ridicule.

What happened in the few hours after his appointment, was surprising yet pleasing, in equal measure.

Social Media, Message Boards, WhatsApp Groups and even good old fashioned conversations turned quite positive very quickly.

It may be the fact that we have little choice to back him now he's appointed.
Or perhaps that we've realised no one else wants to be here.
Or that we'd rather vent our anger towards Short or Bain.
Or that he's as good as we can expect these days.
Or maybe even the fact we now think he's a bloody decent manager...but I honestly believe a lot of it is due to his first brief interview with the club website.

It was in no means a tub-thumping, chest-pumping speech that made me want to go windmilling a bunch of Mags… however it was a straightforward positive, honest account of what he wants to bring to the club.

He used words that I have criticised our players for churning out in their 'rallying cries' for years - "desire, team spirt, never-say-die attitude" etc, but it actually sounded genuine.

He spoke of our expectations, working-class background, history, fanbase and tradition... again, sounding like he actually meant it. And to be honest, even if they were stage-managed sound bites, it was absolutely refreshing to hear. Comparing this to the dour, negative dross that spilled out of our previous Manager's mouth, was like night and day. And I for one, thoroughly enjoyed listening to him, and felt a lot more confident about the season ahead than I did earlier in the day.

One thing I completely disagree with however is the endless use of "He knows The Championship inside out" as a reason for offering him the job.

Four of last years top six were relative rookies at that level, and when looking at Grayson's CV, it's clear that he's more of an expert in winning promotion from League One than succeeding at the top end of The Championship.

Would any of us have been delighted with appointing the likes of Warnock, McCarthy, Bruce or Holloway... managers who not only "know The Championship inside out", but also know how to win promotion to The Premier League?

So, let's just strip away all that bollocks and take the bloke on face value. It may have been a few minutes chatting to a SAFC employee on camera, however it's given me the small lift I was craving and I wish him and his backroom staff all the best in the new campaign.

Not only is it good to see how much he wants to be here, but I also think that the timing could be ideal. Expectations are low, it genuinely feels like a new beginning and I think we all realise the financial constraints he will be under.

So, my message to Simon Grayson is simple - Good luck, stay positive, keep the hair nice and short and you'll have my full support.

Ha'way the Lads

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SIMON IS OUR MAN
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

The first official day of pre-season training has brought with it a new manager. The club confirmed this evening that former Preston, Leeds and Huddersfield manager Simon Grayson has signed a three-year deal.

This caps off a negative day for Sunderland with something positive. Earlier in the day, the news broke about the fall through of the takeover from the German consortium and then we were told that Jermaine Defoe had officially moved to Bournemouth. However, it was good to end on the appointment of a man who knows the Championship inside out and, more importantly, he knows how to run a team on a shoestring budget.

Judging the reaction off social media, the appointment of Grayson has mixed feelings with fans. Personally, those fans that are already being negative towards him need to give the man a chance. Of course, there will be lots of frustration around when you think back at the names that have turned us down over the course of the month. However, he has a lot of experience at this level and without any doubt, he knows that fans of Sunderland have suffered. In his first interview, he also assured us about the transfer situation, saying that players will want to play for the club for the shirt and not the money. This is hugely important, fans want a team to be proud of and Grayson can do this if he’s given a chance.

Grayson spent four years at his most recent job, guiding Preston into the Championship where they finished 11th last season. He is a man who knows how to consolidate a side in this league; this is going to be very important for us in the coming campaign. We could so easily be the next Portsmouth or Blackburn, a manager like Grayson is what we need to make sure we don’t implode once the season begins.

I understand those fans who are finding it hard to get excited about his appointment, but we can’t be critical. He will come into a club which was left depleted and embarrassed by David Moyes and his miserable persona. There will be a huge overhaul in players required in a very short space of time, credit to him for wanting to come in and try to put some pride back into Wearside.

All in all, the appointment of Simon Grayson has, in the long run, the potential to be very successful. He won't set the world alight, he won't turn us into a sexy footballing side, however, he will put pride pack into the club and hopefully he’ll recruit players who will feel the same.

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SIMON GRAYSON
SUNDERLAND’S NEW MANAGER

Simon Grayson is Sunderland’s new manager arriving on a three-year deal. Grayson said: “I am delighted to come to Sunderland, a club with such wonderful history and tradition, and I’m excited by the opportunity to manage this club and I want to bring the good times back. Sunderland are so fortunate to have such tremendous support and I want to give these fans a team they can be proud of. I want a group of players full of desire, team spirt and a never-say-die attitude - that’s the very least that we should expect from a Sunderland player. The Championship is a demanding league, but with all the attributes I have highlighted then our aim has to be to get the club back to where it belongs as quickly as possible and I can’t wait to get started.”

SAFC chief executive Martin Bain said: “We warmly welcome Simon to Sunderland. From the outset he demonstrated a tremendous enthusiasm for the job and his desire and ambition to make this football club better shone through. Wherever he has managed, he has improved those clubs, which is a clear indication of his ability to build a team on solid foundations and create the right environment for success, and these are certainly attributes that we as a football club want to embrace as we embark on our own re-building process with him at the helm. Finally, in welcoming Simon, I would also like to extend my thanks to the chairman and board of Preston North End. I know they were understandably keen to retain his services and we thank them for their cooperation during the discussion process.”

Here's some letters reacting to the appointment

Dear ALS

Well, it's certainly been an eventful few weeks in the crazy world that is Sunderland AFC. Where on earth do I begin?

Actually, has it been eventful? At first it seems that way... On reflection, maybe not.

Simon Grayson has replaced David Moyes. Other than that, what's actually been going on since our relegation from the Premier League was confirmed?

Let's look at the search for a new Manager. Barring a very brief chat with Derek McInnes, everything else was speculation fuelled by bookies, fans or the media.

As for a new owner, the takeover talks with Fulwell73 seemed to be over before they begun and how much does anyone know about this mystery German consortium? How far did talks actually get? It all now appears to be much ado about nothing.

Losing our best players in Pickford and Defoe was always expected, as was releasing those that were out of contract at the end of last season. The likes of Bracewell and other backroom staff departing was never going to grab any headlines, so how eventful has it actually been?

And therein lies the problem. It's been a complete and utter waste of valuable time. Again.

Ellis Short just cannot seem to do anything right. He never appears to learn any lesson from previous mistakes.

The appointment of Martin Bain looks as ill-judged as the others that have come and gone from the Boardroom during Short's spell on Wearside. And now yet again, we are playing catch-up with the rest of the clubs in our division. Unforgivably we are again already into Pre-Season training with another new Manager having to assess what he has at his disposal, and put together a recruitment strategy in the blink of an eye. Year after year after year.

Is this finally the time the cycle is broken? Is Grayson eventually the right man at the right time who is going to build a squad, playing-style and identity we all crave? I don't know a great deal about the bloke's management capabilities but I certainly hope that is the case. But with Ellis Short at the helm you'd have to say it would be down to luck rather than good judgement.

I think Short has managed to swerve a lot of flack so far due to the vast sums he has pumped into our club. But if in a few months’ time results are terrible, the players are hopeless, the attendances are pitiful and we're all wanting yet more change - then it simply has to be at the very top. If that means him bailing out with huge personal losses then so be it. I'm afraid it will be time for badly spelt slogans on bedsheets. At a knock-down price, there has to be someone out there who can take us over. What's Charlie Chawke and the Hays Travel bloke up to these days?

I'll attempt to end on a positive note. Although it feels like crushing blows are delivered on a daily basis at the moment, when all is said and done I am still looking forward to life in The Championship. Expectations seem to be as low as I could imagine but as long as our new gaffer avoids going back down the full Terry Nutkins hairdo route, then deserves our backing. As do the squad of players that are hastily assembled in time for our opening game against Derby County. Yes, the majority of us are all used to SAFC being in the second tier, but it still feels like we're about to venture into something new.

Let's get behind the lads in their Red and White pinstripes, Keep the Faith and muster up some strength in adversity....

Ha'way the Lads
Gary Burrell

Dear ALS

So, its situation normal, as you were, SNAFU., whatever you want to term it. I think what a lot of supporters would like to know is why, why the Germans were considered to be unsuitable to buy out the present regime.

Was it the people involved, the cash available to run the club, the direction they wished to go or what?

It’s almost inconceivable to think that what was on offer could be worse than we have to endure at present.  Given the secretive nature of the our owner and officials I guess we will just have to accept things as they are.

Come along Echo and local Journos, how about some pressure on the board to enlighten the long suffering fans.

Not holding my breath
Derek Lambert

Dear ALS

While I understand fans frustration and feeling let down by the club. I agree with your statement that boycotting the club is not the way forward.

I have been vocal in the past about Short and a number of poor decisions that have been taken not only by him but various Managers and directors of football.

But we are where we are. What is left is a group of young players along with a scattering of more experienced players who will probably feel as unsure of the future as ourselves. The club needs stability and if that comes in the form of Simon Grayson then so be it.

Hopefully Short will give to Grayson (if he is the man to take us forward) the right backing and the Manager will be here successfully for the next few years.

God we need it. Now is the time even it is through gritted teeth to give whatever Manager we have, along with the team our full support.

Dave Mckeever
Doncaster

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THE WAY IT IS
BY SOBS

They say no news is good news, and in the case of Sunderland it certainly appears to be the case, as every bit of news we do get seems to be of the distinctly negative variety. Apart from being able to point at Pickford's England U21 performances and say "telt yer", it's been all doom and gloom coming out of the club since the end of the season, and today's statement from the club, telling us that the much talked-about German consortium - the only details of which have been that they're German, and therefore a)highly efficient and good at penalties, and b) have access to Kraftwerk tickets - effectively failed their second job interview.

Of course, this is hugely disappointing for us fans. We want something to happen as much as the club needs something to happen, and we want it to happen as soon as possible. The season effectively starts today with the players back in training, and steps up a gear on Saturday when the media-frenzied nonsense that is the transfer window opens up and all sorts of has-beens and crocks start flying in through ours. Except there's nobody at the club to either identify or sign them.

The official line that the consortium didn't convince Ellis and Bain that they had the right ideas to take us forward, both on and off the pitch, begs the question: "never mind take us forward, would stopping the current slide not be both realistic and sufficient given our current predicament?" Should we, the club, be lowering our sights a bit (perhaps a lot - who knows where they were aimed in the first place?) and thinking of short-term stability rather than the immediate return to the Prem, which would take some serious kind of bampot to predict given the state of our squad, which currently has more holes than a pair of designer jeans.

The turmoil created by the proposed takeover/sale has left the club way further back than it was a month ago, and the fans still understandably angry and upset. The appearance of a new home shirt that's radically different gave us a new target for our frustrations, saving the cat, or the dustbin in catless homes, the threat of abuse. We've interviewed (visited on holiday, actually) precisely one potential manager, who sensibly decided to stay where he was. We've been linked with dozens of others, seen an assortment of lunatics (Pearson) and romantic choices (Phillips, McCoist) remove themselves from a race they weren't in anyway, and have, as mentioned at the end of the statement, been granted permission by Preston to talk to Simon Grayson. Let's be honest, he's worked fairly well at the level we're now pitching at, and with limited funds. Would he be willing to risk his reputation by trying to achieve similar things with - no disrespect to any of his former employers- a "bigger club"? One that currently hasn't got a senior striker, given Borini's almost inevitable (and not disappointing) departure for a few million quid?

Much of what happens next depends on what we do with that few million, which, when added to the Pickford Pounds, the Parachute Payment, and whatever alliterative term you can think of for Kone, could provide something approaching £100 million. Honest. Whether Mr Short decides to pay off a massive chunk of our debt or point potential managers at a massive (by our standards) Magic Money Tree remains to be seen. About the only thing certain is that we're stuck with what we've got as far as ownership goes, meaning that there's been an awful lot of fuss, grief, and uncertainty for precisely zero change.

It's Sunderland man, what did you really expect? It's as if we got relegated anyway but the season never ended.

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NO TAKEOVER, CLUB TALKS TO GRAYSON AND DEFOE SAYS GOODBYE
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

Today was the day when five weeks of optimistic speculation blew up in our faces. All of the talks of Ellis Short selling up and shipping out of the club has gone.

The official statement from the club was tough to read. Being told that the sale of the club ‘would not be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC’. This seems to translate as ‘the proposed sale of the club has fallen through’. This saga would have been all well and good if we actually had something to show for it. However, we don’t, and now we are weeks behind many teams in the league with no signings and an owner who many wanted to have gone by now.

It begs the question of what actually happened with the takeover? We had the odd vague statement from the club giving us vague updates on the sale of the club. Now, just days after being told we were a week away from takeover (for the second week in a row) we get told that Ellis Short will remain in control and the exciting gamble on the promising German manager will most likely not be happening now.

In fact, this came on the same day that we opened talks with Simon Grayson, the only man to have been linked with the job that hasn’t turned us down yet; there is, however, still time for that. Ok, he wouldn’t be the worst appointment, but after all the names that have turned us down it feels like he’s almost a last resort. He has a decent record at this level, there’s no question about that, however, it once again shows how little ambition the club has.

Oh well, things can only get better, right? Well, not today, unfortunately. Shortly after the announcement about the takeover, it was confirmed that Jermaine Defoe has officially left the club for Bournemouth. It was inevitable but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. He gave the club everything and to score the number of goals he did as part of such a poor team, it goes to show just how good he is. It's great to see him back in the Premier League, he deserved so much more than this mess.

This might have been a pretty bad day for the club, but many fans have taken to social media for talk of boycotting the club. That sort of thing is ridiculous. It's at this point that the club needs the support the most. It's going to be a long campaign against teams who will, despite our current situation, see us as a big scalp to have. There is of course, like with everything in this world, some shreds of positivity to be salvaged. Now that the ownership saga is over, the club can settle down and sort out a manager. If this manager is Simon Grayson then we can at least look forward to a season of stability from a man who knows how to tackle the Football League.

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SO SHORT STAYS AND SIMON GRAYSON FOR MANAGER!
WASTE OF A SUMMER WAITING...

The club have released the following statement regarding the proposed sale of the club and the future of SAFC

Recently, we informed supporters that discussions were taking place with parties who had expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of Sunderland AFC. Subsequently, more detailed talks were held over the last week with one of these groups. Ellis Short and the board were committed to ascertain if this group was better placed to take the club forward in the right way and to improve it, both on and off the pitch.

A defined timeframe was placed on discussions to ensure that the club could move forward quickly and decisively with its plans for the new season should they not come to fruition. We have concluded these talks and have determined that this proposed sale would not be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC.

Ellis Short will continue his commitment to the club, both financially and personally, moving forward. We would like to thank our supporters for their patience during what we know has been a period of uncertainty and frustration for them.

Preston North End have granted us permission to speak with Simon Grayson regarding the manager’s position.

In other news, Bournemouth have completed the signing of Jermain Defoe on a three-year deal. Three years!

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BGOODBYE DEFOE
BY LUKE HAKIN

It’s funny how things turn out in football. It was in April 2010, in arguably one of the greatest games of the Stadium of Light’s 20-year history, that a superb Sunderland outclassed Spurs 3-1, despite missing two of the three penalties awarded to us that day. Spurs had clinched the reverse fixture earlier in the season 1-0, though the game was notable more for the broken arm suffered by Craig Gordon at the hands (or feet) of a certain Jermain Defoe, who was in direct competition with the then-fan favourite Darren Bent for a place in England’s World Cup squad.

Five months later, the SOL crowd were in no forgiving mood, jeering Defoe’s introduction as a half time substitute and every touch thereafter. Despite rumoured interest towards the end of Steve Bruce’s reign, few tears were shed when Defoe departed Spurs for Toronto in January 2014. At the age of 31 and with 1 league goal all season, this was a striker seemingly on the decline, playing out the last remaining years of his career from the MLS retirement home.

That Defoe returned to England and now leaves Sunderland, for Bournemouth, a true icon is testament not only to his instinctive goalscoring ability – 34 goals in two and a half years – but also his dedication, professionalism and character. The departure of Bent less than a year after that game hurt the club, and fans have learnt the hard way since not to trust a footballer’s word, but it’s impossible to fake the emotion shown by Defoe when celebrating THAT goal against the Mags. Defoe not only embraced the role of talisman but thrived off it.

The image of Defoe sliding to his knees, shirt above his head, visibly choked after volleying in one of the best goals scored at the SOL, bang on the stroke of half time on a red-hot Bank Holiday afternoon in front of a white hot crowd is already iconic. Defoe spoke glowingly recently of the passion of the Tyne-Wear derby, ranking it above Spurs vs Arsenal as the best he has played in. In an era where fans often struggle to feel connected to the players representing them on the pitch, it’s a genuine shame that Defoe’s time has come to an end; again, not only for his ability on the pitch, but also his impact off it.

That goal came during a difficult first year for Defoe. Signed in exchange for the horrifically goal-shy Jozy Altidore, Defoe scored in the home win over Burnley and away draw at Swansea but struggled to fit into Gus Poyet’s rigid defensive system. Poyet’s replacement, Dick Advocaat, too struggled to accommodate Defoe, shunting him out to the left wing for the relegation run-in. Defoe sacrificed himself for the team without complaint, but must have felt frustration when playing as an emergency left back at times during the 0-0 draw away at Arsenal that reduced Advocaat to tears. Even Sam Allardyce, during the first half of the following season, inexplicably opted for the Ola Toivonen / Steven Fletcher pairing over Defoe at times, admitting later that he had wrongly assumed Defoe to be incapable of leading the line on his own.

It wasn’t until the New Year that Defoe’s Sunderland really career took off, netting a brace at home to Aston Villa followed by a hat-trick away at Swansea. The latter, in particular, showcased Defoe’s predatory finishing skills – reacting first to a rebounded shot from a goalkeeper error, bundling home another from close range and finishing coolly from a well-timed run for his third. They were typical Defoe goals. I had previous misconceptions earlier in his career that Defoe relied too heavily on pace, and that his effectiveness would diminish with age as his fitness declined. I was wrong, just as I was in 2010. Defoe’s movement, awareness and touch were sublime, knowing exactly when to run and where to be to fashion out chances for himself - chances that too often looked beyond the capabilities of his teammates. In any case, thanks to his obsessive dedication to goalscoring, Defoe remained as fit at 34 as he was 10 years previously.
In May 2016, Sunderland produced another SOL classic, twice coming from behind to beat Chelsea 3-2 and all-but-secure survival for the season. It was fitting that Defoe notched the winner, with an excellent driving shot on the turn to spark jubilation in the stands. Defoe scored 15 league goals in both 15/16 and 16/17, despite playing in one of the worst Sunderland teams in living memory this season, and never, between January 2016 and February 2017, played more than 4 teams without scoring. His run of scoring in 10 consecutive away games is remarkable, given the dross surrounding him on the pitch, chronic lack of creativity and mismanagement in the dugout and boardroom.

Defoe’s goals inevitably led to comparisons with Kevin Phillips, but it’s his incredible friendship off the pitch with best mate Bradley Lowery that should be celebrated most. Scoring the goals that make thousands happy on a weekend will always endear a player to the crowd, but the impact he has had on one boy’s life during such an awful time is absolutely priceless.

Since his England recall in March, there have been accusations from some fans that Defoe downed tools, knowing the game was up and he'd be able to walk away for free. On reflection, there probably is a small element of truth to that. Defoe joins Bournemouth on a three-year deal, having ended his Sunderland career on something of a damp squib, but when the dust settles, his actions both on and off the pitch will be remembered for years to come.

Thanks for the memories Jermain…

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BACK TO WORK FOR THE MILLIONAIRES…
SORT IT SHORT

Well after weeks, if not months, of waiting for something good to happen, those interested in buying SAFC have 48 hours to meet Ellis Short’s end of June deadline. Watch this space, at the mo it’s like watching paint dry…

In other news, AC Milan are set to splash out £5m on Fabio Borini, who is having a medical today. No great loss there…

And Kevin Phillips has been chatting about Sunderland’s sad, sad situation. Some press are running that he has turned us down, but he was never offered the job! Phillips said: “The Sunderland situation, who knows what is happening there until the takeover happens. It worries me when Derek McInnes has turned the job down so there is something going on behind the scenes there. Until the takeover happens, if it happens, then I can understand why people are distancing themselves. Any prospective manager going in there will want some money to change it, it is as simple as that, you need money to spend. I didn’t chuck my name in the hat. It is just natural because of my affiliation with the club, that I’m linked. I am contracted to Derby. I am delighted to be at Derby and happy to be here with the changes we have made over the last year or so and I have managed to stay so I can only speak about Derby at the minute.”

And here’s a lovely blog about the way things are…

HI HO, IT’S BACK TO WORK WE GO…
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It’s not quite as exciting as Christmas Day, but it sure is exciting, right? No, of course it isn’t. Its dull, it just brings us one day closer to the start of the season and no one really knows what exactly is going on.

The players return to training today and there will of course be some noticeable absentees. Pickford and Defoe have moved on to pastures new, we shouldn’t be bitter but it’s very hard not to. John O’Shea will be back after originally being released. It’s great that he’s back in the squad, he may have his best playing days behind him however his experience will be crucial for the coming season. The way our summer is going, it wouldn’t be surprising to see lots of youngsters in match day squads, his words of wisdom and his presence in the back four will be very important.

Will there be more missing faces? Well for a start, Fabio Borini is basically half way to AC Milan now. It’s been rumoured we’ll get five million for him, it’s not much compared to what we paid for him, but after his performances last year I think we’re lucky to get anything for him. There’ll also of course be no Victor Anichebe but again, apart from five games before Christmas, he hardly set the world alight.

