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matthews completes move...
exciting signing

Sunderland have completed the signing of 23 year old Welsh full back Adam Matthews from Celtic. The player comes highly rated from Hoops fans and is certainly looking to be a long termproject at the club, coming at a young age but still old enough to stake a solid place in the first team. Matthews is a good athlete and that's a start, our full backs have been notoriously injury prone or not full backs at all, it is a position we have often neglected and it's great that the club are finally sorting it out. I'm excited.

Head coach Dick Advocaat said: "We know we need quality players to improve competition for places in the side, so Adam is a welcome addition to our squad and we are very pleased to welcome him to Sunderland.”

Sporting director Lee Congerton added: “Adam is a player we have been tracking for some time. Even though he is only 23 he has a wealth of experience, and I am sure he will continue to improve under the leadership of Dick Advocaat.”

Meanwhile, Matthews reckons he can't wait to get stuck into the Mags. I like this lad already! “It’s probably the best league in the world so when I had a chance to come here I couldn’t really refuse it,” Matthews said. “Being at a massive club like this, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity and hopefully I can step up. Ever since I’ve been a little boy I’ve wanted to play in the Premier League All the big teams you look forward to playing but the Newcastle-Sunderland derby I’m quite looking forward to. I’ve heard a bit (about it). People say it’s similar to the Celtic-Rangers derby with the atmosphere and hostility so hopefully playing in those games will hold me in good stead if I do get the opportunity to play in this derby.”

Hartlepool manager Ronnie Moore has expressed his disappointment that Pools won't be playing Sunderland, Newcastle or Boro this pre-season, and I echo his sentiment! Love going down to Hartlepool, great ground with a pub in the away section, and it always seems to be lovely weather! Moore said; "I probably need to get out and have a chat with the managers of the big clubs around here. It is like ‘little Hartlepool’, we need to build the links and try and get some pre-season games here."

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New signing soon?...
More transfer craic

Well it is the morning after St. Lee’s Day and Cattermole could soon be joined at Sunderland by Celtic’s young Welsh right-back Adam Matthews. The two clubs have agreed a fee believed to be around £1.5million and personal terms are being discussed.

Talking of transfers, we have been heavily linked with defender Nicolas Lombaerts, who plays for Dick Advocaat’s former club Zenit St Petersburg and the boss worked with him when managing the Belgium national team.

Elsewhere, former striker Don Goodman has backed Jermain Defoe to be a hit in his first full season: “Everybody wants goals, but goals cost an awful lot of money. Jermain Defoe having a full pre-season under his belt will be massive, and hopefully he will come back firing on all cylinders. If he does, I don’t think there is another better goal-scorer in the Premier League than him. It probably took something extremely special to tempt him out of his already-arranged retirement, but Sunderland is a special club.”

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LEE CATTERMOLE...
By Eve Sayers

For outsiders it may be difficult to see why Sunderland fans are so delighted about Lee Cattermole signing a contract extension but this could be a huge moment in our transfer window.

Catts only had one year left on his deal so getting him to sign an extension was only going to be a top priority this summer. And thankfully for us, Short, Congerton and Advocaat have managed to tie the anchorman down up until 2021.

Admittedly, Cattermole’s Sunderland career got off to a mixed start. Although it was Bruce who signed him, Cattermole perhaps lacked the guidance he needed under him. He picked up the man of the match award on the opening day in a 1-0 win away to Bolton Wanderers. His first season was cut short due to injury and the odd suspension but he did show a glimmer or two of what he could do.

The Teessider was given the arm band for the 2010/11 season. Despite this, the his second season was also difficult, plagued by further injuries and suspension. He received a red card on the opening day at home to Birmingham and then another on his return from suspension away to Wigan. It was hard to take for him, Bruce and Sunderland fans alike. However, the midfielder made amends with memorable performances in a 3-0 victory away to Chelsea and 1-0 home win against West Ham.

The 11/12 season saw a change in management as Martin O’Neill replaced Steve Bruce. As Cattermole’s unfair reputation can often get ahead of him, there was always the worry that a new manager wouldn’t take to him. That couldn’t have been more wrong. Catts produced his best performance yet for the club in the famous 1-0 win at home to City where Jiiii scored a late, late winner. After the game O’Neill put his arm around Catts and told him he had a heart like a lion. His tackle on Cheick Tiote 30 seconds into the Tyne-Wear Derby sums him up, that set the tone of the game.

It was sad to see Cattermole have the captaincy taken away from him in favour of John O’Shea but I’m hopeful that he’ll get it back one day. Di Canio really did not take to Cattermole at all, maybe it was a clash of fiery personalities. Let’s all just take a minute to appreciate the fact that Catts is still at the club as he admitted he was miserable at the club under Paolo’s reign and that he would’ve been happy to sign for Hartlepool.

And then, then we nearly lost him to Stoke. I firmly believe that if he had let Cattermole go to Stoke we wouldn’t be in the Premier League right now.  Luckily, Poyet realised what a gem Cattermole is and as a result, the midfielder developed into a hell of a player.

Despite nearly selling him to Stoke, Poyet was a massive fan of Cattermole. He stated: “‘In Uruguay, (there is) no doubt he would be picked. We like that sort of player. If I was a national team manager I would definitely pick him because I like his character and the way he plays the game.” It would be great to see Cattermole in an England shirt, he plays the defensive midfielder role to perfection with his accurate, long passing and well-executed tackles.
The man truly is a thing of beauty. His opening day screamer against West Brom. His early reducer in our late 1-0 victory away to the Mags was beautiful, putting in a tackle like that inside the opening ten seconds show them they knew we meant business. He doesn’t get half the recognition he deserves.

Although his reputation amongst referees and fans of other teams is unfair, it’s nice to see Cattermole is rated by other professionals, Yaya Toure rated him among his toughest ever opponents. And when a manager with a wealth of experience such as Dick Advocaat’s, you know you’ve got a good player.

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coATES SIGNS on...
Finally a signing and maybe another?

So lightning does strike twice as I am sure you have all seen by now, we have confirmed the signing of Seb Coates, who returns for a very tidy fee of  £2million. Here is the reaction starting with the big Uruguayan: “The manager gave me confidence last year when he came in [to the club]. For me, it was very important to play and be involved in the team. The confidence he gives to the players and the team and the supporters is very important. It was very important and he trusts in the team. I’m really happy to be here. I will try to improve on last season and hopefully the team will too. Hopefully we’ll continue how we played how we finished. For me, I played really well at the end of last season and the team did as well, so I hope we can be good this year. I’m fit, so I’m hoping to get more games. I will give my best in every training session to stay at my best for the games.”

Sporting director Lee Congerton is pleased with the business too: “Sebastian was an important part of the team under Dick last season and we are delighted that he has joined us on a permanent basis. He has Barclays Premier League experience, which is important, and, after spending last season on loan with us, he will be able to settle into the team very quickly.”

Elsewhere, it looks like Everton are also keen on Leeds right-back Sam Byram. There is also strong speculation linking us with a loan move for Chelsea’s young Dutchman Marko van Ginkel.

Meanwhile, Dick Advocaat has announced his backroom staff for the 2015/16 season. His assistant head coach will be Zeljko Petrovic and the first team coach will be former SAFC player, captain and assistant manager, Paul Bracewell. Adrian Tucker will be the keeper coach. However, Bert van Lingen, who worked alongside Advocaat for Rangers, Holland, Zenit St Petersburg, Belgium, Russia and at SAFC last season, won't be returning to Sunderland, which is not good news.

Lee Cattermole has signed a new deal, meaning he will continue destroying opposition midfielders and slaying Mags until 2021 at least. If he sees out the deal it will mean he would have been at the club for 12 years. Dick Advocaat is delighted with the news, make him captain and give him a knighthood, man: “Lee is the controller of the side. He is a motivator, a leader and central to the success of our team. To know that he will be with us for many years to come is very important to the club.”

Sporting director Lee Congerton echoes the Dutchman’s thoughts: “Lee is a hugely important part of our team, both on and off the field. He has ten years of experience playing in the Premier League, which is incredible when you consider he is still only 27 years old, and we are delighted that he has committed his long-term future to Sunderland.”

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Hot, hot, hot!...
New scholars with the potential to burn

Here is today’s news, which really you should be reading from Roker beach on a day like this but some of us have to work (sigh). Rumours are heating up on our interest in Holland’s Jeremain Lens.

Elsewhere, it is mainly academy news with Gatesheed’s youth coach Paul Bryson joining us in a similar capacity. And congratulations to our new scholars – who will be the next Jordan Henderson out of this lot? - Michael Woud, Brandon Taylor, Alexander Storey, Cameron McCullouch, Joshua Maja, Oscar Krusnell, Owen Gamble, Elliot Embleton, Adam Bale, Joel Asoro and Christopher Allan.

Jordan Blinco, Michael Ledger, James Talbot, Ethan Robson, Rees Greenwoo and George Brady have been promoted to the development squad.

Director of football Lee Congerton reckons bringing through youngsters is important for the current regime: "Bringing through quality, home-grown players is very important to us. We have brought in youngsters from further afield, including New Zealand and Sweden, but recruiting and developing players from within the North East region is key for us. The next couple of years will be massively important to these young players as they aim to progress to the first team and we wish them the very best of luck.”

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Darren Bent: How To Disappear Completely...
By Chris thompson

This article sympathises the monstrosity that is Steve Bruce, for before he became a figure of ridicule on Wearside for his fat head, his incessant excuse making and his resemblance to a real life Simpsons character, he did in fact lead Sunderland to their highest placed finish since the Reid era. Not only that but in his time at the club we harboured a talent pool including Boudewijn Zenden, Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck, Asamoah Gyan, Sully Muntari and of course 'The Truth' Darren Bent. Remember that? 'The Truth'. Honestly, how WWE is that? Nob head.

Bent joined the club after shooting on Daniel Levy in one of the early cases of a footballer expressing his discontent on Twitter. Can't remember if he was fined by the FA, I don't think those sanctions were in place then! Either way his desire to join SAFC offered him an instant spark with fans, and he used that spark to set the house a'leet. He wouldn't stop scoring and it was silly, really silly. 24 goals in the league that season. For perspective; Connor Wickham, Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe scored 15 goals between them last season. That's in all competitions. Aye.

Bruce took advantage of Bent's eye for goal and built the team around the hitman, putting his arm around the wounded, discarded striker, nursing him back to health and seeing him fly to the top of the world. With the success, the relationship with fans grew. Beach balls, breaking our necks to get him in the England team. The joy when he finally scored for England! A Sunderland player scoring for England. The new Kevin Phillips.

Then after a poor start to the season and rumours of discontent, probably stemming from that 5-1 which apparently tore the dressing room open but we'd since recovered from, he fucked off. He left Bruce like a Radiohead song. High and Dry. Karma Police? Let Down, certainly. Bent had pulled a screwjob on Bruce, turned heel and joined Aston Villa, which is essentially an evil corporation churning out shit footballers which gain England call ups due to geographical convenience.

I propose that if Steve Bruce had been allowed to execute his plan at Sunderland without this hindrance then we would have taken the next step as a club and could have potentially been a team finishing in the top half of the table by now. This is a bold statement so feel free to take a shot at it.

It's purely speculation of course, he suffered several distinctive failures in his time at Sunderland, memorable instances include playing no strikers against a lower league team at home in the cup, his derby arse drops and of course his last transfer window which can be heavily criticised for the moving on of Henderson without a superstar replacement. But let's give credit where it's due, Seb Larsson was mouth-watering last season and would have proved useful in a long term plan, and if you remember correctly Craig Gardner did very well in the goalscoring department that season, before he started getting shoved in at right back. It wasn't a terrible window until it all came undone.

Obviously there's no way of knowing how Bruce would have done if Bent stayed, but I think for once Brucey deserves a bit of credit before we go back to celebrating his failures. He's a poorly burnt out shell of a professional now. An Airbag, a Paranoid Android and it's all Darren Bent's fault. I'm sure it brings Bruce buckets of pleasure that Bent ruined his career by moving, because it certainly floats my boat. Where even is Bent now? I don't know. But I hope he knows that I blame him for everything and he is not welcome on ALS coaches.

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ALS BLOG...
By Peter Whalen

Do Sunderland fans have every right to be optimistic? Season after season our wonderful club find themselves in the same boat. Managers have come and gone in recent years and it has never really worked out. Even the most unforgettable season with Gus led to him being dismissed. Dick Advocaat is without doubt a man who can change our fortunes, and hopefully we can look up the table rather than the teams below us breathing down our necks.

If you were to ask a Sunderland fan on what their hopes were for the upcoming campaign, they would reply with “beat Newcastle”. Sure, it’s always great to get one over on your rivals or should I say five, but with a club of our size is that enough?

A new manager brings fresh ideas, new philosophies, a new crop of players and brings that confidence the old boss might have lacked. Like many football fans I always get optimistic when a new manager comes in because you get that feeling that this time it will work out.

Keane, Bruce, O’Neil, Di Canio, Poyet have all tried to add consistency to the Sunderland ranks but a relegation scrap is always the challenge that seems to present itself with single figure games remaining.

The General- Dick Advocaat is the latest manager to write his name into Wearside folklore, after his side produced a heroic performance at Arsenal to ensure Premier League football next season.  Although the Dutchman has won trophies throughout his career, he couldn’t hide his emotion after the final whistle sounded at the Emirates stadium.

That night however is in the past and the future is what the club must look towards. Numerous reports in the media have suggested that Advocaat has been promised a healthy transfer budget to bring players to the Stadium of Light. £50million was the reported figure and if this turns out to be true then we can all be positive ahead of next season, right?

Sadly, that isn’t the case, as we all know. SAFC have been through too many managers for us fans to think that this season is going to be any different. Although with Dick at the helm I do think we can look towards the season with a bit more positivity rather than stamping a negative effect on things even before a ball is kicked.

