Can Sunderland pull off the Great Escape again?

sunderland-afc

As a Sunderland fan, still fresh in my mind, is that glorious night at the Stadium of Light in April when victory over Everton confirmed Premier League status for another year (and lest not forget condemned arch rivals Newcastle to a place in the Championship). The mood amongst fans was the most positive I can remember, Big Sam Allardyce dancing around the pitch, a promise of new signings to build on the sturdy deals done in January and the realistic hope that at long last the days of last minute survival were behind the club.

Roll on the start of the 2016-2017 season and how things have changed. England crashing out at the Euro’s was doubley bad news for Sunderland fans as it resulted in the loss of the most popular manager the club has had since Peter Reid. The merry go round continued and David Moyes, with a point to prove, became the latest addition to the managerial ranks. Transfers failed to materialise and Moyes brought in questionable players for his United days. Suddenly, all those hopes had dashed.

When it comes to Sunderland the pattern has been the same for years…..struggle throughout the season – sack manager – survive. Its worked for Di Canio, Poyet, Advocaat….Allardyce left of his own accord but the trend is worrying. Surely, there comes a time when these last minute acts of great escape will run out! I remember as a young boy Southampton and Coventry always “just” survived and eventually they fell away. Is it the turn of the Black Cats?

A lot will rest of the fitness and form of Jermain Defoe. Without his goals last year Sunderland will have started this year playing in the Championship and with no real back up/partner to assist him, an injury or loss of form would be very worrying. Can he rescue the team again? Form suggests he may well, but teams at the lower end of the league relying on an ageing striker…..could be a recipe for disaster. It would take a gambling man to bet against Defoe! have a look at the odds on Free Super Tips

Kone is another vital tool in the cog as without him, considering the departure of Kaboul, the defence looks a little tame with an aging John O’Shea and a lot of unproven talent. Sunderland also need to ensure the core that drove the team last year, with Cattermole and Kirchoff (and hopefully a returning M’Vila) can power the team through. But, a wise betting man would look at the squad and see the lack of depth and quality to drive the team onward. You wonder where the goals will come from, where the creativity will emerge from and how they can get those much needed wins.

It would take a betting man to gamble against Sunderland escaping from relegation no matter how far they fall behind  but it looks likely to be a very long season on Wearside and potentially the season in which Sunderland finally give up their Premier League status.

January Transfer Window

Transfer Window

Who will be the busiest in this January’s Transfer Window ?

The transfer window this January could turn out to be an interesting one. Even Arsene Wenger looks like putting his hand in his pocket this time. There are deals to be done as clubs strive to stay in the league and make the most of the riches on offer from the new television deal.

But it doesn’t feel like there will be big deals. It feels like a rush for quantity rather than quality. Bournemouth have added depth with three signings so far. Liverpool have taken Steven Caulker on loan for defensive cover. Leicester have got a bargain in Demarai Gray, but he looks like on for the future rather than a first-teamwork this season.

Here’s our guide to the clubs we expect to be adding to their squad the most.

Sunderland

Sam Allardyce has stated time and again that he believes the key to survival is clean sheets. But the defence that he inherited isn’t capable of this. John O’Shea and Wes Brown are fast approaching the end of their careers but still look steadier than Sebastian Coates. It looks like they need to add several more defenders to have any chance of picking up enough points to survive. Expect some typical Big Sam wheeling and dealing. Loans may be on the cards as the owner Ellis Short always seems reluctant to spend.

Arsenal

They have walked into their usual injury crisis but without any of the usual signs of young quality players breaking through. This may be the January that Wenger adds heavily to his squad. Backup central defenders, defensive midfielders (when don’t Arsenal need a defensive midfielder?) and cover for Olivier Giroud are all needed. Will Wenger see this as the biggest opportunity in over a decade to win the league? If so, will he spend to secure that title? You never know with a man as stubborn as Arsene Wenger.

West Brom

It may seem strange for a team that are 9 points ahead of the drop zone to be frantically looking over their shoulder but that’s the situation West Brom find themselves in. If they lose Saido Berahino then goals go from being a problem to a crisis. They will have to spend to plug this gap. Creativity is a longstanding issue so some midfield purchases may also be on the cards.

Swansea City

The club are in freefall. It’s not clear whether they appointed Alan Curtis as manager because he impressed or because nobody else wanted the job. Jonjo Shelvey has just left and there’s £12m from his sale ready to reinvest.

They need goals, midfield power and a partner for Ashley Williams in central defence. It will be difficult to clear all of these up in one window so some loan deals or short-term moves may be in order.

Whatever the transfer window brings, there’s bound to be some surprise deals and some late drama.

This article was produced by Steve Thompson of In Off the Post. You can read more of his articles on his blog: http://inofftheblogpost.blogspot.co.uk/

Premier League Relegation Battle: Who will survive and who will fall?

With just five games remaining in the 2014/2015 Premier League season, the fight to stay in the top flight looks set to go down to the wire in what promises to be a dramatic climax. Aston Villa’s shock victory at Tottenham has not necessarily secured their safety, but up to five teams find themselves in a much more precarious situation at the wrong end of the table. There are a number of potential six-pointers left on the fixture list that could make all the difference in deciding who survives and who falls, and with just three points separating the five beleaguered teams, every goal matters. Predicting who will go down is anyone’s guess, but while the three teams who do perish may bounce back at the first attempt, the Championship is an unforgiving league in which there is no guarantee of returning to the top flight.