All the players who have left between the end of last season and now (apart from the two very obvious exceptions) have departed with little impact. They’ve left fans going ‘yeah ok they’ve gone, who cares’. The only frustrating thing about the players who have left is that they’ve managed to leave our sinking ship, even though they were in the engine room.

The start of pre-season feels empty when you think we have a small squad with no manager to welcome them and lots of questions over who owns the club they play for. It would be good if the remaining players cared about what happens within the club, however we also need them to turn us back into a respectable team on the pitch.

The squad will have a week before we hit Gigg Lane and take on Bury in our first warm up game next Friday. It’s pretty safe to say we will have no new additions so the team by then. Our pre-season campaign will have us come up against various levels of opposition and it will be good to see where the players are at in terms of fitness and ability. As for new players coming in, they’ll have a matter of weeks to settle in to a squad which will have even more departures before the big kick off.  

We all knew the Championship would be tough, however the club seem to be doing their best to make it as hard as possible for us to even muster together a decent outfit. We are in a bit of a mess, but the strange and futile pre-season anticipation has well and truly set in. It’s awful the way they make us fans feel this way, but we’ll be there every year.

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MISERY
BY TOM DAVIDSON

Are you happy now Martin Bain…

I am so annoyed at the current situation brought about by a former catalogue model that I had to write something. I am heavily involved in concerts at stadiums and the one thing we had over NUFC were the concerts. To blame the pitch effect is ridiculous. We've lost that now. So much for the City of Culture….

These days a Premier League football club is more than just football. Of course, we concentrate on the football but there is a lot more to consider. It is a local business and, as such, has a massive effect on the town and surrounding areas. Look at Man City. The miserable time we are having will continue unless we can find an owner who is willing to buy into the massive support and influence the club has in the region.

We are seeing the systematic destruction of a football club. The women's team, the redundancies, the lack of a sale, the lack of a manager, the removal of key staff in the club… All I can say is that I hope we do sell and the new owners bring in a totally new board with business and football brains.

I really thought Ellis Short had better plans for the club. Let's hope he doesn't put it into receivership.

My wife and I still bought our season tickets in the hope that when all this is over and we have new people in place, we will still be in our seats cheering the lads on.

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CELTIC AT HOME…
NORWICH AWAY

We will play Celtic at the Stadium of Light on Saturday 29 July at 3pm, to mark the 20th anniversary of its opening. Tickets are on sale now. Prices are: adult - £12; over 65 - £10; under 22 - £5; under 16 -  free of charge. To buy tickets go to www.safc.com by phone; 0371 911 1973 (24-hour service); or in-person: Stadium of Light ticket office; Monday-Friday: 9am - 5pm

Meanwhile, our trip to Norwich City will now take place on Sunday 13 August at 1.30pm. ALS coach departure times have been changed too.

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BROKEN RECORD…
TAKING THE PISS

Well, the players return to work tomorrow (Thursday) for pre-season training and we still have no new owner, or manager, or new players. The press were claiming this time last week that an agreement should be reached by the end of last week, they are now trotting out the same story, saying the deal could be done by the end of this week. Hopefully they are right, but I wouldn’t hold your breath!

The Germans are still in pole position, but the US-backed consortium, which Fulwell73 were involved in, are back in the frame too, but minus the London based TV production company. Make of it what you will, but Ellis Short’s end of June deadline is fast approaching, as is our first friendly game against Bury on Friday July 7.

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IT’S A NEIN FROM KLINSMAN; COULD IT BE GRAYSON OR KELLER?
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It’s another day, but the latest Sunderland news is no different. Another manager has said he won’t be coming to Sunderland. How many is that now? I’ve lost count but it’s now up to three this week alone.

The latest of these is Jurgen Klinsman. The former German international and USA boss had his name knocked around in the press and with the German consortium moving closer to the takeover it seems very likely that we will have a German gaffer. His experience would have come in very useful; however, it may have been a blessing that he is no longer coming. He hasn’t managed anyone like us and he probably never will. It would be hard to see him being able to get to grips with the Championship when his only club experience was with that little Bavarian team known as Bayern Munich.

On the other hand, it does once more highlight how unattractive we must be. Yes, he’s a relatively big name; however, he’s also unemployed and has been for months, albeit living a millionaire lifestyle in LA. We were unable to get an unemployed manager to want to come to our club, it doesn’t say much but we are running out of candidates.

It would seem we are now down to a two way shoot out in terms of manager. Union Berlins Jen Keller would be ideal at this point. He’s got experience managing in a second division, albeit in Germany and not England. He will come with a good reputation and hopefully with plenty of money from our new potential German owners. On the other hand, if the media is to be believed, we will end up with Simon Grayson. Everything about this appointment would give a grey forecast for the coming campaign. He hasn’t even got a proven record in the Championship and I doubt he would be able to change that with the resources he would most likely have here.

The stagnant wait for a manager and owner is becoming more and more irritating every day. It does however look to have been narrowed right down. If the Germans come in and take over, there’ll be more chance of us getting Keller. If not, then Grayson will probably be our man. Either way the season is coming round fast and whoever is in charge come august 4th will be in for a baptism of fire in one of the toughest divisions in Europe.

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KLINSMANN STAYS IN LA…
KELLER FAVOURITE

Jurgen Klinsmann is the latest manager to distance himself from the Sunderland job! He posted the following on Facebook after watching the 70s band Styx in Los Angeles last night! This is like a sitcom now. Klinsmann said: “There is no truth in rumours about me coaching Sunderland FC in the near future."

That leaves Union Berlin coach Jens Keller as favourite for the job if the Germans takeover and Simon Grayson is looks set to step in should the takeover not go through.

Meanwhile, George Honeyman reckons that Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore will both give our squad a massive boost this coming season, now they are returning from injury. “It will be a big boost to get Dunc and Paddy back because they’re going to be two big players for us this year. We have the makings of a really good, youthful team and there’s definitely a feeling amongst the players that we can do something this year. We want to bounce straight back and I don’t see any reason why we can’t, but we can’t take anything for granted and we have to earn the right to be back in the Premier League. We have to make a fast start to the season and we have to be ready for it.”

Finally, Derek McInnes has been explaining his decision to turn down Sunderland and stay with Aberdeen. "I thought long and hard about it," said McInnes. "There's been other opportunities in my time here when I've been asked if there was any interest and I've quickly moved away from it. Sunderland was a club I was keen to speak to and once permission was granted it was something I wanted to follow up, just to make a more balanced call on it. I think naturally there's a lot to be enticed by the opportunity, so many positives with it, it's a fantastic club, but having taken everything into consideration and taking my time with the whole process, I decided to stay. I've always said it would be a huge wrench to leave here, I love my job here. I've had a lot of good times so I thought long and hard and the decision was to stay at the club. I'm delighted we're moving on and I can put that to bed."

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NOTHING TO REPORT…
BUT WE’LL REPORT IT

Well there’s sod all happening, but we thought we’d bring you the scraps anyway. First up, the takeover and Ellis Short is in the later stages of talks with the German investors and it seems they will decide this week, one way, or the other, if they are taking over the club.

Meanwhile, Lazio officials will be in the UK this week with a view to signing Fabio Borini. Chances are we’ll lose a few million on him, at least.

In other news, former Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy reckons that we should buy Daryl Murphy off Newcastle! Controversial. McCarthy said: "If they (Newcastle) want full recovery of his wages, then no. I would be surprised – If was the new Sunderland manager I would take him there because he’s living in the North East and he is a very good Championship player. Someone of that (Sunderland) ilk, with the ability to pay those sort of wages, will have the ability to do it. I think that’s where he will end up at a club where he’ll be able to command that sort of money."

One player we definitely won’t be buying is Manchester United right-back Guillermo Varela, who has been linked heavily with us.

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JURGEN KLINSMANN TO MANAGE SAFC
APPARENTLY

Well it’s getting quite exciting now, in terms of media rumours anyway! Many major news sources are claiming that Sunderland will approach Jurgen Klinsmann to manage SAFC when the German consortium completes its takeover.

And Dwight Yorke claims he applied for the job as our gaffer! He said: "They’ve got a great support and it’s a club I’ve played for so I can understand what it takes. I have the experience of playing in the Championship for six months and winning that league so I know what it takes. People say you need loads of experience at a different level and all that kind of business but you look at the lifespan of a manager and it’s not very long anymore. “All the years I played football, you can be an experienced manager or not an experienced manager but if the players don’t buy into what you say you are never going to go anywhere. I tried to get the Sunderland job recently and have been very lucky to get a conversation but that’s all it is. With the owners looking to sell and a consortium looking to buy the club, there’s always that… [uncertainty].”

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THE OPTIMISM WILL COME
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

The release of the fixtures usually means teams across the country are awash with anticipation. For Sunderland, there is, thankfully, some sense of optimism, however this may be just because we now have something to look forward to.

We’ve been handed a tricky start, not that there will be many easy games in this league. The Friday night opener at the SoL against Derby will give us all a chance to hit the ground running. So why is there so little expectation? Well it’s simple really. We look far from ready for kick off.

The on-going wait for the sale of the club to be sold is getting frustrating but it does look as though, slowly but surely, the German consortium look set to take control soon. This will spell the end of Ellis Short’s nine long years as majority shareholder. It has been a gradual decline into the Football League and I cannot wait for him to sell up and ship out and that’s about as polite as I can be!

Unfortunately, the search for a manager has been even more agonising. As we were told this would be put on hold until the ownership issue was solved, if became clear that the club were willing to use as much time as possible. It’s a shame we don’t have a great deal of time left before pre-season preparations hit full swing.

Managers ruling themselves out of the running seems to be a daily occurrence at the moment, with Chris Wilder and Nigel Pearson dropping out in the few days. Wilder would have been a great appointment, a passionate manager who has shown his ability in the Football League. Pearson could have been more of a risk but at the end of the day it’s two more names to cross off the list.

Finally, as a result of the lack of uncertainty over manager/owner, it looks as though we’ll have a threadbare squad for the start of pre-season. Obviously, this is hard to avoid, yet this doesn’t reduce the concern. Once the ownership issue is settled, we should see the search for a manager pick up pace and then once the new man is set in he can hopefully be given enough time and resources to prep for the new campaign. It’s important not to rush, however the season is uncomfortably close and things are moving at an agonizingly slow pace.

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MANAGERIAL UNCERTAINTY GOES ON
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

The end of the latest week of manager searching looks to have narrowed down two candidates who may well be formerly approached for the job.

The past few days have seen two managers rule themselves out of the running, these being Nigel Pearson and Chris Wilder, who signed a new deal at Sheffield United. It was always going to be hard to tempt Wilder away from his boy hood club and not getting Pearson is no great set-back.

The two names who have emerged as front runners are Simon Grayson and the lesser known Jens Keller. Grayson’s ability and reputation is well known throughout the Football League and as it might be ok to keep us steady in the Championship he is unlikely to set Wearside alight. Keller, on the other hand, could be the unpolished diamond we need.

Keller guided Union Berlin to fourth in the German Bundesliga 2, winning 18 and losing just 10 of his 34 games in charge. He’s also had two years’ experience at Schalke 04, winning just under 50% of his games. These kinds of stats are what we need in a manager; Keller is a man who has a more than respectable record in tough leagues. I would rather the club take a gamble on a promising manager from the continent, than a washed up English boss who is looking for a last decent pay day.

The prospects of getting Keller hinge on whether or not the German consortium completes their takeover. It’s been heavily hinted that he is their top target, this possible German takeover would be a breath of fresh air after the mismanagement of Short and Bain.

Huddersfield took a gamble on David Wagner and they went from relegation candidates in the Championship to a Premier League side in little over a year. Surely a man similar to this would be worth the risk? A change in fortunes is badly needed and I would welcome this kind of alternative approach to a manager.

Ideally, we’d need to have the German owners in place to attract Keller. Personally, I would welcome Keller with open arms.

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THINGS HAPPENING…
HAPPY WEEKEND

It seems that the German consortium, who are set to take over Sunderland, are hoping to push the deal through in time to take charge next week. At the same time, the odds on Union Berlin’s head coach Jens Keller becoming Sunderland’s next manager have been slashed. In other news, Nigel Pearson reckons that he has 'no interest' in the Sunderland manager’s job.

Despite being released by SAFC two weeks ago, John O’Shea will pen a 12 month deal to stay at the Stadium of Light next season after all. He’s clearly taken a wage cut. O’Shea said: “I’ve really enjoyed being here every year. It’s a great place and the people around the place, the club, the Sunderland family outside and inside, whether at the training ground or Black Cats House, the decency amongst the people is very special and it’s something I definitely want to continue with.”

Elsewhere, Stewart Downing has been linked with a move to Sunderland after being released by Middlesbrough.

Meanwhile, Donald Love is looking forward to the new season, which kicks off at home to Derby. He said: “It’s great to be at home on the opening day and we’ll be aiming to start with a win. We want to show the fans that we’re up for the fight in the Championship, and there’s always an added edge playing under the floodlights so we’re all looking forward to it. It’s also on TV so we can show everybody what we’re about and put down an early marker. Derby are a good side and we face some big clubs in the first few games, but that gives us a chance to show what we’re about and show we’re one of the top teams in the division. We’re back next week and everything will be focussed towards making sure we start with a win.”

Finally, our trip to Sheffield Wednesday, due to take place on Tuesday August 15 has been pushed forward 24 hours to the Wednesday, 7.45 kick off.

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CHAMPIONSHIP RUNDOWN
BY ADAM GILL

Well the fixtures are out and looking through the dates and opponents made me realise just how little I know about some of the teams in The Championship. So I did some research and thought I’d share it with you lot…

ASTON VILLA
Villa had a disappointing campaign last season, a season in which they would have been expected to challenge for promotion. The team’s attacking force is certainly their strength, however there may be cause for concern on the defensive front, and an area they may look to reinvest in. Steve Bruce is a manager that is certainly known to Sunderland fans, and Villa Park is a place that any fan should visit if they have the chance. I think that Aston Villa will narrowly missing out on a play-off place.

BARNSLEY
Barnsley finished 14th in the Championship last season, however I think it will be much harder for them this season. They have lost most of the team that helped them finish 14th, with players like Alfie Mawson, Sam Winnall and Conor Hourihane leaving the club. I can see Barnsley struggling during the course of the season; however, I think they have enough quality to keep them in the Championship. I think they will finish in the bottom half but just outside the relegation zone, securing Championship football for another season.

BIRMINGHAM CITY
Birmingham City had a poor season last time around, changing managers three times, with Gary Rowett, Gianfranco Zola and Harry Redknapp all featuring. The style of football may be boring; however, Harry Redknapp’s could prove to be crucial in the upcoming season, so safety shouldn’t be too hard for them. The defence may need improvements, but they should have enough to push for the top half. I think Birmingham could surprise a few people, however I’m backing them to finish mid-table.

BOLTON WANDERERS
Bolton finished second in League One, after having a good season. Gary Madine, Josh Vela and David Wheater were crucial in their push for promotion; however, their weakness is the lack of depth throughout the squad. New signings will be necessary if they want to stay in the league, especially players who are capable of performing in the Championship. Unfortunately, I can’t see Bolton being a threat in the Championship and can see them suffering relegation after one season.

BRENTFORD
After finishing 10th in the previous Championship season, I can see Brentford finishing around the same position. Players like Jota and Lasse Vibe will important players for Brentford, along with Nico Yennaris. Brentford’s strength is their goal scoring attack, whereas the midfield and defence need reinforcing to have another solid season. I think if Brentford improve their overall defence, they could be pushing for the play offs, however I don’t think they will. I believe Brentford will finish mid table.

BRISTOL CITY
Even though Bristol City finished 17th last season and I think they will struggle in staying in the league this time around. Ashton Gate will be a good ground to visit, despite the long journey, and would recommend going this season. The strength for Bristol City last season were the goals that came from Tammy Abraham, however they don’t have that clinical striker in their ranks. Bristol City will have to replace Abraham with two or three Championship goal scorers, but even if they do the whole squad looks weak and will need improving. Bristol City have a lack of sellable assets, so improving the squad will be a challenge. I think Bristol City will finish in the bottom three and ultimately be relegated to League One.

BURTON ALBION
Burton Albion’s stadium is why most Sunderland fans will enjoy going to the game. The Pirelli Stadium has a capacity of 6,912 with 2,034 seated. If Burton are going to stay in the Championship next season they will need to hold onto their best players like Jackson Irvine and Lucas Akins. They will need improvements throughout the whole squad, however, with little money I don’t think they will sign the players needed for staying in the Championship.

CARDIFF CITY
The only Welsh team in the Championship; it is certainly a long journey for Sunderland fans. The club are managed by Neil Warnock, a manager who certainly isn’t lacking any experience, and are likely to finish around mid-table in the upcoming season. The key players for Cardiff are Bruno Ecuele Manga and Kenneth Zohore, and are certainly lads that may attract interest from other Championship clubs. If Cardiff holds on to their best players I can see them finishing around mid-table again, not quite having the quality for a promotion push.

DERBY COUNTY
After finishing just outside the play-off places last season, I can see Derby pushing for promotion again but just missing out. Tom Ince, Will Hughes and Darren Bent, who Sunderland fans know is still a decent finisher, will be Derby’s most important players. They will have to sign another goal scoring striker and a solid defender; otherwise I can’t see them threatening the other promotion candidates.

FULHAM
Fulham will be expected to be pushing for automatic promotion this season, after crashing out in the play-offs to Reading. Arguably one of the best teams to watch last season, Fulham finished joint top scorers in the league, resulting in their late push towards the play-offs. While their attack may be good, they will have to improve their defence if they want to cement their place in the top six or even in the top two. I think Fulham will carry on their good end to last season and finish in the top six.

HULL CITY
Hull will be one of the favourites to win the league, following their relegation to the Championship. While most of the same squad from the Premier League will stay with Hull, they will need to improve like everyone else in the Championship if they want an automatic return to the Premier League. The managerial appointment of Leonid Slutsky could turn out either way. The appointment could be a good one due to his managerial experience in other leagues and at international level, however his lack of experience in the Championship may prove costly. Looking back at recent years, Hull seem to always push for automatic promotion but only just lose out. However, winning the play-offs is Hull’s speciality and I think they will win the play-offs again.

IPSWICH TOWN
After a solid season and finishing 16th in the league, Ipswich will want to improve on that and push further up the league. With good young players like Teddy Bishop and Adam Webster, Ipswich will have to spend money on improving their squad with experienced Championship players to help the club improve on their previous position. One of the many long journeys for Sunderland fans, Portman Road would be a good ground to visit as most people have not likely been there. I can see Ipswich pushing further up the league than their previous position, however not much higher. I think they will finish around 15th place securing safety comfortably but not having a great influence on higher teams.

LEEDS UNITED
One of the away many games that Sunderland fans will love to go to, the games against Leeds home and away will produce a fiery atmosphere and also a great game. Chris Wood will be Leeds’ main threat, with the striker scoring 27 league goals last season. Leeds narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season after a disappointing end to the campaign. The departure of Garry Monk will prove to be a huge blow to Leeds and the supporters as well. The appointment of Thomas Christiansen will be risky since he has only managed in Cyprus, and so has a lack of experience in English football. I think this could prove costly for Leeds and can see them just missing out on the play-offs again.

MIDDLESBROUGH
Another big game for Sunderland is their game against Middlesbrough, often called the Wear-Tees Derby. The Riverside is not the greatest stadium to visit, however the prospect of beating Middlesbrough will come of huge delight to Sunderland supporters. Appointing Garry Monk as manager is a huge step for Boro in gaining automatic promotion and they will have most of the same squad from last season, and appointing a Championship proven manager like Garry Monk, I can see Middlesbrough gaining automatic promotion.

MILLWALL
Always dodgy away from home. Recently promoted from League 1, Millwall will be fighting for survival in the Championship this season, unless they spend a reasonable amount of money on new players. I think they will struggle in the Championship and could even finish bottom of the league, suffering relegation straight back to League 1.

NORWICH CITY
A promotion candidate for the upcoming season, Norwich will want to improve on their position last season where they finished 8th in the league. Carrow Road is definitely worth a visit, even though it is a long journey to get there. They are a team who can score a lot of goals, however their defence seems to be the weak link of the squad. If Norwich spend money on improving their defence, I can see them coming close to the play-offs but narrowly missing out again.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST
After just surviving relegation last season, Nottingham Forest are going to have to spend quite a bit on improving the overall quality of their squad. I can see Forest surviving again in the upcoming season, however struggling for the majority of it. The quality in the squad may just be good enough for them to survive, however if they don’t spend money they will not improve their league position. I can see them being in a relegation battle, securing Championship football towards the end of the season.

PRESTON NORTH END
Preston finished 11th in the Championship and they will be expected to finish around the same position again this season. Since his appointment as Preston manager Simon Grayson has done a good job at Preston. The club have finished 11th in their first two seasons after promotion from League One. Deepdale is a ground that would be worth visiting as not that many Sunderland supporters wouldn’t have been there. I can see Preston having another decent season, however I can’t see them pushing for a play-off place. I think they will finish in the same position as last season.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS
QPR are a club that have not lived up to the expectation that they would be able to push for promotion back to the Premier League. They finished 18th in the Championship last season, which is lower that some expected them to finish. They will have to spend more money on improving their squad as they should be aiming higher in the league. I think that they have a good enough squad to survive relegation and stay in the league, however I can’t see them pushing for mid-table and can only see them finishing bottom half.