I could talk all day about what positions need strengthening or what players we need to be looking at. Players such as Emanuele Giaccherini and Jack Rodwell are names that I’m expecting big things from; you aren’t worth all that money for the sake of it. These two players need to deliver and get up to the heights that we all know they can deliver to.

Dick will know what players he would like to see in a red and white shirt and I have every faith in him that whatever name is printed on the back of that shirt, will improve the side.

At the beginning of this article it stated- do Sunderland fans have every right to be optimistic. Every Sunderland fan will have their own opinion on what they think will happen in the near future, and that is the beauty of football, it divides opinion. But our general is a winner; he won’t put up with any shite and will do whatever is necessary to ensure the club has a bright future.

If you are optimistic don’t get to carried away as we all know Sunderland have a tendency to let you down especially after a bloody derby. But if you are dreading what lies ahead, DON’T. You never know this could be our season to do something special.

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it's a bit warm today...
Pre-season craic

Not long before the lads are back in training which means the season is growing ever closer. Danny Graham has not left the gym as I’m sure some of you have seen, amazing attitude and an amazing turnaround from someone who looked like he would never play for the club again. Some of the players who were on international duty in June (John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, Steven Fletcher and Costel Pantilimon) have been allowed an extra week off - could you imagine going into work and saying ‘you know I did some overtime three weeks ago, can I have next week off please? ‘

On other news, Charlton Athletic have signed El-Hadji Ba – so another Di Fanti signing has gone which can only be a good thing but all the best to the young lad.

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tRIP TO GERMANY...
BY ADAM DELICATE

The announcement that we would be playing Hannover 96 on August 1 was greeted with some excitement by you lot, and why not? After all a weekend away in Germany is always good.

I have been to Germany a lot but only ever passed through Lower Saxony but it is not the first time ALS has had contact with Hannover. We stopped at a lorry park just outside the city on our way to Denmark to watch the lads play FC Midtjylland during that horrible Di Canio/Di Fanti summer. The only thing I remember about that lorry park was the fact that it had the smelliest toilets I have ever had the misfortune of coming across.

Ironically, we also played H96 during a pre-season under Bruce – and lost which is less of a surprise – although this was played at a different venue.

Anyway, having researched it and asking a friend who supports Hannover 96 (yes, I have very random acquaintances), the city seems to be a nice place. The stadium is a ‘20-30’ minute walk from the central station and there is an artificial lake near the ground called the Machsee – providing a nice scenic area where you can have a stein or two.

Like with any city, I’m sure there will be loads of places to eat and, most importantly, drink during your time there. Being slap-bang in the middle of Germany, Hannover’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station) has excellent links to the more well-known parts of Germany. You won’t have to spend any longer than two and a half hours on a train to Berlin, Hamburg or the popular North Rhine-Westphalia region in the North West (highly recommended).

As for the ground itself, the HDI Arena was upgraded for the 2006 World Cup and looks pretty impressive. Capacity lies at just under 50,000 with a standing area too. The club itself narrowly survived relegation in the Bundesliga this season. Players to watch out for are German international goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler and Charlie Benschop, a big lump of a forward – think Altidore but with the ability to score.

ALS is not doing any away travel for this one but hopefully this would have given you a guide and might tempt you into going to support the lads. There are no local flights but London Heathrow does a service to Hannover and the airport is just a short car or train journey to the city centre.

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QUOTES!...
Not a signing but it's a start!

We’ve got a treat for you to start the week; some quotes. Some genuine quotes, not loose speculation about a Dutch import or a championship player just good old quotes.

First up is Jermain Defoe who cannot wait to begin working with Dick Advocaat again: “Dick came out and said he decided to go for family reasons, but after that he has sat down and thought about it. He believes he can still do a good job. I was delighted because he is a good man and a good manager. I think we can do well this year because training was always sharp with Dick. He got off to a good start. He came into the changing rooms and from day one he wanted us to be sharper in training and then sharp in games. He didn’t care who you were, everyone was regarded the same. When a manager comes in and keeps you on your toes and you respect his experience you get better performances. Training went up a notch. Everyone was focused last season and I think if we start this season strongly we can do well.”

On his training methods: "He just said from day one that all he wants is for the players to be sharp every day in training, apply yourselves and do the same in the game. If you don't want to do that in training, then you won't play, it's as simple as that. He doesn't care who you are. When a new manager comes in, it keeps you on your toes and with someone like Dick, who has been in the game so many years, you respect someone like that."

Speaking of which the lads start pre-season training on Thursday, although it is mainly testing, seeing where the players are at and if John O'Shea has actually got any slower.

On his personal level and targets: “During the off-season I always keep myself fit. I try not to eat too much and get the rest - the season is so long - but after a couple of weeks I'm ready to go back, ready to train. Hopefully we'll have a good pre-season and we can start the season really strong. People say you should always aim for 20 goals in a season and if I'm scoring goals it's only good for the club and the team."

In other news, Julio Arca has been talking about you lot, the fans: “I know how much they love football, how passionate they are. They want players to work hard and care about the club, and I did that. I have nothing bad to say, every game was an adventure. Fantastic. When the Stadium of Light is full, it scares teams. When the fans are really on top of their game, I think teams can be afraid. The connection I’ve had with the fans has been great. Even now when I come to the ground it is still fantastic and you can’t ask for more than that.”

On his debut against West Ham: “For me it was my cup final. I was really nervous but after 20 minutes I managed to get that goal and started to feel comfortable. That day will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.”

Finally, it appears Seb Coates deal will be announced very soon although I am sure this has been the case for the last month!

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rumours...
fleetwood mac and leroy fer

I really do apologise for the lack of solid news over the last few days, I might just start inventing it. 'Sunderland submit £5m bid for Kanye West, Kanye will be a useful addition to the squad as we will finally have a player who has an even bigger ego than Connor Wickham, except Kanye's is actually justified.

Sunderland have again been linked with QPR midfielder Leroy Fer. Fer made the switch to the Rs last summer after being relegated with Norwich, he respected tradition this year by getting relegated with QPR as well. People share strong opinions about signing relegated players, but we definitely need centre midfielders in giving how weak that area was last season, we can't rely on Seb being 10/10 every game and Cattermole staying fit/not suspended. You never know though, Rodwell may come into his own this campaign, doubt it like.

Rumoured outgoings now and as reported about a month ago, a few teams are sniffing around Santiago Vergini including Boca Juniors, and you can only assume with Poyet out of the picture and Advocaat seemingly not fancying the South American enigma, he may actually fancy a move back to his home land.

Finally it is being reported that we have made an £8 million bid to land Dynamo Kiev’s 27-year-old striker, Jeremain Lens. The Dutch hitman could fill Steven Fletcher's spot at the club, assuming the Jock sicknote is leaving. It would be quite funny having Jeremain and Jermain up front. Ha'way Sunderland, sign him just for the comedy value.

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Transfer news...
coates deal complete?

Merry weekend. Hope you're all taking advantage of the women's football, there's been some cracking games. I also caught the score of England's match in the Cerebral Palsy World Cup and noticed they were winning 10-0 against the USA in the 50th minute. Mad.

It is being reported that the deal for Sebastian Coates is all but complete, with several reputable Liverpool bloggers claiming that we will land Coates for £4m. Not a bad price for a young defender, but it makes you wonder why he's being allowed to leave for that low of an amount. Maybe just don't read into it! We still need another centre half like.

We're also being strongly linked with Matt Phillips now, the QPR winger will be looking to move on from that shit-heap of a football club following their relegation back to the Championship. We could use a winger, what with Will Buckley being extremely suspect and the future of Adam Johnson being very unclear.

Finally, we're still after Stewart Downing, apparently. Reports that the winger would prefer a move back to Boro though are very worrying, and baffling at the same time. Downing is currently down at West Ham in the big smoke, well perhaps he fancies a move back to the big smog. Only explanation.

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USA/CANADA GUIDE...
by EVE SAYERS

In recent years we have seen the lads to travel to Portugal, Seoul and Hong Kong for pre-season and now it’s America and Canada, alright for some eh?

Advocaat and his squad will travel across the North Atlantic to face Sacramento Republic, Club de Futbol Pachua and Toronto FC.

Sacramento Republic

The game against Sacramento Republic will take place on the 14th of July at the new Bonney Field Stadium, California. The club was founded in 2012 and play their trade in the United Soccer League. Republic currently head the Western Conference with 28 points. The club shares an affiliation with MLS team San Jose Earthquakes.

Club de Futbol Pachua

Bonney Field will also host the game against Club de Futbol Pachua. The South American club finished 7th last season, in the Liga MX, the top divison in Mexico. The League is ranked 13th worldwide. The club were founded in 1901 and became the first Mexican club to reach 100 years of existence. Pachua are managed by former Valenica and Atletico Madrid player Diego Alonso.

Toronto FC

For the last leg of the tour, the lads face a trip to Toronto where Jermain Defoe and Jozy Altidore will face their old clubs. Is their anything more certain than Jozy scoring against us? I doubt it. The former Sunderland striker has six goals in 11 matches for the MLS club, which is pretty impressive if you compare that to his one league goal for us.

Derby hero Defoe scored 11 goals in 19 apperances whilst at Toronto. That’s not as surprising however as the man will score goals wherever. The game will arguably for tricky than the two prior fixtures as the Canadian club currently sit 4th in the Eastern Conference of the MLS.

It would be nice if we had a few new players to give a run out to for the tour. There are plenty names being linked but it seems frustratingly quiet in terms of moving for players. Although there is over two months of the transfer window to go and we all know Sunderland never do thing the easy way.

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Celebrate it's friday!...
More defenders linked

It’s finally Friday, as we prepare for the weekend, the speculation seems to be winding down as we reach the end of the week.

Our interest in Stewart Downing has apparently increased, while the Seb Coates is imminent after Uruguay’s exit from the Copa America, according to reports.

According to the Chronicle, we are also interested in Derby captain Richard Keogh. The 28-year-old was named in the Championship team of the year. This may be slightly impressive but being heavily-linked with Virgil van Dijk and getting Keogh instead is a bit like being promised steak for tea but getting a ham sandwich instead.

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This is getting a bit boring...
Jmc is a tool

Another foreign import linked this morning, this time it is Lazio’s Argentine midfielder Cristian Ledesma. Can we just sign somebody please? Even if it’s just a freebie from non-league as I’m sick of the speculation now.

Elsewhere, James McCLean reckons West Brom are the biggest club he has signed for, which is funny as he probably could not spell ‘big club’ and it is obviously wrong too.

And in other news, Jozy Altidore scored a great goal as his side, Toronto, beat Montreal 3-1 in the Canadian derby. I honestly reckon he must have a crap identical twin who fancied playing football for a couple of years while he went to Panama for a long sabbatical.

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We're off to germany...
another day, another rumour

Just another day in the monotonous cycle that is June without football. So far today, the news seems to be yet more transfer speculation. Georginio Wijnaldum (and other Dutch players) continues to be linked with a move to the North East, as does striker Moussa Sow of Fenerbahce.

A new name being linked is Cagliari defender Davide Astori after Roma opted not to make his loan switch permanent. The centre-back made 30 appearances for Roma last year so he can’t be that bad but it does seem very loose speculation at the moment.

In terms of club news, the board has announced a fanzone will be opened next season, with food, local bands and a big TV showing all things SAFC will provide the entertainment. It will be based in the South East corner and seems a canny idea to me.

The other bit of news is that our last friendly will be away to Hannover 96 on 1st August.

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Going double dutch...
and more transfer craic

So another day where the rumour mill continues to churn out a lot of possible transfers, some superficial, others with perhaps a bit more credit. So far today, we have been linked with the Dutch pair PSV Eindhoven captain Georginio Wijnaldum and Ron Vlaar - the latter being a lot less exciting than the former, who was PSV’s player of the year ahead of the likes of Man United’s new signing Memphis Depay. 

In other news, young Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori has apparently given us the cold shoulder which doesn’t really bother me as if Emre Can is preferred over him then he cannot be that good!

Finally, Liam Bridcutt has been heavily linked with a r eunion with Paul Clement at Derby – probably best for both sides if true.

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stewart downing, andros townsend...
more transfer links

Nothing but a bit of transfer news this morning, and Sunderland have been linked to former loanee Stewart Downing as new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic looking to make large changes at the London club. The 30 year old winger somehow managed to get himself on 80 grand a week at West Ham, so if we had any chance of signing him we would need to either reduce his wage significantly or abandon our plans to ever replace those godawful pink seats.

Downing isn't the only wide player we've been linked to of course, with Spurs' Andros Townsend also reportedly a target for Dick Advocaat. Townsend is certainly an opinion divider, but the 23 year old will be after more regular first team football than he is allowed at Spurs, and discounting Adam Johnson, Sunderland don't have a fit, effective attacking wide player at the club, so Townsend might not be a bad suggestion.

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O'Shea: "We should be doing better"...
transfer merry go round

Happy Fathers Day to all the miserable Sunderland dads out there, and also a happy Fathers Day to all the Sunderland mams who have to put up with the miserable Sunderland dads!

John O'Shea has been speaking about the situation at Sunderland and how we can improve, admitting that we should really be doing better than we are: "I'm sure the owner and the people on the board would love a season where it is really enjoyable. Like when we got to the League Cup Final in 2014 and there was a great buzz around the place. But last season we struggled and if you look at the stats – the number of goals we scored, the amount of games we drew – we can consider ourselves lucky not to have been relegated. The club are really looking forward to building things because when you look at it – the size of the club, the people who support us, the fans who travel to away games – this is a big club. We should be higher up the table. We would like a season where it is seen that we are building."

Movement elsewhere in the window may just set things off for Sunderland. Liverpool have signed Charlton defender Joe Gomez which may just force Seb Coates out of their club and into ours. Coates played his best football under Advocaat but it remains to be seen whether he can cut it at this level after having an otherwise terrible season. We're also still looking at Virgil van Dijk, but that's been going on for 2 years now, not to mention a bid reportedly being accepted for Sam Byram and a loan agreed for Carl Jenkinson. It looks like we're doing all the right things, we just haven't actually signed anyone yet!