Burnley (26 points)

Burnley would most certainly be top if the Premier League was based on teams who show the most commitment and determination for the cause, with Sean Dyche’s side showing a superb account of themselves all season. However, consecutive defeats have seen them slide to the foot of the table, with a poor run of four games without scoring illustrating that Burnley may ultimately lack the firepower to survive. They have three six-pointers in which to save themselves against all odds, with fixtures against Leicester, Hull and Aston Villa standing out as now-or-never moments in Burnley’s season.

Queens Park Rangers (26 points)

It could be argued that Queens Park Rangers have considerably under-achieved this season for a team who have the seventh highest wage bill in the Premier League. They find themselves in a precarious position in 19th, and while Charlie Austin’s goals may be their only saviour, they face a tricky run-in that might be their downfall. Fixtures against West Ham, Leicester and Newcastle present wonderful opportunities to pick up three points, but trips to Liverpool and Manchester City limit their survival bid to just three games.

Leicester (28 points)

One considered dead and buried, Leicester have seemingly resurrected their chances of Premier League survival following a run of three consecutive victories. Nigel Pearson’s side have arguably performed better than their current league position suggests, but they now have the momentum and belief that may carry them over the line. Facing Burnley, Newcastle, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season could be the fixtures that Leicester target to pick up three points in, with games at the King Power Stadium against Chelsea and Southampton posing much tougher tests.

Hull (28 points)

Two wins in their last twelve Premier League fixtures have sent Hull into freefall, with Steve Bruce’s side going from relative mid-table security to the edge of the relegation trap door. Their remaining fixtures do not favour either them, with tough games against Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United providing limited opportunities for three points. The penultimate game of the season against Burnley at the KC Stadium could be their best chance of securing three points, although Hull cannot afford to rely on other results to go their way in their current predicament.

Sunderland (29 points)

Dick Advocaat has been tasked with the responsibility of saving a capsizing ship, with one win in their last ten games putting Sunderland in real danger of relegation. Their 1-0 derby win against Newcastle should have been the springboard for survival, but the dramatic 4-1 collapse against Crystal Palace sent them back down to earth with a bump. Sunderland’s run-in may not fill their fans with confidence either, with their game against Leicester at the Stadium of Light standing out as a realistic chance to pick up three points. Facing the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Southampton and Chelsea are not the type of fixtures that any team who are just one point above the relegation zone would want in the remaining weeks of the season, with Sunderland needing a repeat of last season’s great escape to secure their Premier League status.

 

Football Rivaries: Newcastle V Sunderland

Newcastle v Sunderland

The North-East of England is known for its passionate football fans and this is based on the intense local rivalry between Newcastle United and Sunderland. For hundreds of years the Mackems and Geordies have collided in derby matches that bring the region to a standstill. The Red and White stripes of Sunderland meeting the Black and White stripes of Newcastle is an annual fixture that fans eagerly anticipate and that always serves us a treat for the neutrals.  Only ten miles apart, the Tyne-Wear derby has a famous history.

The sides first met in 1883 and the passion was evident from the off, taken to a greater extent in 1888 when Sunderland dumped Newcastle out of the FA Cup. Since then the derby has been evenly matched with both teams recording over 50 wins and there being a similar number of ties. The matches themselves tend to be passion filled and unpredictable.

1908 saw a 9-1 victory for Sunderland that to this day is a record in the derby match but Newcastle enjoyed the best of the pre-war period and indeed carried that run into the 1950s. Since then  it has been an evenly matched affair. Legends such as Sunderland’s George Holley, who scored 15 goals in 22 derby matches and Newcastle’s leading derby scorer Jackie Milburn line the history of this game. Shearer being dropped to the bench, the rainy night on which Quinn and Phillips dominated the show at St. James, the 5-1 and the Kerian Richardson free kick all stay firm in the memory.

The rivalry extends beyond the game itself as fans taunt each other over silverware. Sunderland fans point to the 1973 FA Cup victory as evidence of their superiority whilst Newcastle fans can gloat at the runners-up spots in the Premier League and Champions League appearances.  Sunderland fans took great joy in the 2010s when Newcastle found themselves relegated to the lower league but just like the neutrals, part of the Mackems were upset that they would not get the annual joys of derby day.

Players who had crossed the divide are few and far between but the likes of Paul Bracewell, Stephen Caldwell, Titus Bramble and Lionel Perez have been embraced by fans. Time will tell if the latest entry into that list, Jack Colback, will be taken to the Geordie’s hearts.

Newcastle fans will remember the famous afternoon at St James Park when Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan lead the Toon Army to a famous 5-0 victory but lately it is the Black Cats who have had the more to cheer about. Back to back 3-0 away victories, a memorable last minute winner  from Adam Johnson and four wins in a row have made Sunderland the dominant force in the Tyne and Wear derby and with both teams secure in the Premier League it look like we have plenty more action to look forward too.

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