READING
Beaten by Huddersfield in the play-off final, Reading will be looking get promoted this season. Managed by Jaap Stam, Reading score a lot of goals, however, their defence is a bit weak compared to other promotion candidates. They finished in 3rd place last season with a goal difference of plus four, something that will want to improve on. Defence is an area they will certainly have to spend money on if they want to finish in the play-off places this season. I think Reading will finish in the top six after a solid campaign.

SHEFFIELD UNITED
After winning League One last season, Sheffield United will have high confidence going into the new season and will be hoping to stay in the league. Bramall Lane should be a good away day too. I think that they can stay in the division, but only with some good investment on some experienced Championship players.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY
After finishing 4th in the Championship last season, I can see Wednesday repeating that or even gaining automatic promotion. Carlos Carvalhal has done a good job at Hillsborough, finishing 6th and 4th in his first two seasons at the club. Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday should be a good game, with both teams hopefully battling for promotion. I think Sheffield Wednesday will have another good season and I think they will finish 3rd before narrowly losing out in the play-off final.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
I think Wolves will be looking to improve on their position from last season, where the club finished in 15th place. They have good players like Helder Costa in their squad, and I think that he will be crucial in the club improving their position from last season. I think they will have a decent season, and I can see them finishing around mid-table.

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MY FAVOURITE SUNDERLAND TEAM
BY IAN MOLE

In this series, we ask fans to name their favourite eleven Sunderland players, they are not necessarily the best players…

JIMMY MONTGOMERY
Monty was a great keeper and a great team-player. I was sitting right in line with his goal when he made his epic Wembley saves. We’ve had a lot of good goalies in my lifetime but for me Monty will always be my favourite. Of course he’s a local lad and that helps.

DICK MALONE
Dick Malone was a fine overlapping right back, a solid defender and always played well with Monty.

CHARLIE HURLEY
What more can I say about Charlie Hurley? We used to use the word pivot to describe centre backs in the old days and Charlie was the solid core of the team. He scored his fair share of goals too and the noise the crowd made at Roker Park when he moved upfield to try and get on the end of a corner was a thing of joy and wonderment.

DAVE WATSON
Watson was a class defender and could also knock in a goal or too. Unfortunately, we sold him before he peaked in his career.

KIERAN RICHARDSON
Rico will always hold a place in our hearts for that free-kick against the Mags and I don’t think we’ve ever really replaced him. He was versatile too and good going forward. He’s a free agent and still only thirty-two so we could do worse than sign him up for real.

BOBBY KERR
Kerr was a nippy, talented player who could beat a man and get a good share of goals. If we’d had a few players with his determination and commitment in this current season, we wouldn’t be heading for the Championship.

ALEX RAE
We need some bite in midfield to stop us getting overrun half the time like we’ve seen so often in recent seasons. Alex Rae had guts and was a battler as well as scoring a fair quota of goals.

KEVIN BALL
Alongside him Bally would make sure that not much got passed them and we all know about his character and commitment. I’d better make him captain but maybe he and Charlie could sort it out behind the gym.

JIM BAXTER
Slim Jim Baxter was included in the rest of the world team that played England in the early Sixties so say no more. When Scotland beat England at Wembley around 1963 it was the first time I’d seen a player send the goalie the wrong way from a penalty and that was just one of Jim’s goals that day. We didn’t see the best of him while he was in a Sunderland shirt and it’s well known that he and Charlie didn’t exactly see eye to eye but players with his skill and vision are few and far between.

NIALL QUINN
Quinny has got to be there and since he left us the club has gone right down the toilet. He’s 100% Sunderland, a versatile goalscorer and a superb target man who’d be a great complement to my final choice……

NICKY SHARKEY
…little Nicky Sharkey. We never used Nicky as much as we should have and McColl was daft to transfer him but he always gave his all for the team and banged in a stack of goals. With Quinny nodding down crosses for Nicky to slam home, we’d score a shedful.

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EXCLUSIVE STATEMENT FROM FULWELL 73...
TAKEOVER NEWS

LEO PEARLMAN, BEN TURNER AND GABE TURNER OF FULWELL 73 HAVE SENT ALS THE FOLLOWING EXCLUSIVE STATEMENT TO RELEASE TO THE FANS…
“As life-long Sunderland supporters, it would be the fulfilment of a dream to be involved in the ownership of the club, to put it back into the hands of the fans and to give the whole of Wearside a team to be proud of. Our club is the biggest in the North East, should be one of the biggest in the country and the Premier League is therefore the only place it belongs. We have been so touched and inspired by the reaction from our fellow supporters, who rightly deserve their reputation as the best fans in the world. However, due to our other TV and film commitments, now isn't the right time for us to get involved. It's where our hearts are and would demand a huge personal commitment, and we wouldn't want to give anything less than our all to the club. We owe that to all the other fans for whom, like us, SAFC is such an integral part of their histories and future. Whether it is Mr Short who remains in control or new owners who come in, we will always support the lads and offer any assistance, at any level, in helping to re-establish this great club at the level it deserves to be‎”

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FIXTURES OUT…
TAKEOVER PICKING UP PACE

Well the fixtures are out and we kick off the season at home to Derby on Friday August 4. The game has a 7.45 kick off and will be shown on Sky! Welcome to Friday night football in the Championship! Our following game is also on a weird day, we face Bury in the EFL Cup on Thursday August 10.

After that we face Norwich and Sheff Wed away and we complete a busy August with Leeds at home and Barnsley away. Full fixtures here https://www.safc.com/fixtures#Aug

In the absence of a manager, an owner, or any new players, Kevin Ball said: "I think it’s a fantastic opening game. The fact that it’s a home game, on a Friday night, to kick off the season, there’ll be a full house and a fantastic atmosphere. That’s what makes it all the better for me [tough away games]. With our fans we always get a fantastic away contingent, they’ll thoroughly enjoy it. The opening fixtures are fantastic. In an ideal world you’d like things to be sorted as soon as possible, going into pre-season it’d be nice to have a manager in place. If there are to be new owners then so be it, it’d be nice to have that sorted out. If it isn’t the case, we have fantastic staff at the club who will make sure the players here get as fit as they can, pre-season has already been planned so everything is in place. The one thing I’ve always said to players when it comes to pre-season is that is about each individual getting as fit as they can, whether they are going to stay at the club or leave they need to make sure they get fit for themselves. Pre-season should take of itself, but in an ideal world it’d be nice to have a manager in place, I’m sure Martin Bain will be working very hard. In the Championship, the games come thick and fast. You’re sometimes playing literally three times a week and the mental preparation for that is very important. The physical preparation is important, how you manage the players through that," he said. "The staff we’ve got at the club for that are absolutely fantastic. The players have to be resilient, you have to be tough, you have to take your knocks, you’ve got to stand up and start again and I wish I was playing to be perfectly honest. We’d all love to be in the Premier League but that isn’t the case and we’ve got to start fresh."

In terms of who will own the club when the season begins, it seems that the German consortium are favourites ahead of the fan-led Fulwell 73 lads. Sky Sports are claiming that the takeover deal could be announced by the end of this week, which would, in turn, help us greatly in terms of appointing a new manager. So, things are finally moving on, but nothing concrete to report as of yet.

In other news, Celtic, Lazio hand AC Milan have all been linked with a move for Fabio Borini, who said: “Things in England could be better, given the recent relegation, of which I am very sorry. But you go ahead and I want to prepare for next season to the fullest extent. My decision will depend from which club puts up the more stimulating, competitive and stable and that is better suited to my personality as a person and a player.”

The player’s agent, Roberto De Fanti, yes him, added: "There are no negotiations underway, only a few calls of interest. It's still early. The last season was a difficult year for both the club and for the player who was injured immediately. He'd been out and when he returned he often played out of position. In such situations, the price of the players are lowered. This is the first season that went wrong, until two years ago he was also summoned by [Antonio] Conte, for the national team. His strength is that he can play in all the roles of the attack, can make even the centre-forward.”

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SUNDERLAND’S CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES
BY ADAm GILL

Sunderland’s fixture list has been announced for the upcoming 2017/18 EFL Championship season, and it all seems exciting until you realise we have no manager, the owner is in talks to sell the club and we have made no signing so far with just over six weeks until the start of the Championship season.

Sunderland kick off the season with a home game against Derby on Friday 4th August. Sunderland’s month only gets tougher with their first away game against Norwich, followed up by an away game against Sheffield Wednesday and a home match against Leeds.

Sunderland travel to Hull City on Saturday 16th September and travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday 4th November. Another crucial game in the season comes against Aston Villa, where Sunderland travel to Villa Park on Tuesday 21st November.

Sunderland then face two big games in December at the Stadium of Light where Reading visit on Saturday 2nd and Fulham on Saturday 16th. Sheffield United are Sunderland’s opponents on Boxing Day at Bramall Lane, while Sunderland play Barnsley at home on New Year’s Day.

Hull City visit Sunderland on January 20th, while Sunderland also face visits from Middlesbrough on Saturday 24th February and Aston Villa at home on Tuesday 6th March. 

Sunderland have a tough end to the season beginning with Derby away on Saturday 31st March and Sheffield Wednesday on Easter Monday. Sunderland then play three teams likely to push for promotion, starting with Leeds away, Norwich at home, and Reading away.

Sunderland’s final away game of the season comes against Fulham on Saturday 28th April, before ending the campaign with a home game against Wolves.

Despite the tough start to the season and the even harder run-in, Sunderland will still be expected to push for promotion to get back to the Premier League where the club belongs. 

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MORE TAKEOVER TALK
SHORT TO MEET FAN CONSORTIUM

Ellis Short will meet the Fulwell 73 fan led consortium in London this week. SAFC daft television executives Leo Pearlman, Gabe Turner and Ben Turner, who named their Fulwell 73 Productions TV company after their favourite end at Roker Park are looking to challenge a German consortium, who have already met SAFC officials. The TV giants who have offices in London and LA will draw their funding from investors in America.

Although former Arsenal defender Tony Adams is involved, he is only on board as an advisor and will not be manager of SAFC. Also involved is former Chelsea business affairs director Paul Smith who has a lot of experience in football finance.

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HERE WE GO AGAIN…
BY LUKE HAKIN

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve quite enjoyed this break without football. No football means no defeats and no weekends ruined by half-arsed millionaires, freeing up Saturdays for far more enjoyable activities like gouging my own eyes out or worse still – the dreaded Asda run. Still, the show must go on, and fixtures release day is upon us.

For supporters, fixtures day is the most anticipated date in the summer calendar. The Foundation of Light, for instance, host an annual charity ‘Fixtures Breakfast’, where fans seemingly take time off work to be given the fixtures in person at the Stadium rather than frantically refreshing Twitter at 08:59 like the rest of us. Though we already know we’re likely to start and finish at home given that the Mags play away on the corresponding dates, thousands of fans await confirmation of the full fixture list to start plotting their away trips to weird and wonderful towns and cities and map out their weekend plans for the next 9 months.

The release of the fixtures and the countdown to the new season should be exciting, but it’s become something of a damp squib in recent years.

Want to book that trip to London for the opening day? Well you can’t for another 3 weeks if you want to travel by train or risk Sky moving the game to a Monday night, rendering those already-extortionate train tickets worthless. Thankfully ALS coaches don’t change their prices…

Feeling optimistic that the club have learnt from previous mistakes, or just keen to see some football again? Don’t get too excited, we never win any games in August or September and the realisation will have hit by October that we’re just as rubbish as before.

Want to analyse potential wins and losses, where we’ll pick up points and who we’ll play in the run-in? I wouldn’t bother, we’ll have a new manager before then anyway and I’ll spoil it for you now – we usually morph into vintage Inter Milan for the final few weeks of the season but play like Inter Me Nan FC of the Wearside Over 40s league on a Sunday morning for the first 30-odd games.

No, the last few years haven’t been much fun at all. The ever-increasing number of southern clubs in the Premier League has meant more long-haul treks to the south coast and beyond, replacing those relatively easy to get to trips to the likes of Blackburn, Wigan and Bolton. With our abysmal away (and home) form, following Sunderland has become harder, costlier and less enjoyable.

Relegation changes that though, and for the first time in 10 years the opposition on next season’s fixture list will read Burton and Bristol City, not Man United or Man City. The idea that we spend our days longing to see the big clubs is a bit of a cliché anyway, isn’t it? The initial novelty of playing in the Premier League wore off many years ago and I can’t ever remember looking at the fixtures and thinking “I can’t wait to go to Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge to see us lose again.”

The best games are rarely against the best teams, anyway, where we inevitably lose year after year. Granted, we’ve had a couple of great wins at Man United and Chelsea, but also a number of embarrassments – the John Terry love-fest a few weeks ago, losing 7-2 under Bruce and 5-0 under Keane.

By contrast, some of my favourite days as a supporter have come in the Championship, particularly in our last season there under Keane’s management. The late winners at Southampton and Burnley to all-but seal promotion. Taking over all 4 sides of Kenilworth Road to see our league win at Luton. Memorable early season wins at Derby, Leeds and Hull, including Ross Wallace’s last minute winner and topless celebration. Roaring on the lads to victory as part of an 8000-strong away support at Barnsley, with similar numbers travelling to Sheffield Wednesday and Preston.

There were lows, too, but at current rates that’s about 5 years worth of highs packed into one season.

As I sat bored rigid through the defeats against Watford, West Brom and others – games where we barely laid a glove on the opposition – I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy at our black and white friends up the road who were winning games and actually enjoying football again. That’s not to say they ‘won relegation’, just that there’s a host of potentially great away days in the Championship and a number of big, traditional Northern Clubs who will see us as a scalp and give games the edge and excitement that’s been missing for a number of years.

Of course I want the club to be as successful as it possibly can be and I really hope our Championship stay is as short as possible, but if we can get a few wins under our belt and a bit of momentum behind us we could be in for a right laugh.

Next season’s fixture list is going to be a sobering reality of how far we’ve fallen, but it isn’t the end of the world. We’re going to be a big fish in a small pond for a change and that’s got to be better than the lifeless rubbish we endured last season. There’s a generation of fans who have only known us as a Premier League club propping up the division and I can guarantee they’re going to have more fun next season.

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LIMBO OF SAFC
BY ADAM GILL

Sunderland are a club in freefall and it doesn’t seem as though that will stop, unless the club is sold and the potential new owners revitalise the club back to Premier League standard. The problem only got worse over the course of 2016/17 season as the club suffered their first Premier League relegation since the 2005/06 season.

Sunderland’s freefall had been ongoing for many seasons, where the club has faced the threat of relegation after several poor campaigns. A repetitive cycle has been ongoing at Sunderland, starting during the 2012/13 campaign. With Sunderland facing the threat of relegation, Martin O’Neill was replaced by Paulo Di Canio towards the end of the season. Di Canio then steered Sunderland to safety, despite winning only two games, including beating Newcastle 3-0 away from home. The summer transfer window then approached, with Sunderland signing 19 players. After a poor start to the season Paulo Di Canio was eventually sacked after failing to win a match that season, resulting in Gus Poyet replacing him as Sunderland head coach.

With relegation again looking a possibility, Gus Poyet kept Sunderland safe from the drop. Many saw it as the ‘Great Escape’, due to the club being bottom at Christmas. With Poyet looking to reinforce the squad, Sunderland spent money in the transfer window to secure their top-flight status for another year. However, poor investment saw Sunderland sitting 17th in the league when Poyet was sacked, despite the previous season’s heroics which also saw reach the League Cup Final.

Dick Advocaat took over Poyet at Sunderland, securing our safety again in the Premier League. At the end of the season Dick Advocaat left Sunderland, only to reverse the decision and stay at Sunderland for the following season. However, Advocaat’s reinforcements proved costly as the Dutchman resigned just eight games into his spell at the Stadium of Light with Sunderland sitting 19th in the league.

Sam Allardyce was then appointed manager with the task of keeping Sunderland in the Premier League. In the January transfer window, the signings of Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri proved crucial as they were the catalyst behind Sunderland’s survival. With Newcastle getting relegated and Premier League football secured, many fans were excited what the next season would bring as they thought Sunderland had finally found the right man to take the club forward. However, the excitement ended when Allardyce was appointed England manager, a job that he had always wished for. The day after Allardyce’s departure, David Moyes was appointed Sunderland manager, a move which seemed a good one due to Moyes’ Premier League experience.

The club had a terrible campaign under David Moyes, with the club finishing bottom of the Premier League with a pathetic total of 24 points. Although the funds available to Moyes were not great, he wasted what he was given by signing mostly players from former club. His poor recruitment and a terrible run of injuries resulted in Sunderland’s poor campaign and relegation to the Championship.

Over the years, the problem at the club has only gotten worse due to Sunderland spending more and more money on players who didn’t perform well for the manager. The manager then gets sacked or resigns and more money is spent on more players who again don’t live up to the expectation of Premier League standard.

The potential takeover will prove crucial for Sunderland. We all need a fresh start and a chance for the club to get back to where they belong.

More about Fulwell 73 here fulwell73.com and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulwell_73

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PLEASE HAPPEN…
FAN RUN CONSORTIUM EMERGES

A fan run consortium have thrown their hat in the ring to rival the £50m German takeover bid for our club! The company Fulwell73 owned by SAFC fans Leo Pearlman, Gabe Turner and Ben Turner have made a bid and are supported by former Arsenal player Tony Adams and Chelsea's former business affairs director Paul Smith. Adam is also a close friend of Niall Quinn, who broke his silence on the SAFC situation today and will no doubt be linked with this bid. "These guys are huge Sunderland fans and just want to help the club get back to where they should be in any way possible," a source said.

Fulwell 73 is an award winning global brand with offices in London and LA, working with the likes of One Direction, Take That and James Corden. The guys are regularly seen at London away games and have often popped into ALS when in Sunderland.

More about Fulwell 73 here fulwell73.com and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulwell_73

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SAFC FOR SALE
RESCUE REQUIRED…

It seems that Ellis Short’s deadline for the German and US-based consortiums (apparently Red Bull) looking to take over Sunderland is the end of June. Short is looking to sell at £85million, but the highest offer to date is just £50million.

Meanwhile, Niall Quinn has been chatting about his rescue return to Sunderland after our last relegation. We could do with him again! “There was unfinished business about it. They got rid of Peter Reid, and I wasn’t being involved. I didn’t feel it was the right exit and I left quickly so to get back in and have a go at it myself was great. That ambition was in there. The potential was there to see. But what was more evident was the sporting hearts and minds of people who loved their football. Roy was one of the most influential sportsmen in the British Isles at the time. Even though he was inexperienced we said we’d give him every chance we could. But Roy being Roy once he got the team on a roll we scooted to the top and got promoted. It was incredible. But I feel for them now. It is a tough time and they need some positivity from somewhere. I wish them well. It is a tough gig. I got a young fresh Roy Keane and the whole thing kicked on. I hope they can rediscover that positivity with what they have now. The doom and gloom of being relegated is there. The down trodden fan looking for inspiration. The next few weeks will be critical to see if they can get them to bounce back. I really hope they can get the buzz back. When the players come back they have shaken the negativity away and the ones who have not are no longer there. I have nothing but good things to say. I didn’t get it right all the time. It is hard for me to tell people what to do because I know how difficult it is. I just hope it falls into place.”

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Pickford Craic…
Weep

Former Sunderland keeper, Jordan Pickford, (it pains me to write that) has shrugged off his £30million price tag in order to concentrate on England U21’s Euro 2017 campaign and proved his point by saving a penalty save in his country’s 0-0 draw with Sweden. Pickford said: "It's just a number isn't it? It's my job to be a goalkeeper and keep the ball out of the net and that's what I've done. I've kept a clean sheet. It's just a number, it doesn't affect me. I got the deal out of the way and over the line so I could focus on the Euros. I didn't know too much about it until I came out here but got that done so I could focus on trying to win the Euros. When I heard about it and they said they were sorting the medical so it could go through, it's nice to get it out of the way. I've never spoken to him (Everton boss Ronald Koeman) before. My agent did all the stuff. I'm just a lad who likes playing football. I'm not bothered about anything else. He text me wishing me good luck. I was a bit too young to see him as a player but I heard he was a free-kick specialist and that he still takes them. I've heard he's a top manager and it will be good to learn under him at Everton. It's been a big couple of days but I'll focus on that when I get back."

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LIMBO…
JOKE CLUB

With Paul Bracewell having left the club, it seems that Robbie Stockdale is caretaker manager of Sunderland until the cub is sold, or we appoint someone else. What a farce.

Meanwhile, the Court of Arbitration for Sport have ruled in Inter Milan's favour in the Ricky Alvarez case and we will be forced to pay £9 million for the Argentinian who made just 13 appearances for us. This has dragged on for three years and the outcome was always going to be the same. Pathetic.

In other news, West Ham are favourites to sign Lamine Kone. Presumably some of the cash for Kone’s sale will go to Inter Milan following the Alvarez farce.

Elsewhere, Steven Pienaar reckons that last season at Sunderland was rubbish. No shit Sherlock! “(It was) by far the most disappointing season of my career, a season where I also battled lots of injuries. One obviously draws strength from the fact that there are people that count on you, who believe in you, and you don’t want to let them down. Sunderland is a massive club with great support so they have all the tools to come back to the Premier League. They need to get in the right players with the right attitude and drive. I have no doubt that they can bounce back immediately. When in the city you feel the impact the club has on the people there, how everyone lives their lives around the club. It was an unforgettable experience to be part of the club. It’s a pity things did not eventually work out for us (last) season. I am still to decide on my future but in the next month it will be much clearer,” he said. “I would like to continue for the next two years - despite the injuries of the past season I feel I can still go on. I have been away for a long time, left South Africa as a youngster and never experienced South African football, so it would be great one day to play in my home country.”