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ALS BLOG...
By eve sayers

Have you ever played the game of who’s the worst player you’ve ever seen play for Sunderland? It can go on for hours, days and even weeks.

I can’t help but think that the Roberto De Fanti transfer window has made that game all the more harder. Who even was De Fanti? That transfer window was bizarre, and it has given me trust issues. We trusted De Fanti, Di Canio and Valentino Angeloni to bring a new era to the club. But it wasn’t the era we had expected.

Modibo Diakite, Valetine Roberge, Ondrej Celustka, El-Hadji Ba, David Moberg Karlsson, Cabral and the many others we all had high hopes for. I had confidence that they were all decent players and well the appearances the players made for the club and the fact they are no longer here speaks for itself. Now, the whole Director of Football idea makes me feel a little uneasy. But despite the previous 150 words, why focus on the negatives? Why not think of the best players we’ve ever seen play for Sunderland?

Well, here’s five of the best summer signings we’ve made since our promotion to the Premier League.

1. Ki Sung-yeung. Okay so he maybe he was from the Di Fanti era but what a gem Ki was. It was no surprise to see him named as the Swansea Supporter’s Player of the Year this season. Ki enjoyed an excellent season with Swansea last year and it was disappointing that we couldn’t sign him on a permanent deal. The South Korean was pivotal on our road to Wembley, scoring against Chelsea in the quarters and putting away a penalty against United in the semis. His dedication to the cause was admiral too as he played for several months despite having tendonitis in his knee.

2. Lee Barry Cattermole. What a guy. The start to his Sunderland career may have been plagued by injuries and reckless sending offs but in the past two years, he has matured remarkably. Although it was Bruce who brought Catts to the club, he wasn’t perhaps the best mentor for Lee and Di Canio just didn’t take to him. However, Gus Poyet saw differently. Cattermole improved heaps and bounds under the Uruguayan and as a result, he picked up the North East Writers’ Player of the Year. On Cattermole, Poyet said: “‘In Uruguay, (there is) no doubt he would be picked. We like that sort of player. If I was a national team manager I would definitely pick him because I like his character and the way he plays the game.” Lee doesn’t get the recognition he deserves but his challenges are now timed to perfection (most of the time), his long passes are truly desirable and whenever he scores for us, it’s always a beauty. Sign a new contract Lee, please.

3. Darren Bent. I hate him for what he did to us, but what could’ve been for Sunderland and Darren Bent. It’s no surprise that Bent hasn’t been successful since he jumped ship. No-one will worship him like Sunderland fans did. 32 goals in 58 games, we’ve missed a player like him since he left. He’s not exactly a gifted player in terms of technical ability and so on but he was excellent at scoring goals for us, simple tap ins may seem simple but try telling that to Jozy Altidore. Bent’s transfer request wouldn’t have hurt as much if we didn’t ‘salvage’ his career and he didn’t feed us all the garbage about Sunderland being the club for him. We were nothing more than a convenience for him but cheers for the £24million Villa.

4. Seb Larsson. A beautiful man and a beautiful footballer. Does he ever stop running? I bet he’s running about somewhere right now. For a free transfer, we got an absolute bargain. Like Cattermole, Larsson works his socks off and gives 110% every game and his passing is underrated by many of our fans. He gets his fair share of assists and his set-pieces are a thing of Swedish beauty. Seb had a brilliant campaign last season and he thoroughly deserved Player of the Year.

5. Adam Johnson. Let’s just forget his court case for a few minutes, innocent till proven guilty and all that. I was absolutely buzzing when we managed to sign Adam Johnson, he’s a great winger who can get past players but often gets a lot of harsh criticism from our fans at times. He contributes a decent amount of assists as well as goals. And best of all, he loves a goal against the Mags. His last minute winner against them in December will stay with me forever. Plus, he stated that the best thing about winning on Derby Day was seeing Geordies fume.

Now, let’s have a decent transfer window and sign the four or five quality players we need rather than buying nine or ten cheap mediocre players.

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Wake me up when august comes...
transfer speculation is boring

Behold yet another weekend without club football. I think the novelty is starting to wear off now and I find myself wandering the streets of Sunderland trying to find some form of competitive sport. Egg throwing, flossy wearing, baby making. None of them are as satisfying as football though, except perhaps baby making, but I never get to play.

Misfiring striker Steven Fletcher could be off to Celtic in a thoroughly predictable transfer, but the player's wages are a stumbling blog for the Scottish giants. Fletcher has grown fond of his lavish lifestyle which includes donuts and Irn Bru, and likely would not be willing to take a pay cut to move North. Having said that, we probably shouldn't flog Fletch until we bring another striker in, the last thing we need to do is make ourselves even thinner up top, although Fletcher would know a few things about being thin up top, given his partially baldy napper.

Other than that, sorry to disappoint but there isn't really much else going on! We're still after Jenkinson and Byram, the seats are still pink and we still shouldn't have fielded that weakened team against Hull.

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Friday I'm In Love with You...
But Still sod all happening

Still sod all happening folks, however, word has is that Dick Advocaat will give youngsters such as Duncan Watmore; Liam Agnew, George Honeyman and Mikael Mandron the chance to prove themselves during the pre season.

This is in sharp contrast to Big Dick's attitude towards the end of last season when he felt that it was best to stick with experienced pros to get us over the line in terms of Premier League safety.

It's also quite a nice time for this story to be running, since we've signed no one at all so far and everyone knows we desperately need to strengthen the squad and clear as much dead wood as possible.

In other news, the man in charge of evil, Steve McClaren, has missed out on both Bolo Zenden and Phil Neville as potential assistant managers. Apparently, Bolo still loves the lads and wouldn't dirty his hands, whereas Neville simply can't be arsed to work for such a despicable football club.

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I'm Bored...
I'm the Chairman of The Board

June is always an annoying month in SAFC's calendar. First of all there is no football at all, not even a pointless pre season game, where you can have a catch up with your footy makes over a few beers in the sunshine. But more so, everyone in football holidays in June and player's deals which are coming to an end don't run out till June 30, so very little happens. Therefore journalists just make up stories to fill their pages and fans get annoyed.

For instance, on Tuesday Carl Jenkinson had supposedly joined us, on loan, from Arsenal for £2m. Then on Wednesday the story had developed into him staying in London and going to West Ham. Now today, he's in no hurry to decide his future! All bollocks, no doubt.

In other news, we are still playing cat and mouse with Celtic over their centre half, Virgil van Dijk. We are trying to tempt them by throwing in Steven Fletcher as a makeweight, but his disgusting £60,000-a-week wages are proving a problem for everyone concerned, except the striker himself, of course!

It seems that our attempts to get rid of Valentin Roberge are also being hampered by his massive wage packet. The very average centre half, who was brought in during PDC/di Fanti's summer of madness, was on loan at Reims last season, but only played 11 times. He was also recently seen down Goals Soccer Centre on Durham Road being skinned by some fat blokes. With Charis Mavrias, El Hadji-Ba and Roberge still on the books we really need to clear some deadwood over the summer and stop buying crap players who will never make it at SAFC. If you disagree, remember we also brought in Modibo Diakite, Cabral, David Moberg Karlsson and Jozy Altidore that summer!

Finally, Emanuele Giaccherini is staying at Sunderland, according to the player's agent. let's hope he plays more of a part next season. His agent Furio Valcareggi said: “Advocaat as a coach is a very good one, a holy man of football and he is a genius to Giaccherini. I’m sure you will do very well next season Emanuele’ and his (Giaccherini’s) goal is to go to the European Championships (next summer). He will stay at Sunderland 100 per cent, although there was some interest last summer. There’s a lot of confidence for next season and Giaccherini does not want to leave. Giaccherini was very pleased with his return after he only played 20 minutes of the last six months of the season, when he came on at Chelsea when the team was already safe.”

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Time To Get The Transfer Party Started
By Barry Dixon

Since Big Dick’s dramatic U-Turn, which delighted us all, many thought that the transfer wheels would be in motion pretty much instantly. Before Dick left at the end of the season there was apparently talks held with Ellis Short with regards to transfers. All we know is that Dick said that we needed at least 5-6 quality players brought in for us to start moving forward. Being a manager of his vast knowledge and experience I would have thought he would have had a few players in mind of who he would like to bring in.

Weeks have now passed since the U-turn and as of yet little has happened other than a constant trickle of rumours. We’ve had the rumours that Coates will be brought in on a permanent deal for around £4 million. A weekly wage of around £90k per week was reportedly offered to Micah Richards but he decided to take around £65K and return to the area he was born (which is nice to see I suppose in a world of Bents). Bids ranging from £3.5 million to £8.5 million have been rumoured for Leeds United’s rising star, full back Sam Byram. Another Full back, Arsenals Carl Jenkinson, who spent last season on loan at West Ham is reportedly on the verge of going to either us or West Ham  on loan for next season, for a fee of around £1.5 million. The other ongoing story is Celtic defender Van Dijk. He will cost anything between £5million and the entire contents of the Bank of England plus Steven Fletcher depending on which reports you read.

But what about the rest of the side? We’ve heard very little if anything about any other players or positions they are looking at. That’s not to say there haven’t been the normal daily doses of media transfer rubbish. Since Dick made his comeback (thanks again Mrs A) we have been linked with pretty much every player playing in the Dutch Eredivisie. Sometimes no news can be good news and the club is keeping its cards close to its chest until any deal is pretty much finalised.

But we need to bring players in sooner rather than later. The fixtures were released today which although it fills us with excitement it also reminds us that the season isn’t too far away and ideally we need to get a move on in the market.

Sooner rather than later we must start looking at other areas on the pitch. A pacey winger, a creative midfielder, another striker if Fletcher goes and Dick decides to offload either Graham or Wickham. Possibly a back up for Catts too if Dick decides Bridcutt is not cut out for this league. All far easier said than done though.

Quality over quantity is the key to this season and quality is often hard to come by, especially for a team like Sunderland who unfortunately are not blessed with multi millions to splash out on one player. We aren’t also, however it much it may pain us to admit, an attractive proposition for many players, especially those coming from abroad who will look at last season's table, look at a map and realise we are nowhere near London or Manchester. Yes we have the world's best fans and the fantastic stadium etc but sometimes that isn’t enough for some. Therefore Dick, Lee and Ellis must be quite savvy in their approach to transfers to get it right. And right we must get it as let's face it we cannot splash the cash only for it to end up with us being in the same position as last season and the season before that.

Get it right and it could put us into a stronger position going into next summer's transfer window and let's not forget we may be looking for a new manager then too.

I firmly believe that we are in good hands and very soon Dick will spring into action and sail the good ship Sunderland into calmer waters next season and give our livers and hearts a bit of rest come the end of 2015/16.

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Happy Fixtures Day...
Leicester Away first up

Well the fixtures are out and it feels like this boring summer of no footy is finally starting to hot up. We start the season with a trip to Leicester on August 8 and then host Norwich on August 15 and Swansea on August 22 and finish off the opening month with a trip to Aston Villa. Not the hardest start to the season and one which gives us the opportunity to get some points on the board early doors

We'll be picking up our usual six points against Newcastle on 24th October at the SOL and on Saturday 19th March 2016 at SJP. Xmas brings a Boxing Day trip to Manchester City and the season will draw to a close on Sunday 15th May 2016 when we play Watford at Vicarage Road. Fixtures in full click here

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Advocaat Looking For A Loan?
by Graeme Atkinson

According to press reports a £1.5mil deal is in place for us to sign Arsenal fullback Carl Jenkinson on a season long loan. However there still seems some uncertainty around the finality of the arrangement, as the same reports suggest Southampton and West Ham remain interested.

Southampton’s enthusiasm for the player appears dependent upon whether Nathanial Clyne is sold this summer and West Ham simply wish to retain the loan player that faired so well for them last season. But, for the moment at least, we seem to be ahead in the pecking order. Of course, should any late interest in Jenkinson from rivals become more concrete, money talks. It will be interesting to see whether SAFC’s competitors are willing to be as generous in their willingness to match the loan fee we already have in place. Although with the other two teams being able to offer the England U21 International experience in Europe, you can’t help but wonder whether player and agent are waiting for a few further transfer dominoes to fall before committing to any deal.

What is certain is that Jenkinson would add genuine pace to the squad and would certainly be able to play the attacking fullback role that fits so well into Advocaat’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, currently in vogue at the Stadium of Light.

Where this leaves Leeds’ Sam Byram is less clear. The young fullback who has recently been deployed predominately on the right wing for the Championship side has also been heavily linked with a permanent big money move to SAFC. There is an argument for saying we could do with both - Jenkinson to be used for the season, introducing Byram to the Premier League more sparingly. This would ensure he becomes accustomed to the competiveness of it in a more measured way rather than a baptism of fire that has the potential to hinder his development.

Jenkinson certainly gets my vote, and it would appear that of Congerton and Advocaat too. Regardless of whether he ends up at Wearside it’s certainly a good sign to see us looking at players, Jenkinson at least, with both youth as well as the added bonus of experience. Let’s hope the rest of the summer’s transfer activities follow in a similar vein.

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Happy With One Year Deal For Dick
Alex Campbell

I am a bit bored of the jibber jabber that is coming out of the various media outlets regards Dickyboy signing a one year contract. The general view is that it highlights that we have no long term strategy, that we can’t attract a decent manager or missed the one we really wanted (if that’s Allardyce then I for one am delighted!), and that if he signs players it will be a disaster as if he leaves after one year, as those players will of only signed for him.

For me, it's great news!

A one year contract means that we have to have a strategy (not all plans need to be the clichéd ”5 year plan”) in place to ensure we transition properly, rather than the last few years of sack then panic, which I am convinced would happen again without Dick at the helm.

It means that hopefully Dick is consulted on all areas of our structure and strategy, with the invaluable experience he has gained over the years and is building for our future even if it is not for his. I think we all appreciate what Ellis is doing, but he is a financial man, not a footballing man, and this knowledge gap needs filling.