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SAFC CRISIS...
LETTERS SPECIAL

Dear ALS

On the face of it we put all our eggs into one basket searching for a manager, leveraging the ‘strength’ of our Scottish connections aka Bain/Smith and were embarrassingly snubbed by McInness. To be honest, I didn’t want McInness, I’d be looking for a manager who’s either previously delivered success or shown strong potential in the Championship.

But in a new turn of events we’re now delaying the appointment of a manager with the club saying; ‘Since the end of the season, our focus has been to appoint a new manager. Recently, however, discussions have been entered into with parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of the club. With this backdrop, we have been unable to give the assurances any potential candidate would need regarding the plans a new owner could have for the manager’s position’.

The above just reaffirms what an incompetent bunch we have running our club to find ourselves in this position. Given that though, if I was a prospective buyer, my advice to Short/Bain would be ‘You’ve made a big enough mess of running Sunderland AFC - if I’m going to buy your club don’t do a thing more to f**k the sale up like appoint a manager!’

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Like the majority of our loyal supporters, it was heartbreaking to see us relegated again. Yes, we have been toying with it for some seasons now, never really making much progress the next year. But yes it is what was the inevitable.

I believe the rot set in at the club, in the seventies when we had Cowie and partner viewing for control, neither wanting to invest more than the other. The lack of investment at that period, has subsequently shown how the whole structure of the club has gone to the dogs.

We seemed to be attracting those players, in the twilight of their careers; and apart from someone like Kev Phillips, and couldn't keep hold of the promising talent who would have kept the club, on a more secure footing.

Once N Quinn introduced the consortium, it then started the downward trial of none football directorship and management which we have today.

Once Ellis short does sell out hopefully it will be to a footballing minded consortium, then maybe we can start the long hard journey back to the premier league.

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

We had a manger who we all had the highest expectations of who delivered for us just a bit over a year ago who was unfortunately lured away by the one thing that could have lured him away. Because of his own stupidity he lost that job, then took over at a basket case saved them then quit while over the same period we went from looking like we might just do it to a basket case.

I don't think he'd be bothered by takeover talk and has a track record with clubs in our position.
Go get big Sam.

Bob Todd
Eleebana
NSW
Australia

Dear ALS

Whilst I like all Cats fans am concerned with the current situation at "our" club, recent history gives me hope.

In the summer of 2006 SAFC was in the same position as we are now. Relegated with just 15 points, no manager following the sacking of Mick McCarthy and an owner looking to sell the club.

In 2006 the consortium led by Niall Quinn took over the club but was managerless as the season began. Quinn took on the manager role and lost the first four matches. Keane was appointed manager, signings followed and the team went on to become champions.

Let us hope history will be repeated.

Martin Forster

Dear ALS

Do you ever have those dreams where you can't quite complete a simple task because things change to confound your efforts. I've been having a dream for the past nine years which if it had a title would be called 'How Not To Run A Football Club'. I've pinched myself a number of times but don't seem able to wake up.

The things that keep happening and seem to be mad or just bad are;

Discouraging the man who cared about the club and who knew a bit about football so that he became totally discouraged and then left.

Changing the team manager every few months so that a team never developed. You remember teams, groups of people who care what they do, support each other and fight hard when the chips are down.

Have an executive team where football seems like a minor adjunct to the major business of making money, but somehow not managing that either, despite the Premier League's riches.

Buying new players, sometimes a whole handful at once, only some of whom can play football.

Changing the colours and design of the shirt and 2nd and 3rd strips until the team looks like an ice cream salesmen's XI.

Developing an academy for young players and allowing them occasional opportunities to sit on the bench but not to play much. When one does get a chance to play 1st team, selling for a huge profit as soon as possible with the vague thought that good business has been done. 

In my dream the strike force is Milton Nunez and Jozy Altidore and the manager Lawrie McMenemy. Don't worry though, the rest of the team's the same as last season. Should be a breeze once I manage to wake up. I used like Groundhog Day as a film, but it doesn't seem so much fun in real life.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

I have been saying for a long, long time that there’s something rotten right at the heart of Sunderland. It’s hard to define what it actually is, but no well-run club would have had the same apparently unsolvable problems that we have had over the years in terms of poor managers and often expensive players who have been disappointing both in terms of skills and effort.

Relegation has been a regular visitor knocking at our door for years and it’s only by good luck and flashes of last minute good or lucky management that we’ve been able to keep him out until now.

Looking for a new manager is one thing, but giving him a healthy club to look after is another. Sam Allardyce was a big enough name and a big enough man to just about keep us afloat, nothing more.

Now Derek McInnes has turned us down. Presumably he’s had a long, hard look at us and sees that nothing has changed in the club since the departure of David Moyes. The structure remains the same and the club remains the same, that is to say, toxic to any ambitious manager who wants to further his own career and reputation as well as that of the club.

McInnes has been hailed as the best man to rescue the club and get us up to mid-table mediocrity, which, as things stand, represents something of an ambition. We are a club with a big stadium, a big weekly attendance, amazing support, which goes around the world, but we are not a big club any more in terms of who plays for us or who manages us, nor, unless there’s a huge change in the way football is played and paid for in this country, is the Chelsea, Man C. Man U, Arsenal, Spurs dominance likely to be challenged by many clubs and least of all by Sunderland.

Instead of blowing money on bonding trips for the players, or paying a few million pounds out on players past their best, or who never were much good, the club should employ an independent team or firm of experts who are expert in the way organisations can be changed, can improve the way they are managed and achieve success.

The way the club is structured and the people within that structure needs to be analysed and conclusions drawn. Who knows what they might find. In a nutshell, the club needs a complete, far reaching, major overhaul. Oh, and let the findings be made public.

David Bacon

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THE GERMANS ARE COMING!
CLUB STATEMENT

The club have admitted that their search for a new manager is being made more difficult by discussions with potential buyers. In other words, there is definitely something behind the gossip that’s been going around regarding a German consortium looking to take over the club!

The club statement read: "Since the end of the season, our focus has been to appoint a new manager. Recently, however, discussions have been entered into with parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of the club. With this backdrop, we have been unable to give the assurances any potential candidate would need regarding the plans a new owner could have for the manager’s position. The recruitment process, whilst still very much active, cannot therefore be concluded imminently.”

“In talking to parties who have shown interest in acquiring the club, owner Ellis Short is determined to make sure that the best interests of Sunderland AFC are at the heart of any decision regarding its future. We are of course acutely aware of the need to act swiftly to appoint a manager and to ensure that this is the case, have placed a time limit on discussions regarding a potential sale. If discussions are not concluded within our defined timeframe, we will terminate the process and move swiftly and positively forward with plans for the new season. Detailed pre-season preparations are already in place and our aim is to do everything we can to ensure Sunderland’s return to the top flight."

Meanwhile, Preston boss, Simon Grayson, has distanced himself from the Sunderland manager’s job. The Preston North End gaffer said: "As far as I’m concerned there’s a lot of speculation about a lot of different jobs, but I’m fully committed to working out what we’re doing for the season at Preston. I don’t consider it [the speculation] whatsoever until someone says something different, whether it’s Sunderland or any other job. We’ve had a good couple of years in the Championship [at Preston] and we want to keep improving. We were on the periphery of the play-offs last season and just ran out of steam in the back end of the season," he added. "I’ve been there just over four years now and really enjoyed my time. You just get on and do what you do and I’m focused on trying to get things right at Preston. I’m fully committed to Preston and, if anything changes along the way, that’s just football.”

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SOMETHING BETTER CHANGE
BY JONATHAN SAGER

Not that you care, but I've been dealing with shingles this week. Honestly, they say there's a lot of pain that doesn't equate to getting shingles but being a Sunderland fan, I think I could pull through just about anything.

I thought I'd felt everything- a lame duck manager who wanted to smack a lass for asking a question, a team that seemed to spin more wheels than Leonard Hamilton and an owner too worried about selling the team than running it.

I can't figure out how we really thought we were going to escape another year in the Prem unscathed. I'm not even going to mention the fact that we only had one striker for most of the season, one of our defenders was more famous for a red card than any athletic ability and our big signing came out of a hat. Seriously I'd never heard of the kid before. Not saying he doesn't have promise but come on.

I'm going on and on which I said I wouldn't do, but hey I'm a Sunderland fan and it's my right. I put up with this week in and week out while the other teams look down their noses at us. Man U fans over here in the States laugh and ask "you're a fan of who?"

"Sorry," I say, "we don't just buy up everything under the sun."

That's it, isn't it? Look at the Champions League Final, poor Juventus (I know everyone doesn't feel the way I do about them) could throw everything at Real but the team is loaded because their bankroll is larger than a third world country. James Rodriguez was in the stands for Real, a guy who could start for probably 98% or more of the teams in THE WORLD. 

This is what Sunderland and most clubs like us are against. But then I read about Derek McInnes and how he was able to turn a weak Scottish side into a contender without any real spending. One transfer since he started at Aberdeen in 2013. One! This Aberdeen side was able to compete with the Scottish giant Celtic even though they had no funds.

"Finally," I thought "someone with a purpose and a clue."

Now this rejection.

My friends in our red and white army, this hurts. This is painful. Make no mistake, last season was awful, terrible and quite honestly full of mistakes by a management that doesn't understand. But McInnes was a start.

Now as we near July with no manager, no focus and a new league-the pain multiplies. The questions only come faster and quicker.

Where do we go from here?

Who do we get to manage the team?

What will the team focus on?

What players will we sign?

Will there still be good players to sign?

Are we even going to make it through the season?

I know, I know I'm playing Chicken Little and screaming about the sky falling. But I'm mad. I'm irritated. But most of all I care. That club in the North East of England is a part of me no matter how much it hurts or what I go through.

Shame on Derek McInnes, he could have known what it was like to be supported by the red and white army!

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what now...
BY PADDY HOLLIS

So just as it seemed Derek McInnes was about to be confirmed as our new boss, the news broke that both him and his assistant Tony Docherty would not be joining Sunderland.

The club seem to be brushing it off and saying they didn’t have all of their eggs in one basket, however it looks a lot worse than just this. To be brutally honest, it’s embarrassing for the club. We’ve basically had everything ready to go to unveil a new management team only to have us get turned down, possibly once they’ve seen the resources they would be working with.

It’s unbelievable that we couldn’t wrap up their signatures. I mean, relegation a side, we should still be an attractive prospect. We should still have one of the biggest budgets in the Championship, we’ll still get 40,000 fans for most home games and we have an academy good enough to rival that of any team in the top flight.

So why has McInnes turned us down? It’s rumoured that ‘big names’ in football persuaded him to stay at Aberdeen. They made a good case. Yes, he’s got it better in Scotland but he will be constantly in Celtic’s shadow. I feel if he was bolder, he would have wanted to come to Sunderland and prove himself in England as last time he was south of the border, with Bristol City, it didn’t really work out.

His U-turn could also have been because of the uncertainty surrounding our ownership. The whisperings about a German takeover would mean any manager stepping into the hot seat at Sunderland would potentially have to negotiate with two different owners before the season has even started. If that’s not frustrating for a new manager I don’t know what would be.

The past few days have been unusual. We have been on the brink of appointing a manager who many were not too pleased with, now he’s rejected us it feels like reality has hit. Surely this must show the people who own our club that we are in an unbelievable mess. We get told that there are ‘a few names in the hat’ but it all depends on who these people are and whether they have the bottle to take over at our crumbling club.

All in all, the failure to secure the services of Derek McInnes is frustrating. Not just because of him personally, but the way the club spent so long to trying get him only for it to blow back in their face is humiliating.

With pre-season fast approaching, the need to get in a new manager has become almost desperate. If there are any respectable names linked with the vacant Sunderland job, it will be of the upmost importance for the club to get their act together and provide enough resources in order for them to make us a respectable side again. The rebuilding job will go on for some time, but it needs to happen now.

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TYPICAL, DESPICABLE ME
BY GARY BURRELL

Well there you have it, a few poxy hours after writing an article for ALS on my renewed hope and optimising for next season, Sunderland AFC go and do the most Sunderland AFC thing ever… which was turn the most 'nailed on, done deal' ever into a little US break for Martin Bain.

I wouldn't be surprised if he's lost Pickford's transfer money in a casino. Well done lads, back to pissing me off and ridiculing me at the same time!

I spoke of McInnes being a man with a plan, someone whose career is on an upward curve, regardless of the fact he's up in Scotland. Certainly, the best of a bad bunch in my opinion.

A lot of fans are instantly coming out in delight that appointing McInnes has went tits up, not me. The simple reason being the festering pile of shite we'll now be searching through, in the hunt for a new manager.

Paul Lambert is only allowed in if he brings Paul Butler in as his assistant, I hope Super Kev tells us to piss off for being not being out first choice (myself included), and as for McLeish, Warnock, Grayson etc…

Right, calm down.

It's probably because the German Squillionaires want to bring in their own high-profile gaffer.

I see Tuchel just knocked Southampton back.

It all makes sense now

As you were. GB

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MCINNES SAYS NO
SCOT TURNS US DOWN

Unbelievably, Derek McInnes has turned down the Sunderland job to stay with Aberdeen. Can’t believe it! No doubt he used the situation to broker a bigger transfer budget with Aberdeen, as they’ll have been wanting to hang onto him. He probably also did some research and found out that he’s get sod all to spend at Sunderland.

McInnes said: “I have ambitions in the game and while there was interest from elsewhere, and I did talk to Sunderland, I feel there is so much still to be done here at Aberdeen. While we have lost players from last season, they will be replaced by signings of similar quality and our first challenge is to reach the group stages of the Europa League after coming so close in each of the last three seasons. Since the first day I arrived at Pittodrie, my biggest gripe has been the lack of training facilities and, with progress at last on that front, it’s something I am keen to see through to its conclusion. The delivery of these training and community facilities are vital, for helping retain our top players, attracting new players to the Club, the development of our young players, and equally importantly enable us to play a far greater role in the wider community. I sincerely hope everyone across the region can pull together to help develop these facilities. The recent investment in the club from Dave Cormack, who has rejoined the board, now puts us in an even healthier situation financially and that will allow us to be in a position to take the club to the next stage. We have improved season on season and that is not something I’m planning on changing.”

Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain flew out to Florida to court McInnes, but failed to land the Scot. Bain said: “We have been in discussions with a number of potential manager candidates over recent weeks. In the last few days we have been negotiating with Aberdeen Football Club in order to allow us to speak with Derek McInnes. Having held initial discussions, both ourselves and Derek have decided not to progress with further talks and we will continue with our recruitment process”.

Delighted Aberdeen chairman, Stewart Milne, said: “I am personally absolutely delighted that Derek and Tony have agreed to stay and have never doubted their commitment to the club. Given what Derek has achieved here, there is inevitably going to be interest from other clubs and in making the decision to stay, he has demonstrated how much Aberdeen Football Club means to him. It is now up to all of us, the board, staff, players and supporters to show how much we appreciate having him at the helm by getting right behind him in every way possible. I make no bones about it, it would have been a massive blow to lose Derek at this time, not only when we are about to embark on the new season, but knowing that so much more can be achieved with them driving the Club forward.”

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PICKFORD LEAVES…
£30M RICHER

Jordan Pickford has joined Everton for £30m. Chief executive Martin Bain said: “Our aim is to produce more players of the calibre of Jordan in the future. His development is testament to our Academy set up and its hard-working staff, past and present, who identified and nurtured his exceptional talent. Everyone at Sunderland wishes Jordan every success in the next stage of his career, which we will follow keenly”.

Former England keeper Peter Shilton said: "This sort of money should be spent on goalkeepers. For someone like Jordan, who is young and has great potential, it does not seem a great fee. In the big scheme of things it is not a lot of money, considering how important the goalkeeping position is. It is second to a striker who scores 20 goals a season. You cannot have a really good side without a good goalkeeper."

Former Everton keeper Neville Southall, tweeted: “Everton have a bargain. What price saving 12 points a season? [He has the] potential to go all the way to world level.”

Jermain Defoe also chipped in: “Jordan has been amazing and he has great potential. I have been singing his praises since the first time I saw him. I’ve spoken about the modern game and how teams want goalkeepers to play out from the back and he is up there at being able to do that. He is one of the best goalkeepers I have seen in my career.”

Simon Grayson, who managed Pickford during his six-month loan spell at Preston North End, said: "The move will inspire him. The lad loves the attention - he will thrive on that without being big time. He is a really down-to-earth lad and is great to have around a club. I texted him the other day about my charity bike ride and straight away he donated to my just giving page. Jordan is vocal and he is a winner. He loves the pressure of being the best he can. He will be looking at the England situation at the moment and thinking the next port of call is to be England's number one. He has got all the ingredients but he would admit he still has to work on certain things. He is still young and there is room to develop. He is a willing learner and listener, he wants to stay out and be involved in training sessions. When the top clubs are looking for players and good keepers, they are looking for shot stoppers but also keepers with exceptional feet - and we said that he could have played outfield with the quality of his feet."

Former Preston North End teammate and fellow goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, said: “Jordan comes out to take crosses and has an authority for someone still very young. As for his kicking, that is brilliant! I have never seen anyone kick a ball like he does.”

England Under-21s manager, Aidy Boothroyd, said: “Jordan is a terrific player and we’ve know that for a long time. He has been in the system a long time. He managed to win himself an opportunity at his club and became number one, while also doing really, really well for us at international level as well.”

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DEPARTURE OF PICKFORD...
BY MATTHEW HICKS

So, Jordan Pickford left the club to join Everton for £30m in one of the least surprising pieces of business the club has done this summer

Every Sunderland fan will have, on some level, hoped Pickford might turn down the move in favour of helping his boyhood club return to the big time, but the call of the Premier League has proved too strong.

Although we all share disappointment in the loss of England’s hottest goalkeeping prospect, Jordan Pickford will be remembered by all fans in the same way as players likes of Jordan Henderson. He's one of our own and even if he's playing away from the Stadium Of Light he's still making the whole Sunderland proud.

Many of us have known about Pickford for several years as he quietly went about his craft developing a name for himself whilst coming through the ranks, before exploding into the first team and making the number 1 spot his own. Were it not for his brief injury spell (caused by none other than Djilobodji) he would have without doubt played every minute of the season.

A testament to how highly Sunderland fans hold Pickford is that at no point in the season the appearance of the likes of Mannone or Mika was called for. No matter how poorly the team played and however doomed we appeared prior to our relegation he outperformed almost every player on the pitch. Despite a couple of blunders during last  season, he was certainly our most consistent player and without him between the sticks our fate would have surely been sealed weeks sooner.

Pickford will be sorely missed by all Sunderland fans and I for one am gutted that we were unable to hang on to him to continue his development. But he is destined for bigger and brighter things and I look forward to seeing him get the rave on in future World Cups and Champions League competitions, it’s no less then he deserves.

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COMPENSATION CLAUSE…
HURRY UP

It seems, all that is standing in the way of Sunderland appointing Derek McInnes is the compensation deal with Aberdeen. Sunderland have offered £750,000 compensation for McInnes, but Aberdeen are asking for £1.2million. Give them £1m and let’s get the deal done! The Aberdeen board met yesterday and their chairman Stewart Milne had this to say afterwards: “There has no compensation agreement been made with Sunderland. That is all I can say.”

Aberdeen's majority shareholder, Dave Cormack, had this to say: "His team have done an incredible job over the last four years and he is a very astute individual. He's not just a football manager. The conversation I've had with Derek, he's interested in the whole club, from marketing to communications, and obviously we want to keep our best people: players and management team. But at the end of the day, with the success we've had, our players and people like Derek are going to be attracted, or people are going to approach the club because of the success we've had."

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WHAT’S GOING ON…
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It’s the middle of June and whilst most teams in the league are set up with a manager and lining up players to join up when the transfer window opens, we find our club stagnated. We still don’t have a manager, despite the apparent impending confirmation of Derek McInnes, and if there have been any players linked then the club have done a great job keeping it a secret.

The sale of Jordan Pickford is neither pleasant, or a surprise. He was our star performer in a horrific season and he was a golden example of just how good our academy products can be and it would be great to think the money will be going on quality players, but if Mr Short has anything to do with it will be used to tackle the debt we have accumulated under his tenure. We must have some sort of a budget but very little seems to have been said.

It’s hard to tell which of our pre season games will test us, the games in England are against teams who either proved not good enough for the Championship or struggled in League One. Surely, we could find more testing opposition? After all, it’s been a while since we were last in the Championship, it’s going to be hard to assess how we will fare and even harder if we play poor teams. Our games in Scotland could prove to be more difficult, but once again I feel they won’t really test our squad which is, according to reports, going to be made of few familiar faces.

Fortunately, it looks as though we’ll have a new manager in place very soon. This will give the new man in charge plenty of time to perfect his squad as, however much money he’ll have, replenishment will be required. Without sounding too pessimistic, I feel a season of stability is required. If we achieve more than that and end up back in the Premier League, at the first time of asking, it will be a bloody miracle. On the other hand, if we go for broke and it backfires we’d potentially find us facing another relegation scrap; something which would be utterly disgraceful for the fans.

It won’t be a pretty season, it will be scrappy and the Championship will kick us hard; we just need to build a team who will fight back twice as hard and put in performances which will bring a sense of pride back to Sunderland.

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MOVING ON…
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

Surprisingly, we’re back page news today. Derek McInnes looks like he’s going to be our new gaffer but it’s the ‘Pickfords moving’ and ‘Go Jordan’ headlines which have got us all talking.

Everton fans, while understandably a bit reticent at shelling out up to £30million for a goalkeeper, know it could be one of the best investments they ever make if Jordan Pickford continues progressing at the rate he has over the last five or six years. I've not seen or heard one of any note whingeing about it yet.

The player himself is smiling because he knows he’ll be playing in the Premier League, not the Championship next season – although I’m not sure it was ever really in doubt. Jermain Defoe did well at the other end last season and there’ll always be a demand for top quality players, it's just a shame pretty much everything in between last season for us lacked it.

Pickford has joined a decent team, packed with young English talent and likely to be competing in the Europa League. And he won’t just be taking a decent wage and sitting on the bench either. He can expect to take over as first-choice from the flaky Joel Robles. And, because he'll have better players in front of him, he won't be so ludicrously busy.

Our club are no doubt happy because they've accepted the offer and the sale would represent the first major success for the Academy since his namesake Henderson left. Can't really count the ginger one, can we?

And we’re happy too. Because, after seeing Connor Wickham and Patrick van Aanholt go for good money, a club which seems to have always paid over the odds for mediocrity while allowing better players to go for less than they should have again bucked that trend, securing a great price for arguably the only saleable asset left. The fact the bid came from Everton, who blatantly took the piss with their first offer for him, and last year rocked our boat with their interest in Lamine Kone, is pleasing.

It didn’t take us all long to see for ourselves Pickford is different class. We’d all heard good things about his performances on loan elsewhere, so it was hardly a surprise he took his chance in our first team so emphatically when he was offered it. We were spellbound by his consistent brilliance. Some fingers were pointed when he made a mistake at Southampton which cost us two points. By the time he did anything else but impress us, he had saved us far more, keeping us in games week in and week out, while creating a chance or two with his perfect vision and distribution. Even pundits who usually regard SAFC as irritating, top-flight imposters had to do something other than focus on our fecklessness and comment on just how good the kid was.

The whole of England is aware of Pickford's quality now, yet - despite impressing for his country at all levels from under-16 to under-21 - I'm not being unkind if I say he’s currently the third choice national goalkeeper. That's at the very best too...I’m sure Joe Hart and Fraser Forster will have something to say about my reckoning, although their fan club has fewer followers than it did this time last year. Would you back against Jordan being England number one in a couple of years, particularly now he’s heading for a more fashionable club for us, one with better players?

Hopefully the deal doesn't collapse. We need to give the player a chance to progress and give our new gaffer (looks like McInnes) a fighting chance and let him splash some of the cash to strengthen as he sees fit. We saw Moyes come in and spread caution, hesitancy and fear of impending doom around the place so quickly last year, sucking it under. Please God, let's not give our new gaffer an excuse to be anything other than confident, positive and upbeat about the challenge he's taking on.

For now though, good luck Jordan. You deserve everything you want to achieve in the game, even if it's a shame it won't be for us. I kind of understand now what Jimmy Nail was on about when he sung "if you love someone, set them free." When you said you'd never be swayed by his lot a few months ago I realised it's unlikely you'll ever forget your first love. But if you do, we’ll still be grateful you helped it when it really needed it. Thanks.

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MCINNES COMING…
JORDAN GOING

After a period of nothingness, things have started to progress. Obviously, we need a manager and it seems that things are finally happening on that front, with many reporting that the club hope to announce a manager before the end of the week.

Earlier today, Sunderland AFC made an official approach to Aberdeen regarding Derek McInnes and now some media sources are claiming that the Scot is in talks with Martin Bain. Bain said: “Pre-season is an important period at any football club so naturally we are keen to conclude things as quickly as possible, whilst being mindful of the need to make the right appointment.”

Elsewhere, Everton have apparently tabled a bid for Jordan Pickford. The deal, which is set to include a number of clauses and add-ons based on appearances for club and country, could eventually rise to Sunderland’s £30m valuation. Although it’s not good to be selling your best players, at least we would get a load of money for Pickford, which would help us rebuild for the Championship.

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MY FAVOURITE SUNDERLAND TEAM
BY LUKE HAKIN

In this series, we ask fans to name their favourite eleven Sunderland players, they are not necessarily the best players…

GK – Simon Mignolet
Despite our god-awful approach to recruitment for as long as anyone can remember, we always seem to land on our feet when it comes to goalkeepers. Lionel Perez was my first goalkeeping cult hero, although in hindsight he was a bit crap and bizarrely averse to saving anything with his hands. Tommy Sorensen was rock solid for five seasons, Craig Gordon was at times excellent and unfairly criticised early in his Sunderland career, and young Jordan Pickford looks to be the real deal already.

Mignolet’s performances, though, from regaining his place in January 2012 – complete with face mask - to his departure 18 months later, were a cut above. Mignolet’s shot stopping during that period, at home to Wigan and Tottenham in particular, was outstanding. The broken nose he received prior was perhaps the making of him, forcing him to improve on the one big weakness of his game – crosses – and command his area with authority as opposing managers targeted him for rough play. 

RB – Chris Makin
Makin and Nicky Summerbee didn’t have the pace or flair of Gray and Johnston, but their partnership on the right flank was equally as important and complimented the other to perfection. Makin was full of character on the pitch and a huge character off it. Defensively solid, tough as old boots and, despite his lack of goals, offered good support in attack, too.

CB - Nyron Nosworthy
Tall. Strong. Quick. Athletic. If scientists were to create a genetically modified Premier League centre half, they could do far worse than cloning parts of The Noz.
Unfortunately though, Nyron himself was born with two left feet and the attention span of an excitable puppy. He was, at best, unconventional, and at times a downright liability.
But that is what endeared him to the crowd. He was both nerve-wracking and exciting, capable of both the sublime and the ridiculous, often in the same passage of play.
Everyone has their favourite Nyron moment. The attempted backpass from the halfway line that sailed out for a corner. His attempt at controlling a simple pass on his debut that rolled under his foot and out for a throw-in. Falling to the floor with no-one around him, only to roll and body pop like a Redhouse Run DMC.
My favourite moment though, came shortly after promotion in a home game against Liverpool. Receiving the ball deep in his own half, Nosworthy attempted to Cruyff-turn his way past Fernando Torres, only for Torres to dispossess him easily and burst through on goal. With Torres about to pull the trigger, Nyron sprinted and won the ball back with an inch perfect tackle to remove the danger, gesturing to Craig Gordon that he’d had everything was under control all along. Vintage Nyron.

CB – Jody Craddock
Although Craddock formed a youthful but somewhat erratic partnership with Darren Williams for most of the play-off campaign in 97/98, it wasn’t until the second half of the 2000/01 season that he really established himself in the team. For a good two years or so though he was consistently excellent, cutting out his earlier occasional lapses in concentration to deservedly win Player of the Season in 01/02.

For me, his performances during that period and his partnership with Emerson Thome were as good as any Sunderland centre half since, including the likes of Kone and Kaboul, Jonny Evans and Steve Bould. Off the pitch, Craddock appears humble and down to earth, too, retiring to concentrate on painting rather than Mandalay Bay pool parties and oversized headphones like many modern footballers.

LB - Julio Arca
Julio arrived in 2000 as a young, skinny teenager from Argentina, with a curly mullet and little grasp of English. With skill and flair rarely seen at Sunderland either before or since, Arca was an instant cult hero and could have easily moved on with fans’ blessing long before he eventually did.
Fast forward 17 years. Arca still lives in Sunderland – the place where he now calls home, speaks with something of a Mackem twang, paid subs to turn out for the Willow Pond in the Wearside League and has captained South Shields to victory at Wembley. On retiring in 2013, spoke of his pride that his young son would grow up with “Place of birth – Sunderland” on his passport. Cliché or not, you can’t help but wish our current players shared his passion.

RM – Steed Malbranque
Malbranque divided opinion during his three-year stint, between those who saw a clearly talented but unfit midfielder who offered little end product, and those who appreciated the dragbacks, the technique and the individual moments of skill that Steed brought to the game. 
For me, Malbranque's ability to keep the ball and retain possession WAS his end product in itself, and under-appreciated in comparison to the workmanlike grafters who gave adorned our midfield over the years. No, he couldn't last 90 minutes, but the decision to sell for peanuts in the same summer Steve Bruce spent £6m on Craig Gardner still baffles. 

CM – Kevin Ball
Bally is the first to admit to lacking the class and technique of Stefan Schwarz or M'Vila, although he was arguably a much better player than he's given credit for nowadays, scoring a memorable diving header against Chelsea and a late volleyed winner against West Brom. Instead, his popularity and legendary status at the club comes from his passion, determination and commitment. When he speaks about Sunderland, not only do you listen, but it's impossible not to feel inspired. Always approachable, as a child I once wrote to Bally and received a 2 page, handwritten reply days later,  promising to bollock the lads for recent defeats. I'm not sure Rodwell or Gibson would do the same these days. 

CM – Don Hutchison
There are plenty of reasons not to include Hutchison on this list. His departure in 2001 was somewhat acrimonious, either taking the hump that the club had reneged on a verbal agreement to renew his contract, or engineering a move away out of greed,  depending on who you believe. His punditry is banal and he regularly panders to the “Geordie Nation”, trotting out the usual clichés of “55,000 screaming Geordies” and special relationships with squad numbers. In 2015, he championed then-reigning Premier League champion Jose Mourinho for the Newcastle job – unsurprisingly, they persisted, instead, with Steve McClaren.
Hutchison’s performances during his sole season here, however, were outstanding and it’s no exaggeration to say we’re yet to replace him 16 years later. Our demise under Peter Reid is often attributed to a failure to strengthen or replace Niall Quinn. You could argue, though, that not only was the sale of Hutchison more damaging, but with a few tweaks to the team he could have already been the ideal man to feed Phillips without the necessity of a targetman.

LM – Allan Johnston
It's hard to really evaluate 'Magic' Johnston considering he spent all bar a few months of his Sunderland career in the 2nd tier, and did the square root of bugger all after leaving. Could he have made the step up? Would Premier League defenders have sussed his step over / cut inside trick? Does it matter? For two seasons, Magic was majestic, and his partnership with Micky Gray almost as potent as Quinn and Phillips. 

ST – Niall Quinn
The proverbial first name on the ‘Favourite Player’ team sheet. Nobody should need reminding of Quinny’s contributions to the club, but they’re worth repeating anyway. As a player he scored 71 goals and kept 1 clean sheet. He was the first footballer to give away the proceeds of his testimonial, raising £1m for various charities including Sunderland hospital. After retiring, he bought the club when at our lowest ebb as part of the Drumaville consortium, taking over as manager for 5 games and chairman for 5 years. With fans – myself included – stranded at Bristol airport after an away game, he forked out thousands of pounds of his own money to hire a fleet of taxis to take them home and was an absolute gent throughout.
As a player, he was the original ‘good feet for a big man’, long before it became an overused cliché. Seriously, check out the goal compilations on Youtube – the looping headers, the lobs, chips and chested volleys. Quinny will always be remembered for his partnership with Kevin Phillips, but it’s worth remembering how good a player he was in his own right, too, winning Player of the Year in the 105 point title winning season.

ST – Kevin Phillips
With Phillips playing and scoring at a high level into his 40s, there seems to be a trend in the media to refer to him now as a ‘journeyman’ or ‘veteran’ striker. It’s a shame, in my opinion, as it takes away from just how fantastic a player he was for 6 years at his pomp.
The stats speak for themselves – 130 goals in 235 games, but Super Kev wasn’t just a poacher waiting for Quinny’s knock-downs. He scored all types of goals, including superb efforts against Chelsea, Bury, Swindon and QPR. He was quick and nimble but an excellent all round footballer too, particularly in later years as Quinn wound down his career and Kev adapted his game to try and win back an England call. He remains – famously – the only Englishman to win the European Golden Boot.

Honorable mentions to Jordan Pickford, Danny Rose, Nicky Summerbee, Stephane Sessegnon and Jermain Defoe

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GERMAN TAKEOVER ON HOLD
PICKFORD CRAIC

First things first and recent reports that talks with a ‘mystery German consortium’ looking to take over SAFC were at an advanced stage appear to be premature, unfortunately. Oh well…

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford has been chatting to the press about the season just gone, as he prepares for England’s Under-21’s European Under-21 Championship. “It’s hard to take that I got relegated with Sunderland and it’ll always be hard to take but I’m mentally strong,” said Pickford. “[The impact of relegation] is massive – 40-odd people lost their jobs throughout the season and financially it’s not ideal for the whole club. For me, having grown up and been there since I was a kid, seeing people you’ve known for a long time losing their jobs, it’s not nice. But I feel like as a team and staff behind the scenes we did the best we could do and it was just unfortunate that we never got the results we needed.”

Looking back, Jordan realises that he benefitted from Vito Mannone getting injured last August, but is grateful to David Moyes for giving him a run in the side. “There was a lot of talk about certain keepers coming in, like Joe Hart, but the manager just brought in a No2/No3 [Mika, from Benfica] and gave me the opportunity. It was top drawer, really. I was a young lad thrown in at the deep end but I felt ready for it. It would have been better if we had stayed up; my heart is massive towards the club. It’s a hard one, really. Ideally it would have been better if we had stayed up; my heart is massive towards the club. It’s a hard one, really. What will be will be. The Euros is massive for me and a lot of the other players. I don’t want to be getting distracted and I am really excited for it. We have got a chance to win it with the squad we have got. We have come this far, we have to get out of the group first but we are capable of doing that easily. We will see where we go from there.”

One SAFC player who will have to be patient at the U21 Euros is Swedish international Joel Asoro. Sweden face England in their first game, but Asoro will have to sit it out due to a one match ban. Asoro said: “We have England first in the group, but I won’t be able to play against England because I got a red card – it wasn’t a red card though! I will miss the one game, the game against England, which is a shame, of course. International football is a good experience and it is great to be involved, but it isn’t too dissimilar to club football. We are a good side and we are looking forward to the tournament. We have beaten some big teams and we go into the tournament with confidence.”

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MONK TO BORO. SUPERKEV NOW FAVOURITE
O’SHEA AND LARSSON GONE

Middlesbrough have confirmed the appointment of Garry Monk as their new manager. Monk was a target of Sunderland, but while Bain and Short fiddle, Rome burns. Meanwhile, the odds on Kevin Phillips becoming the next Sunderland manager have gone from 25/1 to 6/4 in the space of 24 hours. Surely, he’s too inexperienced and needs some help, but not Paul Bracewell.

Here’s a list of players that Sunderland will not release on June 30. It basically means very little because most of the decent ones will move on anyway and the below players are all under contract anyway, so can’t be released. However, John O'Shea and Sebastian Larsson have been let go as their deals have run out.

BORINI, Fabio, CATTERMOLE, Lee, COATES, Sebastian, DEFOE, Jermain, DJILIBODJI, Papy, GIBSON, Darron, JONES, Billy, KHAZRI, Wahbi, KONE, Lamine, LENS, Jeremain, MANNONE, Vito, MATTHEWS, Adam, OVIEDO, Bryan, RODWELL, Jack, DOMINGUES, Mika

Loan players Adnan Januzaj, Jason Denayer and Javier Manquillo have returned to their parent clubs.

RETAINED PLAYERS UNDER 24 AS OF JUNE 30, 2017
ASORO, Joel, BROTHERON, Sam, EMBLETON, Elliot, GAMBLE, Owen, GOOCH, Lynden, GREENWOOD, Rees, HONEYMAN, George, KRUSNELL, Oscar, LEDGER, Michael, LOVE, Donald, MAJA, Joshua, McNAIR, Patrick, MOLYNEUX, Luke, NDONG, Didier, NELSON, Andrew, PICKFORD, Jordan, POAME, John-Yves, ROBSON, Ethan, ROBSON, Thomas, ROBSON, Joshua, STOREY, Alexander, STRYJEK, Maksymilian, TALBOT, James, TAYLOR, Brandon, WATMORE, Duncan, WOUD, Michael, WRIGHT, Daniel

SCHOLARSHIP
ALLAN, Christopher, BALE, Adam, CONNELLY, Lee, CONNOLLY, Jack, DIAMOND, Jack, HACKETT, Jake, HICKEY, Jordan, McAUGHTRIE, Fergus, MGUNGA-KIMPIOKA, Benjamin, PATTERSON, Anthony, YOUNG, Jacob

In other news, the Football Association has announced that David Moyes has been fined £30,000 for his “slap” comment towards a journalist in March. Idiot…

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MY FAVOURITE TEAM
BY PADDY HOLLIS

In this series, we ask fans to name their favourite eleven Sunderland players, they are not necessarily the best players…

SIMON MINOGLET
The Belgian was easily the best keeper I’ve seen play for us. His sharp reflexes and command of his box kept us up in the 2012-13 season and his performances made sure he departed for a much more worthy team in the following summer. He worked his way into the team after being number to being behind Craig Gordon in his first season; however, he was always solid for the lads. He played over 100 games and he proved hard to replace for some time after his departure.

PHIL BARDSLEY
Since Roy Keane signed him in January 2008, Phil Bardsley became a regular in the Sunderland side. He was hard-working, committed and equally good going forward as he was at the back; several cracking finishes throughout his time at Sunderland proved that. I was gutted when he left for Stoke, I really felt he had a lot more to give and i don’t think we’ve had a better permanent full back since.

NYRON NOSWORTHY
Nyron was well and truly thrown in the deep end when he joined on a free transfer from Gillingham in the summer of 2005. He played most of the 15 point season at right back and looked out of his depth. However, Roy Keane moved him to centre back and once Jonny Evans had joined on loan in January 2006 he confirmed his place in the heart of our defence. He always wore his heart on his sleeve and his chant to the tune of rehab is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to sing at the SoL.

JONNY EVANS
He was the man who made Nyron. Alex Ferguson was kind enough to loan Evans out to us for two half seasons. He was young when he played for us, however he quickly adapted to both the championship and Premier League. One regret was that we never signed him permanently; I feel he could have gone on to be a huge player for us in the top flight. His calmness on the ball as well as ability makes him one of my favourite defenders I’ve seen play for the club.

MARCOS ALONSO
The Spanish left back was classy, technically sound and had bloody lovely hair. He was a main figure in our League Cup run of 2013-14 and it seemed clear he would be too good to sign permanently. It’s great to see him doing well at Chelsea, if only he was surrounded by players that good at Sunderland.

STEED MALBRANQUE
Steed was a cracking player during his time at Sunderland. He was a key part of our first season under Steve Bruce and I absolutely loved him. He was a gent off of the pitch and a skilful player on it. His first goal was a cracker at Hull and his set pieces were second to none.

CRAIG GARDNER
Gardner was a player who never really got the credit he deserved. He was a solid player and was a real lynchpin in our midfield. He was also partial to the odd cracker and of course there was that time he sat with the fans at St James’. He was a classy guy.

KI SUNGY-YUENG
Ki was only on loan for a season but he played a huge part in our cup run in the 2013-14 campaign. His cool finish against Chelsea in the quarter final was quality and he was so settled in our midfield. He was definitely a player who got away from us and it was a great signing and to see him stay on Wearside longer would have been great.

STEPHANE SESSEGNON
The man who was a combination of Messi and Pele was a great player to watch on his day. He scored some great goals and his finish in the 3-0 win at Newcastle in 2013 was superb. Seeing him beat half the Newcastle back four made him a cult hero, even after he joined the long list of players who we have sold to rivals.

JERMAIN DEFOE
This man has been a pleasure to see play in a Sunderland shirt. His goals have helped keep us up for the last two years and he deserves another chance in the Premier League. He has shown how much love he has for the club and the tears he shed after scoring the thunderbastard volley against Newcastle was one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a Sunderland fan.

DARYL MURPHY
The Irishman was at the club through thick and thin and he was put in so much effort for the Lads. He was a key part of the championship winning season and he scored a particularly cracking goal in the home game against Wigan in the following season. He loved a last-minute goal and, even though he’s now at Newcastle, he’ll always be a favourite for me.

SUBS: Jordan Pickford, Kenwyne Jones, Andy Reid, Danny Collins, Bolo Zenden, Danny Rose, Danny Welbeck

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PICKFORD & DEFOE…
AND PRE SEASON NEWS

Arsenal are the latest club to be linked with Jordan Pickford, although they won’t be last. Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe has been a little more candid about his move to Bournemouth. He said: "It's documented about the Bournemouth thing. It's a club close to my heart anyway, for obvious reasons. I was there as a kid. I think I was 18, on loan from West Ham. It's a special place, with a top manager, and a team that's done so well from where they've come from. A unique story. It's out there, a lot of people obviously knew, I did a medical and said when this is finished and I've had a break, come July everyone will know anyway. Two and a bit years at Sunderland, I enjoyed my time there, it's not nice when you get relegated, I don't think it's fair on the Sunderland fans to come out so soon after they've been relegated and say 'yeah, I'm signing for someone else'. It's too soon to put it out there. At the right time, I would like to say, 'this is the club I'll be playing for'."