It means that hopefully he will be lining up his successor and ensuring they become engrained in our culture so they can see what SAFC means to us, and what we expect , something I truly think he gets. I am sure he knows in his mind who will come next.

It means hopefully we can strategically recruit players who buy into what we as a club are doing rather than just panic buy the usual dross, overpaid and underperforming, developing our academy, introducing some of the youngsters early in the season while finding the 5 or 6 core players needed to thrive not survive in 15/16 season. I am certain without the owner’s commitment to doing this, Dick would have not bothered.

I know as SAFC fans, we have to be thick skinned, optimistic and tested to the limit, but this time I genuinely feel more than ever that lessons have been learnt and this is the first step away from being the terminal under achievers we have become.


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nowt happening...
new fixtures out tomorrow

Well the fixtures are out tomorrow, so there will be something to report, at last, but in the meantime pick the meat off the bones of this.

It looks like Sunderland will need to ask FIFA to arbitrate over the Ricky Alvarez debacle after being unable to sort out the situation with Inter Milan. Alvarez played the required amount of games to trigger the transfer clause in his loan deal, but SAFC are not happy because he was canny shit and injured for most of the season. Not sure that this is a valid excuse but let's face it we don't want him!

However, one South American we do want is Sebastian Coates and it seems Liverpool are ready to part with him for £3.5m. Coates was pretty average to start with on Wearside, but ended the season with some great displays, so most people

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A little Less Conversation...
A little More Action Please

Another day of nothing but speculation, unless you count the fact that Connor Wickham has been pictured snogging TOWIE’s Jessica Wright in Marbella!

We are still being linked with a number of players such as Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson (loan), Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford and Manchester United striker James Wilson (loan), but there's nothing concrete just yet.

Meanwhile, after failing to beat Scotland over the weekend, John O’Shea has admitted that Ireland now need to beat both Germany and Poland in October to qualify for the Euros. So in other words, they have no chance! “For the first half and most of the second we totally controlled it,” said the Sunderland man, “And that’s the unfortunate thing. We’ve got the goal but then the intensity that we needed, that we’d had throughout the game, was just lacking for that first 30 seconds or a minute, whatever it was [at the start of the second half]. That goal is so frustrating because, fair enough, if they stick it in the top corner then you hold your hands up but the way it went in. It hits off James’s toe and then my back or shoulder or whatever. We’ve let them back into it, we’ve made things that bit harder for ourselves now.”

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Carl Jenkinson linked...
youth signing completed

Sunderland have reportedly made a move for Arsenal full back Carl Jenkinson. The deal is alleged to be a season long loan with a £2m loan fee. The English/Norwegian defender spent last season at West Ham on a temporary basis, where he evolved into a much more cultured player than we had seen at Arsenal, and the 23 year old still has plenty of time left to develop.

We have however completed the signing of 16 year old Oscar Krusnell, who will join the club on July 1st. The Swedish left back is certainly one for the future, but it's nice to hear we're looking that far ahead!

A rumour is also circulating that Leeds United have rejected a bid for Sam Byram, and it's apparently a bid from Sunderland. The utility defender has been linked to us for quite some time, with Congerton not looking like he's willing to take no for an answer, but Leeds seem to disagree on our valuation of the player. 21 year old Byram is an exciting prospect but may not be the quick fix we're looking for, if a quick fix is what we need.

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Jimmy Montgomery honoured...
Vergini to leave?

Sunderland 1973 goalkeeper, club legend and top bloke Jimmy Montgomery has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Montgomery will be awarded the British Empire Medal for his longstanding services to football. I can only assume that Lee Cattermole's award was lost in the post. Jimmy admitted that he is thrilled to be receiving the honour: “I am absolutely delighted and it’s a great honour to receive this award. I’ve been involved with football for a number of years, in many different and enjoyable roles. I have so many great memories that last a lifetime and to share this one with my family is something that I will saviour.”

Club Chief Executive Margaret Byrne also sang Montgomery's praises: “Jimmy is a true gentleman.  He is held in such high esteem by everyone in the city. As well as being hugely respected in the footballing world, he has led on many fundraising activities and has helped many charities in the region. On behalf of everybody at SAFC, I congratulate Jimmy on such a great achievement which is thoroughly deserved.”

Santiago Vergini could exit Sunderland via Newell's Old Boys after interest from the South American club. While Sunderland are duty-bound to sign Vergini for £2 million, it's unclear whether Advocaat rates Santi, the defender featuring just once from the bench in the last 5 fixtures, Seb Coates being preferred to the beautiful enigma. Newell's do have the option to buy out that compelof to buy clause or even just sign Vergini after the clause kicks in.

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brown stay confirmed...
jos/fletch

Sunderland AFC have confirmed that Wes Brown has signed a one-year deal to keep him at the Stadium of Light with until June 2016.

Meanwhile, John O'Shea is looking forward to going head to head with Steven Fletcher when the Republic of Ireland face Scotland this weekend. O'Shea said: "Obviously there won't be too much laughing and joking just before the game, but afterwards, it will be the same. You shake hands and you get on with things whatever the result was. But look, you know the player, obviously you get on very well with the player, but ultimately, you want to beat him, that's it."

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erm...
gossip

Morning all, another sunny June day with very little real news to report...

Apparently Micah Richards is joining Aston Villa ahead of Sunderland; despite us offering him an ugly £90,000-a-week. Villa are said to have only offered him £65,000-a-week, but it's closer to home for him! Who needs money when you are already a millionaire?

Meanwhile, Steven Fletcher continues to be linked with Celtic. However, with only a year of his deal at SAFC to run, he would have to take a big pay cut to join the Scottish champions. Sunderland are also said to be offering Fletch plus cash as a swap deal in order for us to bring in their highly rated centre half, Virgil van Dijk.

In other news, Sebastian Coates is away with Uruguay playing in the Copa America while we try and sort a deal for him to stay at Sunderland. Uruguay are reigning champions and begin their 2015 campaign against Jamaica on Saturday (KO 8pm).

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Dick U Turn...
Number Two

Dick Advocaat has decided to overturn the club's decision to release Wes Brown and the central defender will now be offered a one year deal, which will see him act mainly as cover during injuries and suspensions to his team mates. Brown struggles to join in the normal training schedule because of his dodgy knees, but could still be good cover and him signing a one year deal on a reduced wage seems to suit all parties. Thankfully, the club are still expected to bring in two more centre halves, with Sebastian Coates and Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk the most likely contenders.

However, Anthony Reveillere will not be back next season, even though the club agreed a contract extension with the defender just last month. It seems that Dick likes to change his mind!

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Get The Man A Brolly
By Gillian Hill

The wally with the brolly is so very, very funny,
He's asked rich Mike for loads and loads of money.
"You see players are needed who can play in the Prem,
For one season at least, and then....erm?"

Mike replied "I always promise a lot
But there's no Wonga for you in this piss pot.
What you'll do is make do and mend,
I for one will not spend, spend, spend."

The ginger one thought when leaving our club
That by downgrading he was no mug.
Well think again you silly little man,
Relegation will haunt you and every New666tle fan

You will fear the future and not the past
As this Premier League season could well be your last.
Don't you get it, you deserting rat,
You played a big part in where we previously sat.

But no longer for us, it's you up the road
Who will dice with death and then implode

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SUNNY DAY...
SO LET'S GO WHERE WE ARE HAPPY

What a lovely day it is in Sunderland today, I think a trip down the beach is in order. In more football related news, it seems that a new left winger is top of Big Dick's summer shopping list, closely followed by a centre half with pace. He is also keen to sort a long term deal out for Catts, so good news all round.

Meanwhile, Costel Pantilimon reckons he is happy at Sunderland, which is just as well since he's one of our best players. He explained: “I wanted to play more and I chose to go to that club. As I have said all along, I am very thankful for the opportunity from the people at Sunderland to give me a great chance to play for the club. It’s normal to want more, but I want to take it slowly. At the moment I am very happy for what happened this year, it’s a good thing for me that I played consistently and was part of a good team. Dick Advocaat was able to give us confidence at a time when we were suffering and that was seen in our results.”

Pantilimon picked up a knee injury at Arsenal which saw him miss the game at Chelsea and Romania's game this weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland. “I’m very sorry that I cannot get together with my international colleagues at this time,” he added. “We know very well that it’s a very important match. It’s a game that can make us 70 per cent certain that we qualify for the tournament. Unfortunately, this injury prevents my presence on the pitch.”

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no news...
no bad news

Very little happening today folks as we all wait for Lee Congerton and Dick Advocaat to bring in some new players.

A few of the players are away on international duty, in fact Seb Larsson played 75 minutes during Sweden’s 0-0 draw with Norway last night, and thankfully he came through without any injuries.

Meanwhile, Gateshead boss Malcolm Crosby reckons that if he can get his new club promoted next season, it would be a bigger achievement than getting SAFC to the 1992 FA Cup Final. He explained: “It was great at Sunderland and it was a fantastic thing that the players did – but we lost. People forget who came second."

It’s a great opportunity for me because I haven’t been coaching for a couple of years, I’ve been in the recruitment side,” added Crosby. ”But you don’t forget things what you do on the football field. It’s a good club and the progress it’s made over the last few years is fantastic and I want to finish the job off and get promoted. When the phone call came from Graham Wood (former SAFC board member) he had obviously been speaking to a lot of candidates for the job and he’s decided to give me the call which is nice. He was massively supportive when I took over as caretaker (at Sunderland), he was the biggest supporter. The other directors were fantastic but Graham used to come to games with me, go all over, and he was very good to me. It was very important, the friendship, but the bad thing about it is that we’re great mates but in football it might turn out badly but I just hope that’s not the case.”

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Monday Monday...
Dicks Return Could Boost Transfers Quality

Now that we have a stable manager in place, it’s up to Ellis Short to give him the funds to bring in the personnel we require. Before his change of mind, Dick gave Lee Congerton a list of players the club should look at, so let's hope he's cracking on with that. One name already linked is Patrick Bamford, who scored 16 goals for Middlesbrough, while on loan last season, but is registered with Chelsea, where he is surplus to their needs. An offer of £8m might do the trick but other clubs are sniffing around him too.

In other news, Steven Fletcher is just back from his stag weekend in Dubai and with just one year of his deal to run, he's hoping his footballing future will be sorted pretty soon. He said: “I don’t know what is going to happen. It has been a while since I have been able to have a summer without coming back from injury. It is good to be playing in internationals this summer. It will be up to the manager to decide whether he wants to keep me or not. We will wait and see. I don’t think it is quantity because we have a big squad. It is like the manager said. We just need to add a bit of quality to the squad. The sooner we can do it the better. He has done brilliantly since he came in. He is kind of similar to Martin in the way he talks to you individually. You could tell he took a real shine to the lads by the way he became so emotional after the Arsenal game. Ultimately it was his decision if he wanted to stay – we made it clear we wanted him to, so I am glad he has. With the injuries I had had, I was low on confidence, in and out the team, not really playing. Then he came in and started playing me although I picked up another injury, which did not exactly help. In the last few games of the season he was telling me just to keep going and I would get my chance. He is such an attack-minded coach, I had more chances in that Arsenal game than I had had all season.”

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Fletcher getting married
wedding present - shooting boots

After watching an attacking masterclass from Barcelona last night and the sheer ruthlessness of their finishing, it would be only natural to start today's roundup with Steven Fletcher, the striker re-arranging his wedding so that he can play in Scotland's Euro 2016 qualifiers. The wedding will only be low key though, which is hard to believe given that every aspect of Fletcher's life seems to be lavish. His wedding could probably get itself on a certain Channel 4 program. The Jock striker said: “A few boys from Sunderland are coming but it’s mainly just family and friends. But John O’Shea will be there. He’s always in Portugal when I’m there anyway, we play a lot of golf with each other.”

Fletcher also had some kind words on Dick Advocaat deciding to extend his stay: "That's good news for us as he's done brilliantly since he came in. He's kind of similar to Martin [O'Neill] in the way he takes you asides and speaks to you, which I like. You could tell he took a real shine to the lads by the way he got so emotional after the Arsenal game [when Sunderland ensured their safety]. He likes to get forward a lot and that suits us with the players we've got. In the three years I've been at the club we've been [regularly] down at the bottom of the league at the back end of the season so if we can have a good start and give ourselves a fighting chance that would be good."

Meanwhile John O'Shea has been expressing his disdain towards FIFA and their decision to award Republic of Ireland €5 million instead of allowing them to have a replay after they were eliminated from the World Cup Qualifiers by France in 2009 as a result of a blatant handball which wasn't given. O'Shea said: “If you’re talking about what the players would have been looking for from that point of view: ultimately it was done and dusted, the game was over, but if there was going to be anything it would have been a replay. It wouldn’t have been a case of monetary benefits from that point of view."

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Five Reasons Why SAFC should sign Rafael Van Der Vaart
By Graeme Atkinson

I floated the idea of SAFC signing Van Der Vaart on line following Hamburg’s relegation ‘play off’ with Karlsruhe last weekend. It received mixed results. While it’s recognised the former Spurs and Real Madrid man, now 32, is not the force he once was, here are five reasons why he could still do a job for us.

1.
Premier League Experience: You just can’t get away from the fact that it helps a team massively. Someone who has experience of the league, albeit for a relatively short time, would not be caught by surprise by its speed and power. He was even runner up to Gareth Bale in the PFA’s Player’s player of the year award in 2010/11. As we avoided relegation by the skin of our teeth, again, I feel that a player of Van Der Vaart’s pedigree, allied with his experience would help us massively.

2. It would not cost us a penny: The player who was hailed the new Johan Cruyff when he was first coming through the ranks at Ajax is now a free agent. He re-joined Hamburg in 2012. They also just avoided relegation last season decided against extending Van Der Vaart’s contract. Surely with only wages as the main financial outlay, it represents something of a risk free opportunity for any team looking to award him a contract.

3. 4-3-3: Coming up through the academy at Ajax, Van Der Vaart would easily slot into the current favoured 4-3-3 formation at SAFC. So often we’ve brought players to the club and then asked them to play in positions or systems that they aren’t comfortable with. Rodwell being a recent example.

4. He’s played with Defoe at Spurs: Advocaat will be looking to get the team flying out of the traps come August 8th. He has already said that SAFC need fewer signings than in previous transfer windows. However those that do come through the door need to have quality. This has become evident for all to see, but to help take this approach a step further, why not bring players in who also have experience of working with the existing squad. This would save Dick time when he’s trying to get new players to gel with their new team mates.

5. The Adam Johnson factor: We simply don’t know what is going to happen to arguably our most creative player. Come the end of August, SAFC could be without their £10mil star man depending upon the outcome of his trial. Congerton needs a back up plan in place and free agent, Van Der Vaart, who is clearly a thoroughbred footballer seems like an ideal candidate should things turn sour for Johnson.

All signings bring with them potential pitfalls. This one would be no different. However as gambles go, any deal for Van Der Vaart would seem to carry little to no risk. In my opinion Congerton should be urged to snap him up before others do.

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Defoe loves Dick...
colback still a prick

Following the return of Dick Advocaat, Jermain Defoe has compared the little general to Jose Mourinho, in terms of work ethic and temperament. Defoe said: "I was shocked more than anything because it's a massive U-turn. But he's probably looked at it and thought it's a great opportunity to come back to the club and do something special next season.

"He was a good guy. I can imagine everyone is delighted at the club,He's a really straight guy. Every day, everyone's got to perform in training. If you're not going to perform, you're not going to play – it's as simple as that. Away from that, he's a really nice man, a really nice guy and you can have a laugh with him. But when it's time to work, you work. He is similar to what I hear Jose Mourinho is like, [Carlo] Ancelotti - really nice guys, but when it is time to work, they work."

Jack Colback, has admitted that he didn't expect a relegation battle this season. The reason for that is because he is stupid and deluded and a traitor of the realm. Cack Stabback said: “It was a whirlwind first season for me. To be honest, I thought I was moving away from relegation battles when I signed here! It is what it is, and that’s the thing about football, it’s so unpredictable. You can only control so much in football." You're a nob.

Ahead of England's friendly with Republic of Ireland, ex-Sunderland man Jordan Henderson has spoken of Roy Keane and how he helped his Sunderland career flourish. As Jordan explains, he is an admirer of Keane: “Roy has been a huge part of me getting my chance as a footballer. He gave me my debut at Sunderland and had a huge impact on my career. I have got a lot to thank him for and I can never really repay him. I learnt a lot from him while I was at Sunderland, and also from how good he was as a player. He taught me alot. I was a young lad coming into the first-team and I think from how hard I was working on the training field he could see I really wanted to be a footballer. Obviously, I hope he saw a bit of quality in there."

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lads on tour...
Going to the big U.S of A (& Canada)

Sunderland AFC will travel across the pond to the USA and Canada for their pre-season tour.

Dick Advocaat’s side will be based near San Francisco for a week-long training camp, which will include two games in Northern California. The first takes place on Tuesday July 14, against Sacramento Republic FC at Bonney Field stadium, kicking off at 8pm local time. Three days later, Sunderland will face Mexican Primera side Club de Fútbol Pachuca on Friday 17 July, again at Bonney Field, Sacramento, at 7.30pm.

The Black Cats will round off their trip with a visit to Toronto to take on Canadian MLS side Toronto FC, at 7pm local time.

Speaking about the tour, Sunderland AFC’s sporting director Lee Congerton said: “The trip will afford us the opportunity to face quality opposition as we prepare for the season ahead. The facilities for training are great and the games step up over the tour in terms of intensity and this will help us build our fitness and sharpness levels, which is the main aim of pre-season.”

Fans wishing to attend the games will be able to purchase tickets online from the three clubs, further details of which will be confirmed shortly. SAFC will not sell any tickets for the fixtures.

Further information regarding Sunderland AFC’s pre-season plans can be found on www.safc.com or by using the hashtag #SAFConTour on twitter. Supporters planning to attend the games can email safcontour@safc.com to receive up-to-date information.

So here is our preseason:

Darlington 1883, 9 July
7.45pm
Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland
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Sacramento Republic, 14 July
8.00pm
Bonney Field, Sacramento, California

Club de Fútbol Pachuca, 17 July
7.30pm
Bonney Field, Sacramento, California

Toronto FC, 22 July
7.00pm
BMO Field, Toronto, Canada

Doncaster, 29 July
7.45pm
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ALS BLOG...
By joshua carr

Dick Advocaat. You little tease. You left me heartbroken when you decided not to renew your contract but it turns out you were just stringing us all along. I’m chuffed you’re back but please don’t do that to me again.

Up until around 4pm, I was blissfully unaware that the little general had decided to sign a new deal to keep him in charge for another year.

Whilst playing snooker in the clubhouse after a round of golf in the glorious sunshine on the north west coast I received a phone call off my cousin who was driving home from work to inform me that Dick had signed a new deal.

As I stood over ready to pot a red it hit me. Dick is back. Apparently then exclaiming “Fucking hell big Dick’s back” doesn’t go down well in a golf club.

So where do we go from here? That’s after we spend about a grand on flowers for Mrs Advocaat. Well, let’s hope that Dick has been given the money to spend. He outlined before he went who he wants and what positions need strengthening and I have full faith in the little Dutchman.

It was all doom and gloom for a while looking at some of the names linked with the job. No man should ever try to be excited at the prospect of either Sean Dyche, Sam Allardyce or Steve McClaren managing their team.

For the time being I’m over the moon Dick is back for another season. It gives us time to build a foundation for whoever takes over after. That’s if Dick isn’t here until he dies.

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Wor Dick...
Mrs dick happy too

Well what a boost that was yesterday. Just what was needed. The return of Dick also heralds the return of his usual backroom staff too.  The Dutchman’s long-term assistant Bert van Lingen and first-team coach Zeljko Petrovic are expected to be alongside him when the new season starts, citing their love of the Ivy House as the main reason for returning.

The general consensus of what persuaded Dick to come back up is Ellis Short promising him the acquisition of a few quality players with a £50 million transfer budget. Already the names have been flying around but the two names that keep on reappearing is fellow countrymen defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Jordy Clasie (not another Geordie!) who is very highly rated. The Virgil deal has been linked with a swap deal for Steven Fletcher.

John O’Shea also appears happy with Advocaat’s decision. Why? “I think the obvious thing to say is his experience. He also knew what to say and what to do at the right time; his team talks before the game, his controlling of emotions and the way the communicated to the individual and the collective was amazing. He got the best response from the players and, like I said, that comes with experience. The squad was tested at the end of the season; I got a knock and Wes was out after picking up a small knee injury, but he managed to come back for the Everton game when Santi dropped in and Sebastian also had a fantastic couple of games. The combinations had to change but that shows the strength of the squad because we were able to cope and still ensure our survival. They did a fantastic job for the team and we need that character and competition moving forward.”

Mrs Advocaat’s flower and charity fund at the time of writing is £1,914. Well done guys! Share the excess between the SAFC Foundation and TeamGeorge?

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Long Live The Returned King...
By Graeme atkinson

Any anxiety Lee Congerton must have had around finding a suitable replacement for Dick Advocaat evaporated on Thursday.  We now know Dick’s replacement is none other than Dick Advocaat - the King is dead, long live the returned King!

Now the dust has settled a little, we can reflect on Dick’s dramatic U-turn.   I’m sure it came as a surprise to everyone but credit to Congerton and Short who must have sensed that the Little General’s decision did not have a complete finality to it after all.   Their niggling away in order to get the answer they ultimately wanted just shows there was always hope that Advocaat might change his mind.

It does beg the question though, just how close did Congerton get to appointing someone else before the decision came from Advocaat?  Perhaps the Sunderland hierarchy genuinely felt that there was no viable alternative?  This may have also played on Advocaat’s mind.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to see us struggle with the wrong candidate in place.  Not since the beloved Niall Quinn has any individual from outside of the local area bought so completely into the emotion of the club.  In fact Dick’s attachment to SAFC is all the more special given he was only in charge for nine games!

It was also reassuring to hear that Dick’s decision to sign for another year was made following discussions with his family.  Everyone needed to be happy to make this work and get that complete buy in.  To have his family onside, when retirement was on the cards, must be important to Dick and he will go into the new season knowing he has the support of those around him as well has everyone connected with the club. 

It’s also testament to the supporters that a Go Fund Me campaign has been created so that flowers can be sent to the Advocaat family.  At the time of writing over £1000 had already been raised!

So now we know Advocaat is back, let’s look forward to see what’s next.  We know Dick made a short list of players, which he passed to Congerton before temporarily leaving.  We can assume that those identified will now have a better chance of being offered contracts by the club given another head coach won’t have an opportunity to pour scorn over those selected.

Dick also made it clear that investment needed to be made in the right players.  Fewer signings but more quality is the mantra this time around.  Perhaps the thing that is most intriguing in respect of transfers is for the first time since the model was introduced at Sunderland, the head coach and Director of Football actually seem to have a good deal of professional respect for each other.  Imagine what can be achieved when everyone is pulling in the same direction?

Attention will inevitably turn again to Advocaat’s successor sooner or later given it’s only a one-year contract.  I can understand the reasons for this. I’m sure a one-year deal appealed to both sides given the circumstances.  The only slight misgiving I have around how this deal was communicated is the fact it wasn’t announced as a one-year rolling contract, publically at least.  This would have avoided the glare of the media once again focusing on Congerton around spring 2016.  However that conversation is for another time.  Instead let’s continue to bask in the positivity. Our Dick is back, will you be?

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Sobs Says...
Return Of The Dick!

Write something about your reaction to Advocaat coming back, they said. Easy – same as my recent reaction to the crucial point at Arsenal. Yeeeeeeeeehah!

..and that’s not just because we’ve got a manager who we know we can trust to do a job, but also because it means that SAFC can do what I wanted them to do and have Dick at the helm while they bring in his successor to watch, learn, and inwardly digest to make him (or her) perfectly qualified to step into the manager’s shoes at the end of next season. 

Of course, there are a couple of added bonuses that come with the appointment. Firstly, it means that the powers that be at SAFC have realised that people with the footballing acumen of Advocaat don’t come along that often, and that they need to compensate for the lack of real football people at the top of the SAFC hierarchy by having a real football person in charge of the team. Secondly, it means that, having agreed with Dick’s assessment at the end of the season that we need to buy a handful of high quality players, the powers that be will have to back him with the cold, hard cash to make that assessment a reality – probably more so than if he’d simply stayed on after the Chelsea game. Clever Lad.

There is, however, a big question to be answered. Why? Was it a Ferguson-esque “I’m away if you don’t give me the money to buy who I need” gamble by Dick, safe in the knowledge that if the money wasn’t forthcoming he’d be happy to stay retired as he’d promised? Or was it one of those cunning bloke things? You could see after the Arsenal game that he “got” us – he realised what SAFC, and more importantly its supporters, are all about, and, had he been ten years younger, he’d have signed a new contract while the team saluted the fans. How could he swing the job, given that he’d promised his missus that he’d be available full-time at home back in Holland come the end of May? Picture the scene – blokes have done it for donkey’s years – you’ve just had a great weekend away with your mates, where everybody had a fabulous time and everybody came away happy. Then, virtually straight away, you get invited to a stag do. Initially you say you’ll think about it, then you turn it down because you’ve just been away and feel that you should spend more time at home. So you mope around the house or mow the lawn, in Dick’s case wearing a Sunderland tracky top, sighing at every opportunity and looking wistfully of photographs of the recent joyous occasion, until the lady of the house says “look, why don’t you go and have a pint with your mates. Go on the stag do, have a good time. At least you’ll not have a face like a wet Wednesday in Grimsby while the party’s going on.” Or in Mrs Advocaat’s case, “oh, ga dan Dick. Laat ons Ga naar Sunderland en hebben een geweldige tijd . Ik hoor Jackie White markt is veel beter deze dagen, en ze hebben een erg leuke baan van Roker Seafront gemaakt”

So Dick grabbed his already-packed bag from under the stairs, hot-footed it to the SoL and knocked on Mr Short’s door. The rest is already history. Mind, if either of the above options was what Dick planned, then I would advise never to play poker with him, as he keeps his cards closer to his chest than Dolly Parton playing snap. As far as the players go, they can now stop filling column inches by backing this potential manager and then that potential manager. They know what they’re going to get with Dick, and they know that he made the majority of them, if not better players, then better able to contribute to a better team – which is the same thing, really. He already knows which of them he wants to keep, which to get rid of, and (hopefully) which to bring forward from the reserves. He’ll have a list of who he wants to bring in – specific players, not just anybody to fill a position. He has the added advantage over all the other candidates of knowing what goes on at the club both behind the scenes and in training, and he already has the hearts of the majority of the fans as well as the players. Of all the names bandied about in the last week or so, he’s the best we could realistically hope to see on the manager’s door at the Sol, as he has the respect of a lot of opposing managers – and we will probably start every game next season in a slightly better position because of that – and he’s got that respect because he knows what he’s doing. He also brings no off-field baggage with him, no history of failure or conflict, and no run-ins with other managers. Oh, and he appears to have a good sense of humour – let’s hope he doesn’t need it, although this is Sunderland. Bu then he knows that, and he wants to be part of it. 

The announcement make the forthcoming summer, whenever it decides to arrive, look a lot happier place for Sunderland fans.

Right, let’s get down the cellar and knock the tops of a few bottles of Snowball by way of celebration.

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meet the new boss, same as the old boss...
dick signs on for another year

It has been confirmed that Dick Advocaat has made an unexpected u-turn in his decision to leave SAFC and has signed a 1 year deal to keep him at the helm of the North East's biggest club.