Defoe also chatted openly and emotionally about his friendship with Bradley Lowery: “My relationship with Bradley Lowery was the highlight of my season. Away from football the relationship I've managed to develop with Bradley and what I've brought to his life and what he's brought to mine has been really special," he added. "It's just been sad to see him go through what he has been and he's only six. But I still feel blessed that I'm able to be in his life. I've got so many great memories and moments that I have shared with him that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life now. So, I'm just grateful for that. Every day I wake up and I will text his mum and ask how he is getting on and she will say he's OK. But the reality is that he's really struggling," he added. "All I can do is try and be there for him and the family. When I finish with England I'll try and get up there again before I go away. I want to try and spend as much time with him as possible."

Joel Asoro has praised Jermain Defoe and the help and advice he gave younger players while at the club. Asoro said: “It is always good to get that first-team experience, in and around the first-team players. Training with the likes of Jermain Defoe is brilliant and he is probably the best striker I have ever seen. Playing for a team at the bottom of the league but still scoring 15 goals every season, that’s when you know he is really good – there is nobody better to learn from. Jermain gives us little tips, he talks to us often, ‘do this, don’t focus on that. Be yourself.’ All of that advice is invaluable, it is really good to have someone helping you develop.”

The club have also confirmed five pre-season freindlies. They are all quite accessible for fans to attend. They are Bury on Friday 7 July (KO 7.30pm); Hibernian on Sunday 9 July (KO 2pm); Livingston on Wednesday 12 July (KO 7.45pm); Bradford City on Saturday 22 July (KO 3pm) and Scunthorpe United on Wednesday 26 July (KO 7.30pm). Further games will be announced and ALS coach and ticket information will be available in due course.

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BAIN BACK AT WORK…
GET A GAFFER IN ASAP

Martin Bain is finally back from holiday and has stepped up his search for a new manager, with Simon Grayson and Derek McInnes top of the short list that he’s drawn up with ex-Rangers boss Walter Smith, who he has recruited to help him. Bain said: “The recruitment process is ongoing. Pre-season is an important period at any football club so naturally we are keen to conclude things as quickly as possible, whilst being mindful of the need to make the right appointment.”

Although the close season is always seen as a long time off, in reality it’s barely a month. The players report back on June 29, before travelling to Austria for a pre-season training camp. The fitness camp is followed trips to Bury on July 7 and Hibs on July 9. Bain added: “Preparations for the new season are progressing well and our full plans for pre-season are close to being finalised. The first team and the under 23s will spend a week together in Austria, which signals a much more joined up approach to the pre-season preparations. It is something that the club hasn’t done previously, so it will give the young players a great opportunity to train alongside their senior counterparts and experience the intensity required at first-team level.”

PRE-SEASON SCHEDULE
7 July - Bury v Sunderland
9 July - Hibernian v Sunderland

And here’s a lovely blog on the new manager situation, By Luke Hakin

Just when it looked like Short and Bain had their hearts set on Derek McInnes as their man, there appeared to be a twist last week as some bookmakers briefly installed Ryan Giggs as 1/5 favourite instead.

The bookies trotted out their usual ambiguous description of a ‘flurry of bets’ on Giggs to justify the change, although by the following evening Giggsy had denied any contact had taken place. Current Preston and former Leeds manager Simon Grayson now leads the way as favourite instead.

It proves, if nothing else, that the bookies know nothing afterall, are petrified of taking bets from ‘insiders’ to the point that they’d slash the price at the drop of the hat, and will happily cut odds themselves to falsely lure punters into thinking they’re in the know and stimulate betting in the market.

The wider point though, is that it’s hard to imagine the club making a left field appointment from outside of the list of those already linked, and the list is hardly inspiring. It’s a collection of the unproven (Giggs, McInnes, Phillips), the has-beens (Warnock) and never has-beens (Clough, Lambert, Grayson) from the Championship merry-go-round.

Thankfully Giggs appears to be out of the running. Whilst I appreciate the obvious similarities with Roy Keane, I can’t help but think anyone drawing comparisons would be sorely disappointed. Keano was a natural leader and motivator, full of charisma and determination. Listening to Giggs punditry, on the other hand, is a handy cure for insomnia.

Media personas aren’t the be-all and end-all, but with no managerial experience, no knowledge or experience outside of the Premier League and only underwhelming stints under our friend Moyesy and Louis Van Gaal on his coaching CV, there really isn’t anything else to judge him on. It would be an appointment on name only.

We’re in a different boat now to what we were when Keane arrived, anyway. Back then, Quinny had returned under a wave of positivity but needed a name to galvanise the club and excite the fans. This time around, fans are apathetic and we’re likely to lose any player we receive a reasonable bid for. Yes, we do need somebody to excite the fans, but we also need somebody with a plan to rebuild for the future rather than a complete novice.

Maybe Warnock would steady the ship, but what next? Part of the reason we’re in this mess is a lack of foresight and long-term planning; appointing him would hardly buck that trend. Nigel Clough has worked well with limited resources at Burton but pulled up no trees at Derby or Sheffield United when working at bigger clubs with higher expectations.

Grayson’s career has followed a similar path too – relative success at Blackpool and Preston, but dismissal from both Leeds and Huddersfield. It leaves McInnes as the most credible option of those linked, having performed well at Aberdeen with no money to spend and, by all accounts, moulded them into an attractive, high-pressing team with good use of wingers.

But McInnes is still relatively unknown and a gamble, having failed in his only job in England at Bristol City. That can be excused to an extent, coming over 4 years ago as a young manager learning his trade, and I’m warming to his appointment. It’s not what I had in mind though when Moyes left a fortnight ago. Should we not at least attempt to speak to Garry Monk? Granted, we aren’t privy to what goes on behind the scenes, but there’s been nothing in the press to suggest he is even under consideration and apparent acceptance that he is out of our reach regardless.

Perhaps he is. Palace have a tendency to appoint English managers and are understandably a more attractive option than us. Boro, too, have arguably more pull at the minute, with stable finances and a better team that is unlikely to be decimated over the summer. The reality is that the likes of Jokanovic at Fulham and Carvalho at Sheff Wed would likely much rather stay at their current clubs than join our sinking ship. Our reputation has taken a battering after years of chaos.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t at least try, though. Just because Dour Dave dumbed down expectations, we shouldn’t just accept our lot with a whimper. We need to think big and bold and be creative in our search to ensure we have the best man for the job, including overseas. There’s a big wide world out there. Nobody can convince me the likes of Simon Grayson or Paul Lambert are the best available candidates.

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DOES ANYONE really WANT TO MANAGE US?
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It’s been two weeks since David Moyes jumped ship. There’s been a whole host of potential replacements named, however the club don’t seem in a rush to appoint a new manager anytime soon. Attracting a creditable manager was always going to be an issue but in this case, it could cost us dearly.

The man mentioned the most around the world of social media is Derek McInnes. The Aberdeen manager has gained himself a fairly smart reputation north of the border, however managing in the Championship with a thin looking budget will be a challenge to say the least. Personally, I feel he would be a good appointment. He’s used to success and with any luck he can bring this confidence back into our depleted side.

The lack of interest from any outstanding names is hardly surprising. In recent years we’ve become a poisoned chalice for managers. That was when we were a Premier League side; now that we have dropped out after a humiliating season and now face the prospect of a long slog in the Championship we surely can’t look very appealing at all going into the summer break.

A lot has been mentioned about Nigel Clough, or rather, why we have yet to enquire about Nigel Clough. Having him as boss would surely benefit both parties. He would be getting a fresh new challenge very different to that he is facing at Burton, a club which is hard to see going any further on their budget, and we would be getting a manager who has had a lot of experience at this level and who is hungry to improve his own CV. Given some funds, I think he’d bring back a lot of respect and ability to the club.

Perhaps the most surprising manager on the market in the close season is Garry Monk. Despite missing out on the play-offs, he had a great campaign with Leeds and at times their play was incredible. However, he became the last in a long line of managers to get sacked by Massimo Cellino. I like to say we’d treat you better Garry but to be honest, with Ellis Short I just don’t know. As good as it would be having Monk as our new boss; I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in the Premier League.

No one can say for sure who out next boss will be; however, we need to get someone in sooner rather than later. The players return for pre-season training in just three weeks’ time. Many current players will most likely not be there for long after and we need a new manager in by then to sort out what kind of squad he wants. We need a manager who will be prepared to get their hands dirty as a complete overhaul of the squad is badly needed.

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more new gaffer crap…
hurry up

Preston North End boss Simon Grayson has emerged as one of the favourites for the Sunderland manager’s job after having his odds slashed from 40/1 to 7/4. However, Derek McInnes remains favourite with most bookmakers.

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford will be away much of this summer with England under-21s who are competing in the European Championships in Poland.

In other news, one of our writers, Alex Louise, has applied for the gaffer’s job, here’s her letter to the Martin Bain

Dear Mr Bain

It has come to my attention that you are currently looking to fulfil the managerial post at Sunderland AFC. I hope that you will take my application into consideration as we prepare for a season in the Championship. I understand that yourself and Mr Short may have irons in the fire with more experienced managers but I would like to remind you that previous appointments of seemingly skilled professional manager have failed to achieve the success our football club deserves.

Whilst I do not have professional managerial experience, I feel this is not enough to hold me back from taking on tenure at our club. You can rest assured that I have my level one FA coaching badge and a Level Three First Aid Qualification – while I appreciate this is quite literally not in the same league as others you may be considering for the post, I hope this won’t rule me out completely.

I would imagine you are wondering about my footballing philosophies. What does she know, I hear you cry! It would be my dream to take our footballing style back to the old skool and I believe that playing in the Championship is the ideal time to make this happen. No more players rolling around like they’ve been shot when they take a boot to the back of the shin. No more Geordie Shore inspired hairstyles, and absolutely no fluorescent football boots. Can you imagine Ian Porterfield agonising over which laces to match with his pink plastic shoes? Of course not.

In a controversial move, I would do away with the modern day wingbacks and revert back to the glory days where defensive line-ups were made up of fullbacks and centre halves. No more the days of players like Patrick van Aanholt (boo, hiss) chasing crisp packets in the wind and forgetting to actually mark the opposition. Defenders should be able to do the one thing their employed to do (clue’s in the title lads) and defend. Defend by whatever means necessary – Terry Butcher style. In fact, I was thinking of running a Terry Butcher-inspired motivation session for our defenders, hopefully run by the man himself where he could offer a masterclass on how to stand up and be counted in the defensive line. If Terry isn’t available, then look no further than Sunderland’s favourite adoptive son – Kevin Ball. The snappily titled “Bally’s Boot Camp” would be a sure-fire winner and would inject some much needed grit back into the spine of the team. Players should understand the importance of positional play and well-timed tackles, shunning the modern practice of shirt pulling and panicking.  

Most importantly, I cannot stress the importance of goals. Scoring them in particular. I’m sure you’ll agree that 29 goals in one season is less than satisfactory and needs to change. I don’t want to labour the point, but this is an area that we have been severely lacking in for years. If only someone had thought to clone Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips in their heyday! My suggestion would be for you to offer Jermain Defoe a sweetener to stay in Sunderland. If the man wants a diamond encrusted unicorn that can dance the Macarena, buy him two.  This area has to be our top priority going forward next season – now I have already started putting some feelers out in anticipation of being called to interview for the position and I can tell you I have some very exciting prospects lined up!

I would now like to discuss the more personal attributes that I can bring to the role. For the past 12 years I have worked in education, looking after children under the age of five. I feel this has given me a unique insight into the psyche of toddlers. What good is this in the football world I hear you ask? Well, after witnessing the behaviour of the majority of Premier League footballers over the past few years, I believe there to be many parallels that can be drawn between taming toddlers and managing footballers. Over the past few years I have witnessed huffs, temper tantrums and the sticking out of more bottom lips than I care to count. The sight of grown men stamping their feet, over-excessively pointing, kicking water bottles and displaying downright insubordination has got to stop. If I were to become manager, a punishment system would swiftly be put into place which would hopefully put an end to all this nonsense. Players not giving 100% on the pitch would be expected to prove their worth in other ways: offering a helping hand in the club shop for example, or disinfecting the showers after use. Those half time oranges (or is it all high energy protein bars nowadays?) won’t hand themselves out!

In addition to this any player getting booked for my personal pet-hate, dissent, will be expected to be completely silent during the next training session, with any complaints or grumbles being swiftly dealt with by being squirted three times in the face with a water pistol. After careful consideration, I would suggest Jan Kirchoff to be responsible for the brandishing of said water pistol – he looks like the sort of man who would rise to the challenge of such responsibility. Players who go down too easily after a tackle or over-egg an alleged injury will redeem themselves by providing an after-training treat for their teammates. Hopefully the prospect of cavorting around the Academy whilst dressed as Coco Bongo the clown will nip these amateur dramatics in the bud. Lastly, I would operate a zero tolerance policy on lateness to training and matches, with anyone breaching these rules being expected to complete the following train session dressed as Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Show, treating his teammates to a rendition of the “Time Warp” every twenty minutes.

But I’m not a monster. I understand how “delicate” these highly paid professionals can be and the need for their egos to be massaged. Players performing well will of course be rewarded. I would like to suggest a “star of the month” system – every month, the player who has shown the most effort, improvement and work-rate will be in receipt of this prestigious award. Receiving not just a certificate (which will of course be laminated), I am proposing that they would also receive a 4 minute Supermarket-sweep style raid of Jacky White’s market, where they will have anything they can grab in this time paid for by the club. They will also be able to choose a fellow player to go for a slap-up dinner at the Panda in Sunderland, with a feast up to the value of £20 coming out of the club’s coffers. Extravagant, maybe, but I believe offering incentives is the key to success. I would also like to propose “Fun Time Fridays” where, after training of course, the players will be expected to attend a two-hour bonding exercise at a location of my choosing. Imagine the Instagram posts the club could share of their japes! I for one would love to see photographic evidence of Joleon Lescott at one with nature in Mowbray Park, or Steven Pienaar treating himself to a Mr Whippy at Roker Beach.

I understand that the club is having financial difficulties at the moment. I have a few solutions to this problem that I would like to pilot should I be successful in my application for the post. I would like to suggest offering the players dual-roles, where they would be expected to give a little bit back to the club in the long hours where they are not at training. They would of course be given official titles, to ensure they felt valued and respected in these new roles. Do we really need to employ a groundsman to cut the grass on the pitch, when Whabi Khazri and Duncan Watmore are more than capable of wielding a lawnmower and a pair of hedge strimmers? Is a tea lady necessary, when Vito Mannone could be appointed “Tea Executive,” ably assisted of course by Seb Larsson in the prestigious role of “Biscuit Monitor?” What need is there for a separate bus driver when Lamine Kone could don a chauffeur’s hat and leather gloves and drive his teammates to victory? Pickford of course would have to be the official club DJ, keeping everyone’s spirits up as he gets his rave on each week. I have no doubt that Fabio Borini and Jack Rodwell, with their subtitle of “Entertainment Coordinators” would have no qualms about donning the Samson and Delilah suit in lieu of the pre-match warm up to warm up the crowd and re-connect with our younger fans. I feel utilising the players that we have to fulfil positions that we are paying other people for would ensure not only that we could make some half-decent signings. It could also mean splashing out in other areas: for example we could think about finally restoring the rest of the pink seats in the stadium to the once-glorious red.

I would also suggest that on match days, the PR system is put to better use than it previously has been. Under my rein as manager, Justin Bieber’s days of wailing over the tannoy at half time would be numbered, with themed songs to be played in relation to the team’s performance. In the event that we are losing, I would like Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping to be ringing in the players ears as they trot back to the field of play, reminding them that no matter how many times they get knocked down they have to get right back up again. When riding high on a win, you can’t go wrong with the classics. That’s’ right, Tina Turner, Simply the Best,” loud and proud. If that doesn’t motivate the lads then I don’t know what will.

On a more personal note, as a female applying for the managerial role, think of the positive PR you could spin for the club. Becoming the first big-name club to appoint a female manager (or head coach if you prefer, I’m no narcissist) would do wonders for your reputation as an equal rights employer. I’m not talking pot pourri and decorative cushions around the place, but a change in dynamic might be just what these players need. I can assure you that I have a full understanding of the offside rule which I can demonstrate in interview if necessary. My managerial style is firm but fair – try to picture a manager who has the tactical awareness of Pochettino, the acumen of Sir Alex Ferguson, the easy camaraderie of Ian Hollloway with Peter Reid’s nose for a good party.  I may not be Cheryl Cole in the press room but I can guarantee I have not just better craic than David Moyes, but better hair. Crucially, at 5’4 I would also save you money on uniform, as I can fit into the children’s training gear and don’t pay VAT on football boots. Have you noticed how I’m always thinking of ways to save the club money? This is just another example of my shrewd financial expertise. Perhaps a bit of female perspective is just what our football club needs.

On a final note, I understand that stability is a word that is often bandied about when discussing the managerial role at our club. I can assure you that this is something I can most certainly offer – I have had a season ticket in the same seat for almost twenty years and have nurtured effective relationships with the other supporters around me in that time. I have a strong footballing “family” if you will, who would be eager to come and work with me as backroom staff if the roles became available.

Come on Mr Bain, make the right choice. Let’s make this football club great again! I would love to be part of your vision and have every confidence that you will make the right decision. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Alex Louise @safc_lex

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BRADLEY NOt WELL…
POOR LITTLE MAN

Bradley Lowery's family have announced that he has just weeks to live. A statement on his Facebook page from his mother read: "My heart is broken in two, it is too soon for this to happen, it should never be happening to start with. My baby has had to put up with so much over the past four years and now he has to suffer a painful death. How is that fair??? Why should any parent have to be put through this heart ache???"

Jermain Defoe has been chatting about Bradley and dedicated his goal for England against Lithuania to his best friend. “I’ve scored a lot of goals, but that goal was something else. It was Mother’s Day, Bradley was with me, I felt I had to score. It was something I was craving so bad. I’d rehearsed it so much in my mind when it happened, it was like, wow, this is meant to be. When I got the goal, I just felt blessed. The way he looked at me that day, the smile: it’s such a good feeling that you could bring something to his life. Everywhere I go people ask after him. David Moyes took us to New York mid-season and people were coming up to me saying ‘how’s Bradley?’ Part of you feels it’s good that we have helped raise awareness of the illness. But it’s also really sad. When you see a six-year-old suffer like that, it’s so hard to understand. He’s hardly had a life. I pray for him every day, just ask God to heal him.”

Former SAFC hard man, Alex Rae, reckons that Alex McLeish would do well at Sunderland! He said: “For me, Sunderland need a manager like McLeish. Sunderland is a monster of a club. To be a manager there, you have to be able to deal with the pressures that come with the responsibility. McLeish has been at Rangers, had to deal with being a previous Birmingham City boss at Aston Villa. He is a big, big character. Not only that, he is a manager who has trophies coming out of his ears. He has managed at that level, won cups north and south of the border and even managed at international level and abroad. All you have to do is look at his win percentage in Belgium (when he managed KRC Genk with Rae as his assistant) – it was about 54%. The same when he managed Scotland – it was about 70%. People keep talking about managers who have done this, done that – but what have they really done? What have they won? A seventh place isn’t success. Winning things is and the big ’un knows how to do that. Managers need to know how to deal with players – if they haven’t got that they will fail,” added Rae. “Some of these younger candidates might seem the real deal, but you can’t talk to players, wherever they are from, whatever nationality, about phrases out of a coaching manual. You need to speak to them like proper players. That is when they respond. McLeish has got everything. He has presence when he walks into a dressing-room, can command respect and he has the man-management skills. He can work to a budget and is a winner. I’m sure he would welcome an offer to be Sunderland boss. For whoever gets the job, it will be tough at Sunderland. I said it five years ago, before I had even worked alongside him, and I will say it again – McLeish is the type of manager that this club has been crying out for.”

In other news, John O’Shea would love to stay at Sunderland, but only if he is getting regular football. A source close to O’Shea said: “John, ideally, wants to remain with Sunderland but only if he’s going to play. If their new manager is not overly keen on John, then he has to leave, because his Irish place is dependent on him being active at club level. John has never been to a World Cup - he has played Champions League finals, FA Cup finals, captained Sunderland in the League Cup final and been to the Euros. But he wants to go to a World Cup. He knows he may not get there if he’s sitting on a bench for the last year of his career. Four clubs are interested in him [all in the Championship]. Wolves are one of those.”

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WAITING FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO HAPPEN…
SEB CRAIC

Despite no official approach from Sunderland, Aberdeen are said to be making a short list of managers who would be able to take over the reigns from Derek McInnes. Second favourite, Ryan Giggs, is remaining coy about the post: "I'm not too aware of it. Unless anyone has approached me, then it's not true. As a player and a person who has been in football for so long, that's all they are, rumours. If I did speak to someone, I would keep it between myself and the club. I have 25 years or so as a player then towards the end as a coach and I've had a year off. For the first time in 25 years, where I've had a year off, got the chance to do different things and I've enjoyed it. But I've always said I want to eventually become a manager or coach but I am in no rush. It is all about picking the right team and the right club."

Meanwhile, Sebastian Larsson’s agent, Per Jonsson, is hoping to keep his player in England despite the free agent attracting interest from Sweden, Turkey and China. “It is 100 per cent that he does not go to all Swedish now,” Jonsson said. “He is not ready to turn home. He is very excited to stay in England and besides bids from there, there are clubs in Turkey and China who have submitted bids. We’ll see what’s going on this summer, but overall it will not happen in a couple of years. “

Larsson, who has been linked with IFK Gothenburg, and Fiorentina added: “Everyone knows my contract is up and I will decide my future during the summer. I have enjoyed every season here which might seem strange, but I have. I am sure there will be discussions during the summer. Now is not the right time to talk about what the future holds, it’s not about me. It’s about the club and for the club to do the right things for Sunderland Football Club, to make sure they do the right things next year. My own situation will be discussed during the summer.”