A delighted Advocaat said: “After a lot of discussions with Ellis and Lee, they convinced me that I am the right man for the club. It was a great feeling to be part of Sunderland in the last few months, the experience was something very special and after talking with Lee, Ellis and of course my family, we all agree it is the right decision.” 

Ellis Short has overjoyed at securing the Dutchman on a 1 year deal: “Dick’s credentials in football are top class and we saw what an impact his vast knowledge and experience had on our team and the club as a whole in just two months. Sunderland fans took him to their hearts and so did everyone at the club, so we are absolutely thrilled that he will be here longer term.” 

Sporting director, Lee Congerton then added: “Dick was always our number one choice and we were determined we weren’t going to take 'no' for an answer. I have been in constant contact with him over the last two weeks and I'm absolutely delighted that he has agreed to return. In just a short space of time he has bought into the club wholeheartedly and understands exactly what we need now in order to move forward. We have a lot of work to do to prepare for the season ahead and that starts in earnest now.”

Dick added: “The club kept calling. The owner would not let go. I have decided to sign a new deal. They think I’m still fit enough and personally I also feel that I am fine. It’s a wonderful club.”

John O'Shea had this to say: “The boss came in last season and lifted everybody at the club – players, staff and fans. He got the best out of everybody, giving the team the confidence and belief that we could stay in the top flight. He brought a lot of experience and knowledge to the club. His CV speaks for itself and he has achieved so much in football so it’s great that he is at Sunderland. He knows the club, what is needed and how we can push onto the next level. The fans love him too so I’m sure it will be a season that we can all look forward to. We all know there is a lot of work to be done over the summer and with new faces added during pre-season we can all push on together. This is a positive time for everybody associated with SAFC.”

Emanuele Giaccherini was pretty happy too! “He was fundamental to everything we achieved last year. When he arrived he brought experience and he knew what we needed to survive; he gave us what he needed to stay in the Barclays Premier League. I knew a lot about him because of his record, it’s one of the best in the world. I had never met him as a person but I knew how good it would be to have him. I was recovering in Italy but I came back two weeks after he arrived. He called me into his office and was sensational with me, I spoke with him and he was so impressive. He is a very, very good manager.”

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Dick Stays
by Eve Sayers

“I learned my trade at Arsenal, became a footballaer at Manchester City, but Sunderland got under my skin. I love Sunderland”. A quote from Niall Quinn which perhaps best sums up the effect Sunderland can have on people.

We never intended to fall in love with Dick, upon his arrival, a lot of people knew little to nothing about him and were speculative about his appointment but in nine games, he completely turned the mess around. A memorable win over Newcastle, a great away day at Everton and that night at Arsenal the highlights of his short tenure.

After seeing the Dutchman cry after securing our survival at the Emirates it was clear Dick had fallen in love with Sunderland too. News that Advocaat wasn’t going to stay on brought sadness to Sunderland fans and the club alike. John O’Shea admitted he was “gutted” that Dick had stepped down. It has hard to imagine many managers coming in and gaining the respect as quickly as he did it so it’s excellent news that he’s staying.

Ellis Short’s persistence in brining Advocaat back clearly shows the faith Short has in the head coach but also the determination the Texan has in taking us forward.

The Dutchman is a better bet that names we’ve been linked with whilst he was telling his wife what’s what. Big Sam and Sean Dyche don’t really fill me with excitement for next season.

Advocaat has us playing positive, attacking football which was especially demonstrated in the final few games of the season. A positive mindset is what we need and it’s nice to think that Advocaat has been promised funds otherwise it’s unlikely that he would’ve returned.

Hopefully the Dutchman can get the four or five quality signings the club was needed for a while and give us a solid season away from the bottom. Now our manager is sorted, please sort out Cattermole’s contract lads.

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The Rise and Rise of Duncan Watmore...
by Graeme Atkinson

When Duncan Watmore signed from non league Altrincham in 2013, there was the inevitable hope that we’d captured a hidden gem. From the evidence shown over the last season it looks as though we could have bagged a diamond. In May 2015 Watmore won Barclays U21 player of the season award and frankly it’s hard to argue it wasn’t deserved. Even supporters from other teams can’t argue with the stats.

Watmore has been prolific for the SAFC development squad and has even impressed during his, so far, limited appearances for the senior team. His debut for the first team came in January 2014 when the former Manchester United prospect was a second half substitute against Carlisle United in the FA Cup. Sunderland won that game 3-1.

He is also currently having a successful spell for the England U20 side in the Toulon Tournament.  With plenty of assists and a couple of goals to his name the spotlight is beginning to shine bright for the SAFC youngster.

Watmore spoke to FA.Com recently, “Confidence is a big thing I’m playing the best football of my life and I feel great and couldn’t ask for more. Everyone here with England has treated me so well, the players and the coaches have been terrific and I couldn’t have asked for more. I’ve been fortunate with the teams I’ve played with this year and I’ve done well off the back of it so I’m very happy with that.”

It’s clear that he’s enjoying his football, which is great to see. However with great performances comes the expectation of forty plus thousand SAFC supporters. Without wanting to put undue pressure on the player the next stage of his development needs to be played out under the bright lights of the Premier League. Personally I was surprised he didn’t get a run out in Sunderland’s last game of the season against Chelsea, once Premier League status had been assured. Hopefully, whomever it is that takes over the role of head coach, will quickly realise Duncan’s talent and begin to utilise him to great affect. Howver this needs to be a measured approach. SAFC shouldn’t rush matters at the expense of long-term success.

It’s always great to see Academy players do well. I’m confident that with the help of the club, and through his own talent, Watmore can make a big impact for SAFC in the seasons to come.

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A german and two englishmen walked into a bar...
Wor giacc happy and defoe keen

Another day and one where I still have no idea who the next boss will be Bernd Schuster and Sean Dyche are currently the forerunners. Whoever is here after the summer, Emanuele Giaccherini will be with him as the little Italian has said he will stay at Sunderland, I don’t know what wages he is on but it must be huge for him to keep insisting here’s staying: “I will continue to play for Sunderland next season. I’ve endured a really unfortunate campaign, but to be included in Italy’s training camp makes me really happy. I thank (Italy) coach Antonio Conte for his trust and I will give my best to convince him to select me.”

In other news, Jermain Defoe seems to want Steve McCLaren but he looks set to take over that organised horrible chaos up the road and it seems the striker would also have Sam Allardyce: “He’s someone I played under for England. He’s a good coach and I always enjoyed training with him. He’s a good manager with good experience, especially at this level. You have to think about who is available, those out of work but someone who can get results. Sam Allardyce fits that description. And so too does Steve McClaren.”

Elsewhere, Duncan Watmore scored again for England U20’s last night but sadly in vain as they were knocked out by Mexico. Dear next manager, please play the lad. He’s clearly got talent!

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Will We Get It Right This Time?
By Barry Dixon

You can please some of the people all the time but only all the people some of the time. This quote could be spot on with regards to our search for a new manager/head coach.

In recent seasons we have tried different approaches in our search for a new man to take the club forward. History in the long term suggests we got it wrong. Roy Keane, who after brilliantly gaining promotion in his first season struggled with the pressures of the top flight. Steve Bruce who finished 10th one season you know, was probably the master of his own downfall. Martin O’Neill, came with great expectations, had everyone behind him but for whatever reason just couldn’t get us going. Di Canio, beat the mags but was mad. And Gus Poyet who engineered a great escape and a League Cup Final, like Bruce before him contributed to his own downfall. All these men have been given a chance in recent seasons, some have had more experience than others and varying degrees of success elsewhere. But all, baring a League Cup Final and at a push one mid table finish under Bruce have failed here at Sunderland.

Since Advocaat’s missus persuaded him allegedly to retire from club football we have been back to square one in the search for a new man to fill the hot seat. The quest for SAFC's new man however has split opinions widely. We have some going for an old head in the mold of Advocaat, some once again thinking we should go for a younger, hungrier head such as Sean Dyche and some wanting somewhere in between like McClaren (believe it or not).

Various experienced heads have been mentioned such as Sam Allardyce who left West Ham recently after guiding them to 12th place in the Premiership. A position which could have been higher if not for a poor second half to the season. Armin Veh, very experienced in his native Germany having had ten managerial posts, his last was with Stuttgart where he resigned in November last year. Martin Jol who has managed Tottenham and Fulham as well as in Germany and Holland. He has however been out of work since being sacked by Fulham in 2013. Ex Everton and Man Utd manager David Moyes who is currently working in Spain with Real Sociedad has also been mentioned but apparently is happy in Spain. Who can blame him?

Younger and possibly hungrier men like the aforementioned Sean Dyche who guided Burnley to the Premier League only to be relegated in their first season back is currently seen as the favourite with the bookies. Although Burnley were relegated they were seen to be fighting and trying to play attractive football where possible. Would he be ready for the step up? Time will tell. Phillip Cocu is also supposedly on the list. Dick Advocaat himself has stated that there has been no contact from Sunderland for Cocu, this doesn’t mean there won’t be. Cocu has been in charge of PSV since 2012 and is a believer of bringing through players from the academy. With the potential of our academy, he maybe the way forward. Also on the favourites lists are the likes of Steve McClaren, recently relieved of his duties at Derby County and Michael Laudrup, currently managing in Qatar who fall in between the experienced and young categories.

This time we must get it right, whether the appointment splits opinions or not, the new man must be given the opportunity/finances etc to take the club forward be it in small steps or slightly larger ones. We must be realistic too, its highly unlikely that we’ll get Klopp, Ancelotti etc etc at this stage, the next step however small must be a forward one. Another relegation fight though must be avoided next season, as sooner or later relegation will catch up with us. No pressure on the new man then, whoever he is.

Finally, Adam Johnson is due at Durham Crown Court today to face his charges.

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Come back sunderland...
Bored

This week is dragging slower than John O’Shea running towards his own box, speaking of which the Irish international has said we need to build on the draws we had last season and be more ruthless: “We have to maintain a consistency to make sure we stay away from a survival fight in future. It’s such a fine line. There were plenty of games where we didn’t deserve much and took a point, like Everton, but then there were games like at QPR where we lost 1-0 and you were thinking we deserved at least a point that day. We need to be scoring more goals as a team and that’s not just the attackers – it’s set-pieces, free-kicks and corners, because our goals scored column could have been much better. Overall we’re relieved but frustrated with so many draws. We looked hard to beat on lots of occasions but frustration was the over-riding emotion. We could have made it more than just a survival battle.”

Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe has been talking about Dick Advocaat and the future: "I think the fans would have loved to have seen him stay on, and probably most of the players. I made a few jokes, like 'I'll see you next season', and he sort of laughed it off. After the Arsenal game when we stayed up, I said, 'yeah, it was good we stayed up' but at the same time, we do not want to be in the same position next season, scrapping for results and at the same time looking at other results. You want to be in a position, especially in the second half of the season, where you can enjoy your football and think about finishing somewhere where the club has never finished before."

Elsewhere, we’ve been linked with Wolves’ young defender Danny Baath, Leeds’ Sam Byram and Man Citeh’s Seko Fofana.

Finally, Adam Johnson is due at Durham Crown Court today to face his charges.

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FIFA FO FUM
By Sobs

So, the unexpected has happened and Mr Blatter has gone. Less than a week a “winning” yet another farce of an election, Septic Sepp has said that he will resign. As our Gary said, he wouldn’t trust any 79 year-old who still wanted to work, and that just about sums things up.

In a last, hopefully vain, attempt to show he’s a good guy, Blatter went through the rigmarole of his final election, watched his opponent withdraw to allow him victory, then resigned as if to say “I could have stayed on, but I’m going to do something honourable for world football.” As if the words “Blatter” and “honourable” should ever appear in the same discussion.

In the TV report last night, it was claimed that Blatter divided opinion. This statement might have had the vast majority of UK football fans spitting their tea out in disbelief as they tried to find the words to express the sentiment that he was entirely distrusted on this side of the English Channel, but when you think of it in a world sense, then it was entirely correct. Many of the “developing” football nations have a lot to thank the man for – but it could have been so much more. During his time in various offices in FIFA, he oversaw the allocation of huge amounts of cash to emerging football nations in Africa, Asia, and Central America, but large chunks of this cash went, instead of towards providing equipment, facilities, and coaching, into the pockets of corrupt officials somewhere between FIFA HQ and its intended destinations.

Over his presidency, we’ve seen the awarding of the World Cup to various nations in, shall we say, contentious circumstances. When it was awarded to South Africa, $10 million that should have gone to that nation ended up in the pocket of Jack Warner, a man so corrupt that he complained in the media that the freebies given to his wife weren’t good enough. When knowledge of where that $10 million had ended up became public, Blatter should have resigned in shame – but his biggest problem was that he considered himself above the laws of the organisation which he controlled. Laws which he had helped put in place simply did not apply to him, and he believed that he was right in being above them. On his watch, endless strange decisions have been made, all of which point at his being either complicit in dodgy dealings or so ridiculously incompetent that he was unaware of them. I know which I’d choose.

There have been many occasions over the years when he should have gone, but when the FBI get involved, you’re as good as knackered – like the Mounties, they always get their man. You might deride an organisation from a nation that still struggles to “get” football deciding to investigate football authorities, but when it comes to legal matters, the FBI will hunt down the wrongdoers as efficiently and honestly as it is possible to do. They wouldn’t have been concerned about the corrupt dealings of FIFA until it became apparent that American citizens had been involved, but once that hppened, the gloves were off and the investigation began. The arrests last month were only a surprise in that they had taken so long to happen, and provide the ideal opportunity to rebuild the organisation, but guess what – the “extraordinary congress” that Blatter has promised to organise to decide on his replacement won’t take place until between December and March. So we have at least another six months of the current regime, but perhaps it would be naïve to hope that his resignation would be immediate given his actions over the past decades in power. What we will have in that period is a rudderless ship which will be unable to implement anything as nobody could possibly pay any heed to any directives which come out of the organisation without placing themselves in the sights of the FBI investigation.