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RESSIES REMINISCING
BY SOBS

Now that it's all over bar the weeping, wailing, and proclamations of undying love for and loyalty to the club whatever the circumstances - and the entirely understandable filings for football divorce after the last few years became too much for some - we've got nowt to play for but a bit of pride, and to give us fans something to smile, albeit wryly, about on the way home.

Now that the pressure's off, we move our mind to other things than football, such as spring cleaning. So far I've managed to steam-clean the kitchen, discovering in the process those little drawers on the bottom of the toaster that you're supposed to empty the crumbs from. One large sack of dried breadcrumbs is now on EBay, and speaking of which, the other thing I managed to do was to shift some unwanted clobber via that website.

First up was a decent Levi jacket, in the pocket of which was the document that persuaded me to get rid. It proved that I'd not worn said garment for over nine years, as it was the teamsheet for SAFC reserves (as they were known then) against Bolton Wanderers. That would probably place it in the early days of our tenancy of the Hetton Centre, and as I looked at the names, I wondered what had happened to some, what had happened to others, and why it happened to the rest.

Wanna know who was playing on October 16th, 2007? Read on. I can't remember the score, but we probably won 'cos we were canny back then.

Keeper - Darren Ward. After 457 games for Mansfield, Notts County, Forest, and Norwich, Darren was already 32 when he came to Sunderland immediately before the 2004-5 season. He didn't get a game until Roy Keane decided he was a better option than Ben Alnwick (Hollywood on his mind, perhaps?), and spent the rest of a season that saw us charge back to the Prem. Despite the arrival of Craig Gordon, he managed three games in the top flight before going to Wolves on loan in March 2009. However, he somehow got injured, came back, and retired. He's spent time as goalkeeping coach at Peterborough (ironically, replacing Andy "Officcer" Dibble) and currently fills that role at Sheff Utd. 35 games, 36 times unused substitute.

Right back - Greg Halford Greg was widely regarded as the Next Big Thing when, after making his name at Colchester and a brief spell at Reading, he arrived in June 2007, with Roy Keane shelling out around £2.8 million. It's fair to say that getting sent off twice in his first six appearances didn't help, and he spent best part of two seasons on loan at Charlton and Sheff Utd before we gave him to Wolves. After spells at Portsmouth, Forest (alongside various other SAFC old boys), Brighton, Rotherham, and Brum, he's now fetched up at Cardiff. 9 games, no goals.

Left back - Ian Harte Undoubtedly a class act in his day, those days were most definitely in the past when Eire team-mate Keane signed him after a trial in August 2007. He'd been at Leeds for several relatively successful years before they went bust and had to sell him to Levante in Spain. Despite scoring their first La Liga goal in 41 years, and playing 66 times in two season, he wasn't fancied long-term by their management and came back to England. He was released after one season and has subsequently played for Blackpool, Reading, Carlisle, and Bournemouth, and retired in 2015. 8 games, no goals.

Centre-half - Peter Hartley. Seemed to be captain of the reserves for years and years, Peter came through the ranks at SAFC but managed a solitary game, as a late sub in that 2-0 win at Leicester on New Year's Day 2007, just after Toby Hyssen and David Connolly had scored. After a spell on loan at Chesterfield, he decided to aim for first-team football and moved to his home-town side, Hartlepool in 2009, where he play nearly 200 games and made the news when he and James Poole scored, Hartley, Poole - geddit? After four seasons he moved to Stevenage for a year, then on to Plymouth for a couple of seasons, and is currently at Bristol Rovers. One game, no goals.

Centre-half - Michael Kay. Another who came through the Sunderland ranks, Consett boy Michael was widely regarded as a good prospect on Wearside, but never made the first team. After loans at Gateshead and Tranmere, he signed for the latter in 2011, with a couple of England U17 caps to his name. After a couple of seasons he moved to Chester, where he made 84 appearances and scored a couple of goals before deciding, in his mid-twenties, that he'd had enough of football and packed it in. He's since moved back to Consett and is planning career in the fire service, proving that football isn't everything to everybody. No games, no goals.

Midfield - Robbie Weir. Northern Ireland Football Writers Young Player of the Year when he arrived from Larne in 2005, Robbie was another touted as having a bright future in the game. In his six years with us, he was a mainstay of the reserves, but didn't once trouble the announcer at the SoL as far as first team games go. He managed three appearance off the bench in friendlies, and was once an unused sub in the Albufeira cup - hence his nice tan at the time. Since leaving for Tranmere in 2011, after a loan there and previously at York, he moved on to Burton Albion a year later. 160 appearance later, he moved to Orient. No games, no goals.

Midfield - Jake Richardson. Watford-born son of former coach Kevin, who played over 600 first team games and got an England cap, fellow winger Jake didn't have such a spectacular career, failing to make the grade professionally. After buzzing around our youth and reserves for a couple of years he was released in 2008, so there's not much of a football story to tell. Now working as a recruitment consultant, and if his profile picture is anything to go by, quite happy with things. No games, no goals.

Midfield - Billy Dennehy. Born in the romantic sounding Tralee, young Bill was a talented Gaelic footballer, but his "soccer" talents got him signed for Sunderland in 2005 aged 18, after starting his career with Tralee Dynamos, Kingdom Boys, and Shelbourne. Only one first team appearance, as a sub in a friendly, was the sum total of his Red and White career before leaving back across the Irish Sea. There had been a seven game loan at Accrington Stanley in 2007-8, but he's enjoyed a decent career in his homeland, appearing around 250 times and scoring around 50 goals in around 250 appearances for Derry City, two spells at Cork City, Shamrock Rovers, and St Patrick's Athletic where he plays alongside his brother Darren. No games, no goals.

Forward - David Dowson. Born in Bishop, and therefore a thoroughly good chap, Dowse came through youth system to turn pro in 2007, but failed to make any inroads into the first team. A loan spell at Chesterfield, and another at York, took up most of his time at Sunderland before moving to Gateshead in the summer of 2010 but this came to nothing and York City was his next stop. This stay lasted only a month before he was off to Northern League Durham City, scoring on his debut and staying at New Ferens Park for two seasons. Then it was back to Darlo, where he stayed through their liquidation and name-change to Darlington 1883. Towards the end of his four years there, his place became uncertain, and he signed for Spennymoor in February 2016 and played a big part in their promotion to the National League, scoring 8 times in 43 games this season. No games, no goals.

Forward - Roy O'Donovan. Following impressive performance against us in Keane's memorable SAFC tour of Eire in 2007, he came to Wearside from Cork City. He'd actually spent a couple of years at Coventry before being released, but scored 34 times in 79 league games for Cork as well as scoring in the UEFA Cup. In his three seasons with us, he didn't manage to score but did lie on the keeper at Birmingham to allow Stern John to do so in the last minute of a 2-2 draw, having made his debut as a replacement for Greg Halford. He also spent time on loan at Dundee, Blackpool, Southend, and Hartlepool, before moving to Coventry at the end of his contract. Injuries hampered his time there, and a loan to Hibs was taken to regain fitness after one of those pesky metatarsals. New Coventry manager Mark Robins didn't fancy the boy Roy, and his contract was cancelled in January 2011,allowing him to join Northampton. Since then he's played for Brunei DPMM, winning trophies, and Mitra Kukar of the Indonesian Super League - that stay only lasted a couple of months before FIFA closed that league down because, well, it wasn't being run very well. A spell with Central Coast Mariners in Oz was interrupted by an eight-game ban for nutting an opponent, and Roy will play next season for Newcastle Jets. 19 games, plus various friendlies and the Albufiera Cup, no goals.

Forward - David Connolly. The one we'd gone to sign when we brought back Kevin Phillips, he eventually arrived nine years later after leaving Watford and scudding north-eastwards via Feyenoord, Wolves, Excelsior, Wimbledon, West Ham, Leicester, and Wigan. He top-scored for us as we became champions of the Championship in May 2007, scoring our final goal at Luton that confirmed that achievement, as well as a dramatic last-minute volleyed equaliser at Turf Moor, but managed only a handful of games the following season and none in 2008-09, so we let him go. Spells at Southampton, Portsmouth, Oxford, and the resurrected Wimbledon (AFC version) followed, contributing to his total of 178 league goals. He retired just before the end of the 2014-15 season, having earned 41 caps for Eire and scoring 9 goals. He's since been Academy coach at Millwall. 42 games, 13 goals.

Subs.
Jordan Henderson. Another who came through our ranks, making his first team debut in November 2008 from the bench as we went down 0-5 at the Bridge. Jordan spent the latter half of the 2008-9 season at Coventry, playing ten times before breaking a metatarsal and coming home. In 2009-10 he was our Young Player of the Year, and went on to impress in central or right midfield. When Kenny Dalglish waved about £20 million at us a year later, Jordan was off to Anfield. He's since become Liverpool captain, an England regular, and is reported to earn about £100,000 a week. Where did it all go wrong?

Trevor Carson. Genial Ulsterman Carson joined us as a junior, and kept goal as various levels as he claimed International caps at every level up to U21. An unused sub a ridiculous 62 times behind Craig Gordon and Martin Fulop, Trevor was loaned out to Chesterfield, Lincoln, Brentford, Bury (twice), and Hull. He eventually joined Bury permanently, making 44 appearances before a loan at Portsmouth, then moving to Cheltenham and then his current team Hartlepool - with whom he's just dropped out of the league. 8 games, all friendlies, no goals.

Jack Colback. Youth payer, reserve player, Ipswich player of the season during his loan spell there, Jack decided to leave us in 2014 at the end of his contract because he "couldn't face another relegation battle" - and promptly got relegated with the mags. 126 senior games, plus 20 friendlies, 5 goals including one against his current employers.

Martyn Waghorn. Yet another to come through our ranks, Sand Dancer Marty joined us aged eight, and scored goals aplenty at various levels before making his debut against Man U a couple of months after this reserve game, one of four appearance that season. His only game the following season came in that 0-5 against Chelsea alongside Henderson, although he was on loan at Charlton for a couple of months. He spent the whole of 2009-10 at Leicester on loan, and despite missing a penalty in the play-off semi, he was voted Young Player of the Year. Just after the start of the 2010-11 season, we sold him to Leicester for a couple of million and replaced him with Asamoah Gyan for considerably more. Loans at Hull, Millwall, and Wigan preceded permanent move to pie central in April 2014, but he was off to Rangers in the July, where he's won the Scottish Championship and Challenge Cup. Of his career total of 250 games and 72 goals, he managed eight and none for us.

Michael Liddle. Although born down South, defender Michael started out with Haydon Bridge before joining our youth system, and turned pro in 2008. His four years in the Sunderland squad earned him five Eire U21 caps, saw his solitary appearance as a sub against Barrow in the FA Cup, and was interspersed with loans at Carlisle, Orient, Gateshead, and Accrington Stanley, before he joined Lancashire's finest permanently in July 2012. After three seasons, he was released and had and bust his knee in a trial period with Hibs. He joined Dunston RTS before moving to current club Blyth Spartans in 2016. One game, no goals.

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GIGGS…
AND GIGG LANE

Ryan Giggs seems to be the new name emerging as David Moyes’ replacement. Randomly, Giggs took over as caretaker United manager following the sacking of Moyes, so he’s probably got a fair idea of the mess the Scotsman has left things in.

Meanwhile, former Scotland boss, Alex McLeish, reckons that bookies’ favourite, Derek McInnes, wouldn’t turn the SAFC job down if offered it. McLeish said: “I would go to Sunderland in a shot if I was offered the job. But Derek has done a great job at Aberdeen but the opportunity to take one of the big jobs in England doesn’t come along too often. And Sunderland is a big job.”

Former Norwich City boss Alex Neil agrees. Neil said: “I think if Derek gets offered the job he will take it. I think he will look at it as a great opportunity for himself. But it is a difficult job because an experienced manager like David Moyes has chosen to leave. The amount of money some of the players were going to be getting paid there for operating at the level you’re going to be operating at then becomes part of the problem. The fact is you can’t move some of these lads on, so you’ve got to try and get the best out of them. That can prove to be difficult at times.”

Meanwhile, it seems that we will face former League One Bury, at Gigg Lane, during our pre season programme. They are managed by former SAFC player Lee Clark, who left the club in controversial circumstances after wearing a t shirt with Sad Mackem Bastards printed on it. Let’s make sure the NUFC fans gets a proper Wearside welcome. "They [Sunderland] are the type of clubs we are talking too," Clark said: "Sunderland were recently relegated and will be a Championship club come pre-season while Huddersfield have replaced them in the Premier. We are hoping to have everything confirmed 100 per cent in the next couple of days. It will give us an exciting mixture of games in terms of quality of the opposition. We want to try to bring teams from the Championship and Premier League to Gigg Lane. We also want to play some noble clubs from non-league and League Two to make sure we are fully ready for the new campaign. We are very close with a couple of others. We are continuing to take calls and emails with regards to potential friendlies."

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MY FAVOURITE TEAM
BY Martin Long

Hello, my name is Martin Long and I've been a Sunderland fan since I was born in 1985. I started to take a major interest during the 1994/95 season which was a miserable season for the club and we just stayed up. From that point on, I was hooked. I really enjoy reading your website, my favourite part is Sobs Match Reports. I have recently been reading people's favourite Sunderland XI with great interest and thought it would be good for me to submit my own. The timeframe for my favourite team is from 1995 to the present day.

In this series, we ask fans to name their favourite eleven Sunderland players, they are not necessarily the best players…

GK: SHAY GIVEN
In 1996/97, we signed a young unknown goalkeeper from Blackburn on loan and to this day, he is the best goalkeeper I've seen at Sunderland. He was an integral part of the team that won the league title and kept 12 clean sheets in a row. When he signed for the scum, I cried. The fact that he beats quality keepers such as Thomas Sorensen, Jordan Pickford and Mart Poom to be in my XI speaks volumes.

RB: CHRIS MAKIN
Once again, competition was strong for this role. Dariusz Kubicki was right back at the start of my timeframe and was very reliable while Patrice Carteron will always be remembered for that amazing goal against the scum but Makin wins it for been solid, extremely tough, THAT tackle on Shearer and been a crowd favourite.

CB: STEVE BOULD
He was extremely old when he came to us and didn't play many games but I have never seen a better defender at the club. Provided some much needed experience in the Premier League.

CB: JONNY EVANS
Another class act. Signed as a relative unknown on loan from Manchester United and was an integral part of a promotion winning team and a side that stayed up comfortably the following year. Solid and reliable, he even managed to make Nosworthy look good!

LB: MICHAEL GRAY
A top left back with decent defending skills and boundless energy. Some of my favourite football at Sunderland was his link up play with Allan Johnston down the left hand side. Since he left the club, we have really struggled for left backs, sometimes going a full season without a decent one.

RM: STEVE AGNEW
Some may view this as a strange choice given the options of Steed Malbranque and Nicky Summerbee for this position but for me, Agnew edges it. In 1995/96 and 1996/97 he was one of our better players. He scored some great goals, notably against Manchester United in that amazing cup tie and always gave energy and quality to the cause.

CM: CLAUDIO REYNA
Another one that signed towards the end of his career but he was pure class. We've never had a midfielder who was better on the ball than him. He was a massive goal threat too, especially from free kicks. The two he scored against Leicester in 2002 were one of the main reasons why we stayed up that season.

CM: STEFAN SCHWARZ
Another quality player with a quality left foot. He sometimes played left wing for us and was class there too even though he was old and slow. I remember a quality cross he provided for Phillips in a victory against Aston Villa and a quality goal he scored against Sheffield Wednesday. Integral part of Peter Reid's teams in the Premier League.

LM: ALLAN JOHNSTON
Magic Johnston. When Summerbee signed, we switched this right footed winger to the left wing and nobody thought it would work but it worked to great effect. Johnston was a superstar and his link up play with Gray was awesome. Left under a cloud but still gets in the team as he was class, pure class.

FW: NIALL QUINN
The first name on the team sheet. He would get in my team for his playing career alone but when you consider what he's done for the club since, his inclusion is a no-brainer. Excellent player, excellent chairman (and much missed in this role). Less said about his management, the better.

FW: KEVIN PHILLIPS
His goalscoring record speaks for itself. Any favourite XI that has Quinn in it has to include Phillips too. They were a cracking partnership up front and scored all types of goals. For a little guy, Phillips was awesome in the air which is a much underestimated part of his game. No one in Sunderland colours has come close to scoring 30 goals in a season since he left.

Subs: Thomas Sorensen, Andy Melville, Dariusz Kubicki, Nicky Summerbee, Alex Rae, Julio Arca, Jermain Defoe

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COMINGS & GOINGS…
PLAYERS GETTING RESTLESS

Bryan Oviedo is looking to jump ship at SAFC in order to stay in the Premier League. “I always come with great enthusiasm after having the problem of my club’s relegation,” he said: “I hope to give my best and work in the best way for La Sele (the national team’s nickname). I have a contract with Sunderland, it is a great team with a great infrastructure, the only problem was the decline and if I have to continue well, the Championship is a great league but I will always look for the option to remain in the Premier. When I came here I came with the ambition to try to help the team to stay in the Premier League but it was not easy,” he added. “We didn’t get the results we wanted but we need to look forward and be ready for next season. The team needs to get back to the Premier League because everyone wants this – the team and the fans.”

In other news, Steven Pienaar is expected to head home to South Africa, which is no loss to anyone, anywhere. Cape Town City FC chairman John Comitis is sniffing around and had this to say: "Steven is a great player. We are just waiting to see what he is going to do, and what is his decision."

Meanwhile, Besiktas president, Fikret Orman, reckons that he’ll be signing Jeremain Lens this summer. That cash will help us as he’s still a Sunderland player. He said: "We are interested in Jeremain Lens, we were interested before he even joined Fenerbahce. Lens is an excellent player. We will see, at the same time it is not a transfer we are desperate for."

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End of Season Ratings
By David Cousin

Short E - Surprised us all by revealing that the man he really wanted as manager all along was David Moyes and not all the others he'd appointed. Then surprised us again by not sacking him in January.

Moyes D - Showed a remarkable set of predictive skills by anticipating a relegation battle after a week or two in post, managed to get us into the relegation battle very early and then got us relegated. If only he could have predicted a battle for a top 4 slot and then achieved that. Has a nice line in pullovers though.

Pickford J - Undoubtedly the best player to emerge from the academy for ages and the third best goalie (is that still a word?) we've had in the last fifty years. Now has a chance to push on and become the best. The question is will he stay. For goalkeepers, you want to be always in the action and a season or two in tier two (the Second Division as it used to be called) behind a creaky defence will provide that and an opportunity to become a club legend. Don't go!

Rest of the first XI - Should face prosecution under the Trades Description Act. Showed little understanding of the words fight or determination and generally muddled through the season, apparently careless of the shirt they were wearing. One exception - Jermain Defoe - the one bright light in a sea of gloom.

U23s - Fantastic, got to a European final and occasionally supplied a player to sit on the 1st team bench. Mostly named Robson and should see more action next season, at lower rates of pay, than the Trades Description boys above.

Supporters/Fans/Us - I don't like the walking out but at least we kept showing up. It's the hope I can't stand.

Opponents - I once had to take my wife to hospital in Queensland to get a cut leg repaired. I chatted to the doc who was doing the stitching who revealed he was a Leicester City fan and I remember that my main emotion was one of gratitude (for the stitching) but also sympathy (for the LCFC bit). A sort of middle of the road club, never winning much, players with odd names like Cheesborough and Stringfellow, but always a good goalkeeper. There are loads in the same middle-ish bracket, West Brom, Stoke, Southampton. And many who are worse, Crystal Palace, Watford and Hull. At least in my mind. And now we're worse than them and drifting down towards the dead men, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Blackpool, and co. There's no doubt something's wrong in our club and if you want to know what it is cycle back to the top of the letter and start again.

Not forever though! We will rise again. See you at Brentford. Never thought I'd say that.

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STAR PLAYERS DEPARTING GOSSIP…
INCOMING MANAGER SPECULATION

Good day folks! According to the tabloids, West Ham will offer us their goalkeeper, Adrian, plus a mountain of cash in an attempt to prize Jordan Pickford away from us. You’d have thought if the Washington Raver is gonna leave Sunderland then he should aim higher.

In other news, it looks like Jermain Defoe will wait until after England’s upcoming games against Scotland and France before he announces where his future will be. “There has been a lot of speculation about me going to this club and that club, a lot of stuff about Bournemouth,” said Defoe. “I have just kept my head down and I am focused on England and the two games coming up, whether I play or not, just to be around the team and to try and enjoy it. There is no better feeling than to put that England shirt on. I want to get my head down, get England out of the way and then sit down with my family and decide what I really want to do. We’ll see what happens. Bournemouth is a fantastic club. Even if I was stood here a retired footballer, I would turn round and say for any player, young player, someone that wants to improve and play under a top manager, coaches, a family club, then I would say yeah it is a good club to go to. What Eddie Howe has achieved is unbelievable. They have a good team, a lot of energy and my time there when I was younger I really enjoyed it, it was brilliant. But at the moment I want to focus on England. The season is finished now, switch off from league football and focus on international football. After that I’m sure everyone will know what is happening.”

Meanwhile, Derek McInnes, who is still the bookies’ favorite to be our next gaffer, reckons that it’ll take a lot for him to leave Aberdeen. He said: “I’ve said it often enough, I love working here. I think it’s a brilliant club, I feel at home here. It would take something special for me to want to leave.”

However, former Norwich City boss Alex Neil believes McInnes would accept the SAFC job. “I think if Derek gets offered the job he will take it,” he said. “I think he will look at it as a great opportunity for himself. But it is a difficult job because an experienced manager like David Moyes has chosen to leave. The amount of money some of the players were going to be getting paid there for operating at the level you’re going to be operating at then becomes part of the problem. The fact is you can’t move some of these lads on, so you’ve got to try and get the best out of them. That can prove to be difficult at times.”

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MY FAVOURITE TEAM
BY JACOB KIRKBRIDE

I’m just a young lad, so most of these players probably seem very recent to all you old timers out there, but I’m still delighted to be asked to contribute to this series.

GK VITO MANNONE
The part Vito played in our run to the League Cup final back in 2014 will always make him a favourite of mine. His most memorable performance in that run was at Old Trafford in the semi-finals where his four penalty saves secured our first major Wembley final since 1992. Whenever he was announced on the team sheet the crowd would always be given a boost, especially away from home. Despite losing the number 1 spot to Jordan Pickford, Mannone will most likely be back between the posts next season, presuming Pickford departs.

RB PHIL BARDSLEY
One of the most consistent full backs to play for the club in modern times. He signed from Manchester United in January 2008. Also, equipped with an absolute rocket of a right foot, so weighed in with the odd scorcher and loved a good hard tackle too. What’s not to like?

CB JOHN O’SHEA
Leadership, experience, blood, sweat, tears is everything that sums up John O‘Shea whenever he puts a red and white top. One of only a few players we’ve had down the years that understood the true emotions of the supporters through the difficult times. Also organised the defence fantastically.

CB JOHN MENSAH
One of the most underrated players that we have managed to get our hands on in the last decade. As well as been part of a Ghanaian international side that reached the World Cup quarter finals in 2010, Mensah was always known as The Rock when playing at the back. One major element that let him down was his injury record during his time at SAFC.

LB KIERAN RICHARDSON
A real engine down the left-hand side, Kieran Richardson would always give the side that bit of extra energy going into the latter stages of a game. His finest moment has to be against the Mags in 2008 when his free kick flew into the top corner and nearly took Shay Given’s head off.

RM STEED MALBRANQUE
Maybe not the most ideal pick as he rarely lasted 90 minutes at the club because his smoking addiction. But you know what, that just made the fans love him even more. Arriving from Spurs under Roy Keane his magical feet on that right-hand side was just what we needed at the time to fully adapt to Premier League football after surviving our first season back.

CM LEE CATTERMOLE
Always the first name on the team sheet when available. Popular with the fans and always gives 100% commitment and leadership which visibly lifts his team mates. If it wasn’t for his many injuries and suspensions he could have been an England regular.

CM JORDAN HENDERSON
Sunderland fans love nothing more than seeing a local lad excel on the pitch. Sadly, his time on Wearside would be recognised by most as just a stepping stone for what he achieved since at Liverpool.

LM STÉPHANE SESSEGNON
Made his debut against Chelsea back in 2011 and the fans instantly knew that he had real quality. His goal in the Di Canio derby back in 2013 highlighted what he was capable of. He started up front on his own for a while under Bruce and O’Neill, following a lot of injury problems, which gave the lad the confidence to really have a go at the opposition’s back four using the skills he had.

FW DARREN BENT
When Djibril Cisse left in 2009, a huge gap needed filling. Darren Bent arrived from Spurs and scored on his debut goal against Bolton and from that moment we looked like a team with goals in our locker. He netted 23 league goals in his first season at the club which was a special time for the fans as they’d not seen a player since Kevin Philips in the late 90s. Sadly he left half way through the season after in acrimonious circumstances and blotted his copy book, but was great while it lasted so sneaks into my starting eleven.

FW JERMAIN DEFOE
When the club made a straight swap with flop American forward Jozy Altidore for legendary Premier League striker Jermain Defoe it turned out to be one of the best transfer deals in our history. Defoe’s amazing goal in the derby, on his weak foot, as well as his relationship with Bradley Lowery, will always give him legendary status on Wearside. His goals record speaks for itself. He is Sunderland second highest Premier League goal scorer behind Kevin Philips.

Subs: Craig Gordon, Wes Brown, Connor Wickham, David Vaughan, Ahmed Elmohamady, Seb Larsson, Fabio Borini

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BENNO STRAIGHT TALKING…
HOMEYMAN IN THE MONEY MAN

Gary Bennett reckons that we should get the right manager in ASAP, so they can prepare for the season ahead. Sounds like a better plan than waiting all summer for your manager to leave and getting an idiot in, like we did last summer. He said: “I would urge the club to appoint quickly. People keep saying who is the right man? You could put Sir Alex Ferguson in charge but I’d imagine even he would struggle. Getting somebody in quickly is important, to understand what the club is all about and hopefully the right people around the manager, which may mean people already at the club, people who can help the manager settle in. You need that connection. It is only a short summer, four or five weeks because the season starts quickly so they have to identify quickly which areas need strengthening. You can have somebody that is inexperienced as long as they have somebody that is experienced alongside them or vice versa. It is a massive job, isn’t it? We have seen it season after season. We have had so-called big-name managers that have struggled. There must be a reason why they have struggled, you don’t become a bad manager overnight. Recruitment this summer is key. It is all about which players the club bring in, players that can excite the supporters and give them some form of belief. You make four or five big signings to give yourself a chance. Everything is flat at the moment, there needs to be a big injection to excite the supporters and recruitment is key for that.”

He also warned that whoever we recruit on the playing and management side, it won’t be an easy season ahead. He added: “There are no guarantees Sunderland will come back up next season but one thing you need to make sure you have is a strong team spirit. That goes a long, long way and if you don’t have a good changing room you will struggle, it doesn’t matter who you are. All successful sides have a strong team unit and strong dressing room. I wasn’t surprised by Moyes’ resignation, especially after the last game at Chelsea. “=It needed either the club or the manager to come out and say either he would be the manager next season or he won’t be and then move on quickly. They have done that but now they have to bring somebody in as quickly as possible so they can get their feet under the table and to get an understanding of what they need to bring into the football club. That is the other problem, whoever comes in what vision do they have? What do they know about Sunderland in terms of where they need strengthening?”

In other news, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has praised Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes, who is side face in Scottish Cup final this weekend. McInnes is still bookies’ favourite to manage Sunderland next season and will be interviewed next week, after the Scottish season finishes. Garry Monk, Nigel Pearson and Kevin Phillips are also in the frame. Rodgers said: "Derek has done a great job, not just this year but building up over the course of the last four seasons. They have had a really high standard of play. We've played them five times and won the five games and they have all been slightly different in terms of how they have performed and how they have played. But he has them very well organised, they are very well drilled, they play to their strengths and, even though we won the League Cup final and played very well, and in the league, they have all been tough games."

McInnes, admitted he was aware of Sunderland’s interest, but is focused on the Scottish Cup Final. He said: “I’m aware of the speculation but I’m thinking about winning this game. I have demanded focus from the players. I’m really happy at Aberdeen and I’ve had great experiences here and still believe there could be more to come. At this stage of the season a lot of English clubs have finished up and when there are managerial changes and there are players moving on or players going out of contract, there's loads of speculation. Aberdeen is a big club here in Scotland and there are demands from the fans. We have been finishing second the last few seasons and also getting European football.”

Meanwhile, George Honeyman has extended his contract at Sunderland until July 2019. He said: “I’m delighted it has all been finalised and now I’m looking forward to working hard and spending the next couple of years at Sunderland. It means everything to me and my family to play football for our first-team. I have loved every second of my time at the club ever since they were taking me in four times a week when I was 11. I owe them a lot and wouldn’t have achieved this without them. I want to be a regular in the team and help achieve promotion and I truly believe next season we can achieve both of those things.”

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NEW MANAGER GOSSIp...
AND PRE-SEASON PLANS

It seems that Aberdeen boss, Derek McInnes is now the bookies’ favourite for the gaffer’s job. Although he may not seem like the most exciting appointment, Aberdeen have finished second to Celtic three years in a row and also won the Scottish League in 2014.

Sunderland pre-season plans are beginning to leak out with the club set to face Celtic at home on July 29, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Stadium of Light. That game will be the first friendly we have played at the SOL in nine years. Before that the squad will be at a training camp in Austria, although no games will be played there and will then return to the UK to play their pre-season programme in England and Scotland. So, I guess it’s a little more affordable for the fans to attend this year…

The family of Bradley Lowery have released the following heart-breaking statement on Facebook. It said: "Bradley had a scan on Monday and it showed what we feared. Bradley's cancer is spreading at a very fast rate and he has now got lots of new tumours including in his lungs. The lump that was causing pain was originally thought to be an abscess has got bigger and they now believe it's a tumour. We are heartbroken this is happening so fast. Bradley is now receiving palliative care at home. He is going for radio therapy at the end of this week and next week but this is to control the pain in the hope we get him comfortable. Lots of people keep asking how long has he got to live? I can't answer this as we don't know all we know is it's not long."

In unspringing news, Wahbi Khazri is set to leave Sunderland and would like to join Marseille. Khazri said: "After six very good first months, Sunderland changed coach and I have not played much. Before he left, Moyes clearly told me I could leave. I do not see myself staying, I do not want to play in the Championship. I have three years left, and my transfer would make everyone happy. I was also not used to it (being ignored). On the other hand, it hardened me. Having played little for a year allows me to be physically and mentally well. It's just football, and when you see what's going on in the world right now, I think there are more serious things in life. Do they want me? I think I left a good image. But for now, I have had no contact from Ligue 1. I do not close any doors, but I love England, its atmosphere, its full stadiums, its beautiful lawns and its mentality - it is different from ours. But Marseille is a great club, with a great stadium and great supporters. I would have the right and duty to listen to the OM proposal, as I had done for Bordeaux. But it's not in the pipes today. I have to be patient, but I'm hungry for football."

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THE SUMMER BEGINS…
NEW GAFFER SPECULATION

Well there’s nothing going on other than the press talking about our next manager! Sam Allardyce has randomly resigned at Palace boss, but claims he’s retiring and not coming back to Sunderland, which is a shame because that would be a solution. More weirdly former SAFC player, Stefan Schwarz, who holds the FIFA Pro Licence and has experience as assistant manager at Helsingborg and with the Sweden Under-21s squad, seems keen. Schwarz said: "I spent four very good years at Sunderland and it is a club that I care very much for. I have played for some very big clubs in Europe and won a lot of trophies, but my time at Sunderland is right up there with any of those. I think I understand the mentality of the Sunderland fans, and the culture of the area. Sunderland teams have to have an identity, and the players need to know their duties and responsibilities to each other. I also know how to work with players from many different cultures, which is important in the modern game. Of course, if the chance came to manage Sunderland, I would be very interested."

Here’s the odds on next Sunderland manager
Nigel Pearson – 9/2
Kevin Phillips – 15/2
Derek McInnes – 15/2
Roy Keane – 12/1
Ryan Giggs – 12/1
David Wagner – 14/1
Alan Pardew – 16/1
Roy Hodgson – 20/1
Garry Monk – 20/1
Paul Lambert – 20/1
Slavisa Jokanovic – 20/1
Claudio Ranieri – 25/1
Steve McClaren – 25/1
Sean Dyche – 33/1

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AND SO IT ENDS…
BY CHRIS HARRIS

Even if you are of the (perfectly) valid opinion that such action should have been taken some months ago when more could have been done, you must celebrate that the action was taken promptly enough to secure a replacement in time for the new gaffer to have the best possible chance of turning this ship around.

We can lament ad nauseum about Moyes failures as a man manager, tactician, even interview subject but the reality is when the history of our club is written he’ll be little more than a footnote.

Personally, my overwhelming emotion was of relief. I was relieved that he was going, relieved that he wasn’t lining his pockets on the way out and relieved that we could all draw a line under last season. Next came a mixture of excitement and trepidation. This is both an opportunity and a banana skin. If Short and Bain manage to convince a talented, forward looking coach to come and back him to get us moving forward after years of steady regression, I’m certain the fans will come together and get behind him. I’ve argued previously that a drop in divisions affords us an opportunity to develop a more attacking, fearless team. The new man should be told that we fear no one in this division. With Moyes gone we have the prospect of this becoming a reality. Without doubt his negativity would have seeped on to the pitch and, ultimately, the stands had he remained in place.

However, they could just as easily get it wrong. Some of the names (including the favourites) have already made me shudder. The current bookies favourites are (in order);

Kevin Philips (3/1), Aitor Karanka (9/2), Nigel Pearson (5/1), Ryan Giggs (7/1) and Gary Monk (8/1).

Let’s all agree that Philips is a totally unknown quantity in this respect, yes it would make us all feel warm and lush inside if he turned up and did the business, but without some form of track record as a first team manager that is a huge gamble to take at this point. It also leads us down that Mag style sentimental bollocks which rarely serves anyone.

Karanka and Pearson are merely extensions of the mantra we have just escaped. Neither of them get on well with the media (and if rumours are to be believed, players). We need a manager that can make us more appealing and positive stories in the media are an important facet of this. I also think they’re both over rated; Karanka failed as badly as Moyes last season and if you believe that Pearson built a title winning team you must also concede that he could barely keep said team in the league.

Let’s not discuss Giggs, he doesn’t get to inherit this job. I like the idea of Monk, he’s shown he’s capable at both championship and premier league level. He managed the circus at Leeds and got them playing, the fans love him and the press don’t hate him.

Alongside Monk, I’d love to see moves made for Wagner at Huddersfield or Jokanovic at Fulham, although he should recognise that either of these would be a coup for us in our current state, the fact that the bookies don’t have either of them in the reckoning is telling. But if the club showed ambition and can present a reasonable plan, we are still the most attractive proposition in the championship. We’re big hitters at this level and we should act like it. One of the things that most annoyed me about Moyes was the way he acted like he was doing us a favour by managing Sunderland. Hopefully his replacement will acknowledge what an opportunity this is and start to build an affinity with the fans. How hard can this actually be? We took Nyron Nosworhty to heart man!

The other pleasing aspect of the timing of Moyes departure is that we don’t lose any ground to Middlesbrough in the hunt for a new manager. This was crucial as Steve Gibson has recently claimed (quite fairly by all accounts) that in financial terms, Middlesbrough will be the strongest club in the championship. His track record of support with managers and said wedge on offer will make that an appealing prospect for the same managers we’ll be looking at.

Short and Bain have to convince a manager on the up that this is a project with a positive future in the offing. In truth, they will need to compromise, if the support they are offered financially can’t match that on offer to the new Middlesbrough manager then the stated aims must be reduced accordingly. Promotion by any means seems fair, but in the event that we fall just short (say, in the play offs), our new man must be assured that he will not be booted.

We can only speculate at what is on offer as no one knows what shape the finances are in, but rumour has it that the by virtue of contract clauses and player sales the wage bill will be practically halved. There are also unconfirmed reports that the bumper parachute money (thanks again to McLaren and Benitez) will be held to absorb the drop in income, but any money generated from player sales will be handed back to the manager to rebuild the team. That would seem a fair compromise between ambition and common sense and that approach should enable the new man to build a team that can compete. Look at what Wagner inherited at Huddersfield and where they are now, or what Jokanovic has had to deal with at Watford for instance.

Regardless of who we get next, we need to get behind him. The great depression is over, hopefully, we can start having a bit of fun now. Unless it’s fucking Padrew like...

See ya in the north stand.

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WHERE WERE YOU WHILE WE WERE GETTING HIGH?
BY FTM

Where were you when you heard the news David Moyes had gone? I was in the office, telling another workmate exactly why David Moyes needed to go (and, on this occasion, accompanying the five-minute rant to the Huddersfield fan by saying just how much I think his gaffer would be a decent fit).

The news of the Scot's departure caught many of us out. If it was going to happen, it seemed it was going to be later in the week as that was when he was getting together with Ellis Short and Martin Bain. I certainly didn't see it coming and feared he would be around to lead us towards the lower end of the Championship before Short decided to act. Thankfully, that didn't happen and he realised that the quest for stability and a supposed safe pair of hands has backfired, meaning we can draw a line under one of the grimmest chapters in recent times. 

It's not understating the situation to say that Moyes is the worst boss we've had since Lawrie McMenemy. We've had a couple of pups since he left in 1987, of course, but Moyes had more to work with than the others. Stand still and you go backwards - and that's exactly what we've done under him. The bloke looked devoid of any ideas and inspiration from the start and seemed haunted after turning Manchester United into Manchester Untied.

The sad thing is, in the search for stability, we've come a cropper by going for the proverbial "football man" - aka someone with bags of experience. It's a spark which has got us over the line in the previous four years but there wasn't one of those from Moyes and the legacy of his 10 months in charge is that we've lost our place at the top table and will have to work flaming hard to get it back. 

Negative from day one, he got money to spend but wasted it, opting for what appeared to be a "let's see" approach. He seemed to treat the fans with disdain too and there was similar treatment for the press, particularly if you were a woman...

He assured us he wasn't kidding anyone, before trying to kid us that performances were improving when they really weren't. And the fact he was talking about performances in an industry where all the others know results are what matter, certainly at that stage of the season, prove he really was out of touch and out of ideas. I'd love to have been present at a training session or two, as there was very little evidence of industry and endeavour.

It was sadly appropriate that his final game contained two shocking decisions. How he managed to go along with the whole John Terry substitution thing I don't know. It made us look amateurish and just happy to be a part of the whole, er, affair. And then there was the late substitution. If taking youngsters Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Elliott Embleton down for some experience was his idea, it was a good one. However, not giving one of them the last two minutes and choosing the utterly atrocious Darron Gibson for the job undermined it.

Gibson is a fine example of how stale things had gone. He didn't come cheap and you'd have thought he'd have worked hard to repay Moyes' loyalty - but he's offered nothing in terms of creativity and genuinely looks like he'd rather be anywhere else but earning thousands with us. 

And in a season when Bradley Lowery is arguably the brightest light in red and white, contrast the differing attitudes of Jermain Defoe and Moyes to the little battler. During the Swansea game, the Scot chose not to get involved in the applause for him. A bit harsh maybe to expect a manager to get involved when a game is going on - until you consider that Paul Clement, who had plenty on his plate with survival still to be achieved, did put his hands together. Our goose was well and truly cooked, yet even then Moyes turned down a small opportunity to improve his PR and show his human side. Good riddance pal.
  
Who do I want next? We're not the draw we were now we're not a Premier League side but Garry Monk's got real appeal, I'm not upset to see Kevin Phillips linked with the job, and I'd take David Wagner too (in my dreams).

But that's a discussion for another day. A big cloud lifted yesterday evening, even if events in Manchester darkened the skies just hours later and put things in perspective again. Thoughts to all those affected...

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MOYES LEAVES BUT THE ROT IS SET IN DEEP
BY PADDY HOLIS

The first day of the post-season period has brought with it the resignation of David Moyes. This could well be a great day for the club and the start of a fresh new chapter. In all honesty, the uncharismatic Scotsman has got away with murder. He can walk away now from the mess he has left us in and it will be a long summer of rebuilding for whoever is his successor.

For me, the last straw for Moyes occurred in the 5-1 defeat at Chelsea yesterday. The way he agreed for us to put the ball out of play for John Terry to be worshiped off of the pitch made us look very small and to be honest, quite pathetic, which considering how utterly terrible we have been this season is a surprise.

I was quietly confident when he was first appointed. Yes, he had struggled at his last two jobs but his work with Everton gave me hope. ‘If he can do it to Everton, why not us?’ I thought with a naive grin on my face. What a silly bugger I was.

It really is fantastic he has gone. He conjured up negativity around the club which was frustratingly sickening and at times just downright depressing. Watching him tell the fans to expect a relegation fight was unbelievable. The man has no self-confidence in his ability so how the hell was he going to motivate a group of mediocre players to step up and fight for the club.

This lack of strength and, to a more extreme extent, dignity from Moyes has been reflected in our performances this season. We have lacked any moral fiber, fight and in 95% of situations our gutless group of players hasn't been arsed to play for the shirt. They are some of the worst players I’ve seen play for my club and the sooner some of the greedy mercenaries move elsewhere the better as the club and us as fans deserve so much better.

A fine example of this from our game at Chelsea was the way that our defence stood still as the hosts glided through time after time. The mistake from Lescott for their third was an example of a poor player making simple mistakes and many of Moyes’ signings have done this throughout the campaign.

The further news this evening of JD opening up talks with Bournemouth is hardly surprising. I don’t blame him for wanting to get out ASAP. Pickford is the same. The lad deserves so much better and I’m sure he will still be in the Prem next season. As for the rest, there is a handful who I would like to see stay. The remainder of the squad isn't worthy of a chance to make up for their diabolical performances this season.

The relief will be etched across the face of many a Sunderland fan after finding out Moyes has gone. We need to put this horrible season behind us and get ready for the hard slog of the Championship. Getting rid of Moyes will allow for a new and hopefully more positive vibe to come back into the club. I struggle to think of a team who would want Moyes as their next boss, especially after seeing his 16% win rate he had with us his campaign. However, the issues with our club won’t be solved by his departure. The structure of the club is a mess and we may struggle to be an attractive prospect to any decent p