Football now has a chance to rebuild its governing body – which the various controlling bodies such as the FA should have started immediately after the recent election by declaring no confidence in FIFA and setting about replacing it. As ever, nobody wanted to be the first to stick their heads over the parapet first, typified by Greg Dykes claim that it would be pointless doing something alone. Well, somebody has to be first Greg. If one leads, others will follow. The rebuilding should start now, not after Blatter eventually gets around to actually going – remember, he has only said he’s going to resign, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he tries to renege on that promise. It is possible to make the changes necessary to create a governing body that can take football forward by making decisions based on suitability rather than who crosses the right palms with enough silver, regardless of the size or geographical location of the nation involved. The International Olympic Committee did it after the Salt Lake City scandal, and that reform is one which football can look to for guidance. 

Blatter has stated that he will be free from the constraints of an election, and will be in a position to focus on profound reforms – which he claims he has called for “for many years.” Reform of FIFA is vital, but what is every bit as vital is that this man plays no part whatsoever in the process which decides and implements that reform.

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What Next For Steven Fletcher?
By Graeme Atkinson

With one year left on his contract it’s worth asking just what next for striker Steven Fletcher? When Martin O’Neill brought Fletcher to the club in 2012 it was the culmination of a protracted transfer saga. Quite a few supporters baulked at the price tag too. For a striker who had been relegated twice, £12mil certainly seemed towards the upper ceiling of the going rate. However Fletcher had a strong start for us scoring twice on his debut against Swansea, then a flurry of goals followed against teams such as Liverpool.

Unfortunately March 2013 saw Fletcher ruled out for the rest of the season with injury and frankly he hasn’t fully recaptured that early promise since. Further periods of injury have blighted his SAFC career thus far and goals have been sporadic. Given the player’s form and the contractual position with the club, Fletcher is at a crossroads in his career. At 28 it seems unlikely he will significantly improve and that rules out the possibility of attracting bigger teams.

There is the chance that newly promoted Premier League clubs or some of those around us may show an interest. That is something I’m sure Lee Congerton will look at. What seems to becoming less likely though is Fletcher getting the offer of a contract extension. Unless of course SAFC’s new head coach, whoever that may be, manages to have a huge positive impact on his performances.

In my opinion it might be worth exploring the possibility of a swap. We are known to have shown an interest in Celtic’s central defender Virgil Van Dijk. According to press reports the SPL Champions are looking for around the £10mil mark and it would be interesting to see what the Scottish giants would say to a proposed swap with Steven Fletcher. It was only last year that Fletcher himself revealed he came close to signing for Celtic and confirmed that a return home to Scotland before he retired was something he had pondered.

Surely in this scenario everyone wins; Celtic get a striker who would likely be prolific at that level and SAFC get the highly rated young Dutch defender. It’s possible that Celtic would request a player plus cash arrangement and it’s hard to argue against that given Fletcher’s stock has decreased during his time in Sunderland. However with a rumoured large ‘war chest’ from Ellis Short, Congerton would have the funds available should he be confident that Van Dijk can make the step up.

In addition Derek Boyata has just completed a move to Celtic from Manchester City meaning they could be preparing the ground for Van Dijk’s departure. Coates and Van Dijk could be the heart of Sunderland’s defence for years to come given their age and if Fletcher became the makeweight to allow that to happen I’m not sure there would be too many who could claim they were disappointed.

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SUNDERLAND RUMOUR MILL...
sTILL No Real NewS, HURRY UP aUGUST

So rumours are swilling around in the stormy weather outside today. Sean Dyche is now the latest man to take the bookie’s favourite mantle, after Paul Clement went to Derby and the Phillip Cocu rumours were rubbished by Dick Advocaat. There is also a lot of money switching to Martin Jol at the moment, which makes this weather seem even bleaker. Twitter is rife with speculation. One man who has been in hot water on the social media site has been Jack Wilshere, but the chav has actually said something right for once and admitted Jermain Defoe’s goal was better than his contentious Goal of the Season winner: “There were some good goals in there but I think it was Charlie Adam’s [goal from his own half] or Jermaine Defoe’s maybe. I was top four at least!”

Elsewhere, it looks like we’re signing Santiago Vergini for around £2million which while he splits opinion the low fee and our desperation for centre backs makes it a decent deal in my book.

Talking of South Americans, it looks increasingly likely that we will not sign Ricky Alvarez on a permanent contract despite Inter Milan insisting on a clause that we have to sign him having survived. The speculation is that he requires surgery which will keep him out for potentially up to seven months.

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Summer Of Speculation...
No Real News

Well summer officially begins today, so I guess we are in for a close season full of speculation about who will be coming and going at SAFC. Now we know we are not getting Big Dick and Paul Clement has been appointed as Derby boss, Burnley gaffer Sean Dyche has become the bookie's favourite for the post, although PSV Eindhoven’s Phillip Cocu and Steve McClaren are also in the frame. Other names mentioned are Ex-Stuttgart boss Armin Veh and also David Moyes.

However, former SAFC chairman, Niall Quinn, reckons that we should go for Big Sam. Quinn said: “There are some nice candidates, Big Sam wandering around the place, maybe he is at the top of people’s list. There are some foreign managers too. Looking at the betting lists, it’s quite intriguing. I think (they need) someone who can get them away from that fear that runs through the football club when they start off badly in the football season, as has happened in a good few seasons. I certainly would check out if Big Sam was interested.”

In terms of incoming players, we are said to be sniffing around Leeds United's right-back Sam Byram, who is in the £5m bracket. We are also looking to bring in Sebastian Coates on a permanent deal from Liverpool, after he slowly, but surely proved himself as the season progressed.

In commercial news, Sunderland have announced that Dafabet is our new shirt sponsor. Sunderland AFC chief executive, Margaret Byrne, said: “We are delighted to be entering into a partnership with Dafabet. Our regional identity sits proudly at the heart of Sunderland AFC but increasing our global footprint is also key as we look to continue to grow and strengthen the football club for the future. Our partnership with Dafabet will open up new markets for us and we welcome them warmly to our Sunderland family.”

Meanwhile, Duncan Watmore is hoping that England's young guns can go as far as the final in the Toulon tournament. “It’s been a surreal experience for me,” said Watmore. “It’s a privilege to play for my country and is the biggest thing of all. The plan is to get to the final of the tournament. Hopefully we can win the next two games, keep working hard and if we get to the final that will be awesome. Every one of the lads have been class and have all worked well as a team and we need to keep that going and reach the final.”

Watmore is also still buzzing after being named U21 Premier League Player of the Year. “Getting that accolade for the season is always a nice thing, it’s great to get awards and it just shows the work that you’ve put in and the team have been fantastic with me all year,” he added. “Confidence is a big thing I’m playing the best football of my life and I feel great and couldn’t ask for more. Everyone here with England has treated me so well, the players and the coaches have been terrific and I couldn’t have asked for more. I’ve been fortunate with the teams I’ve played with this year and I’ve done well off the back of it so I’m very happy with that.”

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DunCan Watmore everything...
sam byram link

The man of the moment, Duncan Watmore, is the subject of tense debate between Sunderland fans. Surely we should be giving the lad a chance in the first team as of pre-season, he couldn't really be doing much more. The youngster got an assist in England U20s match against Ivory Coast and got a goal for himself and another assist against Morocco on Thursday at the Toulon tournament. He was also recently named the U21 Player of the Year.

Watmore said of his recent success: “It was a really proud moment and a dream come true. “Scoring on your England debut is something you dream of and it worked out perfectly. It was a surreal experience but one I really enjoyed and it was great to get something from the game. Pulling on the shirt is probably the standout moment for me and singing the national anthem is when it all began to feel real.”

In transfer news, Sunderland may splash out for Leeds Utd full back Sam Byram after being linked to the defender since last summer's window but being put off by the asking fee of £10m. It's now apparently closer to £5m and with us needing a full back or two, Byram could join Sunderland.

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why claudio ranieri is the right man for safc...
by graeme atkinson

Ranieri is now 63 and is probably looking for one last crack at the big time. Having been relieved of his duties by the Greek national side in November he is also a free agent meaning no compensation fee. Frankly I’m surprised he hasn’t been snapped up before now.

If we’ve accepted that Advocaat set the template for who should be next in the Sunderland hot seat then surely Ranieri ticks all the boxes. He’s coached top European sides such as Inter, Chelsea, Juventus, Valencia and Monaco to name a few so will command instant respect from the egos in the dressing room. If we are intending to play Defoe at left back again then that respect is just the ticket.

In addition, and here’s the clincher, he’s won things. His CV is up there with some of the best in the game. Ranieri was named ‘The Tinkerman’ by the press and that wasn’t always seen as a good thing. However it proves he can adapt to the playing squad at his disposal, implementing a style of football that would suit all concerned.

Given his years in the game he’s also got that key ingredient, experience. Dick Advocaat never looked fazed by anything even though he must have been under immense pressure during those 9 games in charge. Maybe Ranieri’s experience would be enough to see us push on up the league in the coming season too.

He’s also the sort of coach that would attract some quality players. Any young up and coming player, hungry to excel in the game would surely be more than willing to sign for Sunderland when teams around us at the bottom have Alex Neil et al. Neil may become successful but there’s nothing like drawing upon the wisdom of a big name in the game to improve, and that may make all the difference when Congerton is trying to get a deal over the line.

While we’re on the subject of Congerton, Ranieri would also surely accept working with a Director of Football given his time coaching sides on the continent where that particular model has long been in use. Both the head coach and Director of Football will be important to the success of Sunderland going forward given Short appears reluctant to change the model he’s had in place since Di Canio’s days. Therefore getting the right appointment will be the biggest challenge Sunderland face without a ball being kicked.

The reality is Claudio Ranieri is closer to retirement than I’m sure he’d like but this means there is possibly more chance of a team like Sunderland capturing his signature. Looking at the names we’ve been linked with he certainly would be a better bet than someone like McClaren and Dyche etc. Advocaat should be the blueprint for the next coach and once this is accepted, Ranieri becomes a clear contender for the role in my opinion. Let’s see what develops over the days and weeks to come.

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Brown to leave, rev to stay?...
Alvarez deal woes

Saturday morning and no football to look forward to/dread watching. While clubs around the country decide who they will be offering new contracts to and who they will wish best in their future endeavours, it seems that Sunderland will be offering Anthony Reveillere a new contract but will not be doing the same for Wes Brown. The two 35 year olds are in unique positions, with Reveillere starting the season out of contract and then winning one on merit, but Brown has faced injury issues for quite some time now and would be lucky to get an additional year.

Sunderland potentially face a situation where they may be forced to purchase Ricky Alvarez for £9 million despite him doing nothing of note this campaign. Sunderland may in fact have to appeal this transfer to FIFA on the grounds that his injuries prevented him doing his thing this season, that may be the only way out of this obligation based transfer. What a stupid deal. You don't hire a car only to agree to buy it at the end of the hire, whether it was good or not.

Real Madrid coach Paul Clement has left his post at the Spanish club and has been a managerial target for some time, but it looks as though Derby County may have already come in and offered him something attractive with much less risk attached to the job. Meanwhile Marcos Alonso reckons he's staying at Fiorentina despite interest from other clubs. What about Borini though...

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mickey gray and gary rowell talk...
but not much going on

Micky Gray reckons that Sam Allardyce would be the ideal manager for Sunderland - even though he's ruled himself out of the job. “Sam’s got a great record in the Premier League and that’s what Sunderland need right now; someone who can get us up and into the mid-table positions without fretting at the end of every single season, like we have done over the last five,” he said. Who knows, maybe Micky could do a job.

Meanwhile, Gary Rowell reckons handsome Dane Michael Laudrup is the right choice. "Sunderland are spoilt for choice because there are almost as many managers out of work as in work. It depends which way the club wants to go – an experienced manager, or a young one. I’m sure there are plenty who would take it because it’s an attractive job. Even if Sunderland finish in mid-table next season, then the fans will be ecstatic. There is an average crowd of 40,000-plus, even though the going is not great and neither has been the football. It was an appointment that took me by surprise, but Sunderland only had one bad game under his management – the Crystal Palace defeat where the players were more to blame than the manager. He was given a precise job to fulfil and he did it. Sunderland were just above the bottom three when he arrived, but we were heading downwards and that is the hardest thing to reverse. But he stopped that and brought the best out of the players’ ability and restored their confidence.”

In other news, Duncan Watmore has been named as Barclays Under-21 Premier League player of the year; hopefully he'll get a chance with the first team next season. Dunc is away with England U20s, and scored in a 3-3 draw against Morocco yesterday.

Anthony Reveillere and Wes Brown are the two oldest in the Sunderland squad. They're also both of out contract and there's apparently no decision yet as to whether they will get renewed deals. Despite playing 25 times this season, Brown is expected to retire. He is badly suffering with injuries and taking longer to recover as he gets older. Meanwhile Reveillere was a solid addition in November but only played four minutes under Dick Advocaat. Sunderland desperately need reinforcements in defence with only three - John O'Shea, Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt contracted to be at the club next season.

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ALS BLOG...
By Joshua Carr

As I neared the end of my shift last night I had a smile on my face. Four hours of giving people driving range tokens had taken its toll. But then some devastating news came through. I received a text off a friend saying Dick had retired.

If I’m honest, it was what I expected but never wanted to happen. The way he hugged Bert van Lingen suggested it was the end of his long successful career.

So thank you Dick. You came in with the club in dire straits and performed a miracle of your own. We stayed up again when most pundits had us as good as relegated.

It’s amazing how in such a short time the club has got under his skin and how close we’ve got to a stand-in manager. He will forever be a part of Sunderland AFC history and it’s nice he can leave on a high. Something most our manager’s don’t get the pleasure of.

So where do we go from here? The club has a massive decision on its hands and it is one they must get right. Sam Allardyce is favourite but doesn’t really appeal to me or a lot of Sunderland fans.

Paul Clement is another name being thrown about. He would be a big risk however it paid off (sort of) at Boro with Aitor Karanka. Clement is currently assistant coach at Real Madrid so he must be doing something right.

Other names in the hat are Laudrup, McClaren and Patrick Viera. One person who has supposedly put his name forward is Dwight Yorke. I can only see that as a backwards move if that was to happen.

Apparently Dick has also left a list of quality signings Sunderland need to make. Let’s hope we don’t put them aside now Dick has gone and sign the usual relegation fodder we do season after season.

Big Dick, there’s only one big Dick, there’s only one big Dick, there’s only one big Dick…*sobs into pillow*

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ALS BLOG...
By Tom Atkinson

It's so refreshing to be able to reminisce about a manager without any negativity surrounding their tenure on Wearside. Dick Advocaat has served our club magnificently in guiding this season's lacklustre squad to premier league safety and that memory will live on untarnished. For that we will be eternally grateful.

In my last blog for ALS I noted that I genuinely thought Advocaat might give next season a go and his decision not to do so is a real blow to the club. That being said, however, I do think that Advocaat's resignation has yielded something that may be just as, and perhaps even more, valuable than his brief incumbency. Dick has opened up and laid down the law on Sunderland's failings, both to Ellis Short and the media. In a recent interview Advocaat stated that:

“Yes, it surprises me some of the money that’s been spent, very much so. But I’ve told that to the owner, especially in England because there’s a lot of money involved. You need the right people.”

It would appear that Dick Advocaat, after deciding on his future, had made it clear to Short and co. that their current system in place at the club quite simply does not work. Invest in quality, not quantity and hire a new head coach wisely. I personally feel that the club have attempted to build toward the future over the last couple of seasons, and in doing so have taken their eye off the present. Cutting the overall wage bill through a host of loan signings and free transfers has helped our bank accounts, yet hindered our footballing effectiveness.

Under the reigns of Bruce and O'Neill it would appear that we we spent beyond our means - that would account for the subsequent lack of quality investment under Di Fanti and Congerton at least. Whilst Di Canio and Poyet tell of a desire to ask youth to lead the club to success... without the financial backing. The boardroom team have also iterated on multiple occasions that their main focus is to level the finances at the club before looking to invest heavily in the playing squad. Yet Big Dick in a recent interview also went on to say that:

“When you look at the Stadium of Light and the facilities here, the club needs to do things differently than they’ve done in the past. This club deserves more than its had over the last five years. There’s been five years with five managers, which isn’t positive. Hopefully, now, the club can create something that the owner can be a bit more proud of.”

If what the little general has said to the press is true, then the best thing that may come from his time at the helm could be a new approach to stability and success. Gone would be the days of gambling on inexperience and promise, and instead would be a period of calm, measured, progress. We the fans don't expect Europe and trophies, we long for stability and a chance to grow as a club through sustainable order. I guess the big question now is who will be the man to be given the chance to do just that?

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love sick from dick...
Who is next?

So no more Dick in our lives but here's a nice little positive story from an unlikely source. Anyone remember big Alfred N'Diaye? Well he's just earned us £350,000 without even being here. Sunderland sold N'Diaye to Real Betis for £1m last summer but only received around £650,000. However Betis comfortably won promotion so have had to shell out the extra money that they owe us. We still made a loss on him after signing him for £3m, but every little helps as the saying goes. Good old Alfie!

With the departure of Dick Advocaat, Sunderland are looking for a new manager and the bookies have two clear front-runners in the race.

Sam Allardyce is the favourite with him currently priced at 11/8 but Paul Clement is also close behind. The ex-Real Madrid assistant has now shortened to 4/1 and looks a credible option despite him linked to the vacant Derby County job. Bound to be lots of movement in the betting markets but worth keeping your eye on it.

It seems Dick Advocaat was not influenced by the clubs lucrative offer to stay on as manager. The Dutchman was reportedly offered the best wages ever in his career to take the job permanently - but ultimately refused.

It looks like the rigours and strains of managing a Premier League football club were just too much at his age and the hassle was the main reason for him turning the job down.

It feels like we've broken up with a partner or something…

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Stability...
by eve sayers

So big Dick has gone. It’s a shame to see him leave as I think a lot of people were banking on him staying.

It’s hard to imagine that many managers can come in and gain the respect of the players as quickly as Dick did, he’s a remarkable individual. Whilst it is disappointing to see him leave, it’s understandable and I wish him all the best in his retirement.

He did his job, he kept us in the Premier League. And he left with a 100% record against Newcastle, what a bloke. He has some unbelievable honours in his career, including the Champions League but the fact he picked Sunderland out as a highlight just shows what Sunderland can do to you. We get under your skin and once you’ve felt a part of the club, it’s hard to leave. Like Advocaat said, it was Sunderland or nobody. And unfortunately for us, it was nobody. Although Dick has reportedly said he’d be open to international management, just not domestic. It’d be nice to see do well somewhere on the international scale.

Maybe this is becoming a bit tiresome but we genuinely do have the makings to be a big club. We’ve got Ellis Short, we’ve got the stadium, we’ve got the training facilities and we’ve got the fans. The 6th biggest average attendance in the country for a team that’s fighting relegation almost every season is a fantastic but often overlooked achievement.

Dick echoed similar comments himself and hopefully whoever comes in has a long-term plan and makes this club great again. Big Sam is favourite but is he really what we need? Whilst I think he’s a better appointment than McClaren and would almost guarantee Premier League football every season, it wouldn’t be the most excitement managerial appointment.

But can Sunderland afford to picky and go with excitement? We have to get this one right, we cannot afford to get someone and then ultimately sack them in March and but stuck in a relegation battle again because if that were to happen, I think a lot of people at the club will have had a enough. Short has the summer to make this appointment but needs to get someone in in time to convince the 4/5 quality players we need to join the club.

Whoever we get must bring stability and must earn the respect of the players as much as Dick did and he must have a long term vision. Paul Clement is another name being thrown around but with no first hand experience he may be too much a risk. Michael Laudrup is also another one being mentioned, the Dane did well at Swansea and wouldn’t be a terrible appointment.

I’ve said previously I’d love David Moyes at Sunderland, I admired him at Everton, he did well with a low budget at the Toffees and was harshly done by at United, he was given an impossible task. Though I think it’s unlikely Moyes would love Real Sociedad, there is plenty of quality out there.

Ellis Short needs to get this one right.

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Dick departs...
by jack shields

So Dick Advocaat has turned down the offer to manager Sunderland next season and departs with a heavy heart.

I must say, I think it's the right decision - as much as I enjoyed the man during his short spell here.

Under Advocaat there were obvious differences. The players looked reborn with confidence, we were more open and attacked more which made us much easier to watch.

Most importantly - he got the results which ultimately kept us in the division. For that I think every Sunderland fan has to be extremely grateful.

But long-term, for me it was very hard to see a future with Advocaat in charge.

The end of the Poyet reign was so depressing and there was such as a negative feeling about the club that anyone with a different personality would have seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Advocaat was simple in his approach - try and lift the players and get a team spirit back. In the short-term it worked. The players responded to his aura and we picked up enough points to survive.

But there are bigger issues at Sunderland. We have a club lacking in direction, a squad very low on both quality and quantity and a transfer system that has badly failed in recent seasons.

To put it simply, there's a bit of work to do at this club.

Nearing 70 years of age and with a desire to be closer to his family in the Netherlands, Advocaat could never have properly committed to the big task of managing our great football club. It would have been a case of another short-term fix, leaving us in the same position in a season or so.

Another stumbling point may have been the system. The club have been hell-bent on the Head Coach/Director of Football model with Lee Congerton playing an increasingly important role in the future development of the club.

Whether or not Advocaat would have been able to operate within that system, I'm not sure. He seems to be from the old-school style of managers that like discipline and control.

One thing that I think the club will sorely miss however is his contacts and standing within football. Over the years, Dick will have worked with an impressive list of players, coaches and board members.

This is why I think he could still offer Sunderland something in a consultant type role, offering his advice. It could turn out to be valuable.

What happens next then?

The club needs to look for someone to sustain results long enough to see the club progress.

It may be Allardyce or Clement or someone different, it's a big decision and thankfully out of our hands because it's not an easy one.

So it's a case of "Cheers Dick!" And all the best.

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My love for Big Dick
Goodbye, it was a pleasure

I was sorry to read this evening that the Little General has decided not to stay with us; however, I understand that this will be his last football gig, therefore, I feel it was somewhat of a great honour.

He came to us when the club, team and fans seemed to be in yet another crisis. This one somehow felt much worse than ever before, yet, he seemed to make what I thought may be the impossible possible and he helped secure our EPL status.

The man came across as realistic, no nonsense, was able to sort through the crap and motivate our team. His tears at The Emirates brought tears to my eyes, seeing such emotion from such an experience manager was nothing short of magic! It demonstrated that he understood the passion, commitment and dedication that we the fans feel. This is a man who is not known for showing his feelings to players or fans – the term Little General was fitting!

Dick restored my faith again, I would like to see him in some sort of consulting capacity, he is clearly a leader of men who understands what needs to be done.

Yet, we move on, I have my own views who I don’t want, but, it’ll be interesting to watching the pundits suggest the runners and riders and our next adventure unfold.

Good bye Big Dick, thank you for the memories, it has been nothing short of a pleasure!

Melanie

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Dick Says No...
Big Dick Gone

Dick Advocaat will not be Sunderland's head coach next season. Dick Advocaat explained his decision “At certain moments in your life you have to make a decision and I am almost 68 years old now. A number of clubs contacted me but the decision was always Sunderland or nobody. I would like to thank the chairman, Lee, the staff and of course the fans. We gave everything in our time there and achieved what we set out to. Sunderland has been one of the highlights of my career.”

Ellis Short had this to say: “Although I am extremely disappointed, I understand and absolutely respect his decision. In his brief time here he made a real impact and lifted the club with his experience and enthusiasm. We will always be grateful to him for what he achieved.”

Sunderland AFC sporting director Lee Congerton added: “I know it was a tough decision for Dick to make but he felt that he couldn’t commit to the intense rigours of club management on a longer-term basis and we respect his honesty. In his short time here he was fantastic to work with. He had and will continue to have the utmost respect of everyone here at Sunderland. I would like to sincerely thank him, along with his assistant Bert van Lingen and coach Zeljko Petrovic for the hard work and dedication they showed in the last two months and they leave with the very best wishes of everyone at the club for their achievements.”

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well are you staying?…
PVA CRAIC TOO

Here's an interesting slant on the Advocaat will he - won't he question. Advocaat could actually stay at Sunderland even if he turns down the job as Head Coach.

Advocaat has said he may stay in a consultant type role and help Lee Congerton with issues such as appointing his replacement and players to transfer: "If I don't stay as Head Coach then this is a possibility, that depends on a few things, some football related and some not."

Sunderland are apparently very keen on Advocaat staying as the popular "Little General" has impressed in his short stay here.

He is set to decide in the next 24 hours: "We'll see. It is not only up to me. They have offered me two or three years but I have to be honest to everybody what I will do for the future." Ha’way man Dick, the suspense is killing us!

I must admit, at times I wasn't so sure we'd survive relegation so was very relieved that we confirmed it last week at the Emirates. Another man who was relieved was Paddy van Aanholt.

The left-back has been one of our stand-out performers this season with his transfer being one of Sunderland's best bits of business last summer.

Van Aanholt reckons the Premier League is the only place to be: "To still be in the Premier League is all we wanted. It's the best league in Europe and i'm glad we made it in the end."

The Dutchman has settled on Wearside after only making three league appearances at Chelsea and loan spells at Coventry, Leicester and Vitesse Arnhem: "Of course I’m happy with the way the season has panned out for me. I left Chelsea because I wanted to play games and I’ve had the opportunity to do that. I was unlucky with my dislocated shoulder but apart from that I’ve played all matches."

PVA played against his old club for the first time on Sunday and received a mixed reaction: "Because of the injury I missed the game against them in November - so I really wanted to play. It would have been nice to win or draw but they were better than us and it wasn't to be." Sighs of relief all round.

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ALS BLOG…
bY Jack Shields

Should I Stay or Should I Go? No, The Clash are not playing at the Stadium of Light, it's obviously the big talking point for Sunderland fans this week. Should Dick Advocaat remain as manager for next season?

The majority of supporters will answer yes and welcome him back with open arms however I think we should all remain a bit cautious.

Granted the little fella has done a very good job in his short (pardon the pun) spell here, but whether or not he'd be able to carry it on over a full season I'm not so sure. I think he benefitted from low expectations, we didn't know much about him and didn't expect too much.

It was almost a win-win situation. If we go down, the blame would (and rightly so) go to Gus Poyet for his large chunk of the season. If he keeps us up, Advocaat is the toast of Sunderland and looks like a hero.

There have been improvements. Sunderland are much easier to watch now under Advocaat, we attack more and create more chances. The players look much more confident and there's a positive feeling back around the club.

But, of course, there are a few downsides. It's hard to see a long-term future with Dick at the helm because of his age. His fitness and desire may be questionable if things get difficult and he decides the job is too much hassle.

The famous "Linda" Advocaat apparently isn't best pleased at the idea of Dick staying in England. He did the classic husband thing of saying one thing but then having the idea of doing something different. How big of an influence she has on his decisions, remains to be seen.

I sometimes think as fans of this wonderful club we are too sentimental. We get connected to managers and players and forget that football can be a cruel business at times. We all loved singing the Martin O'Neill chant. We were ecstatic when Paolo Di Canio slid on his knees at St James and Gus Poyet's name rang around the SOL when we survived last season.

Ultimately all of our recent managerial appointments haven't gone as planned and have quickly been dismissed when the ship started to sink.

I'm not saying that Advocaat will go the same way, but I just think Sunderland fans should look at things with their heads rather than their hearts. We all know how we can get let down when things seem to be picking up.

What of the other contenders? Other options are Sam Allardyce and David Moyes. Moyes is on a contract in Spain with Real Sociedad but if we got our money right he would surely listen to any offer Sunderland had to make him.

Allardyce would be a stable but underwhelming appointment. A few may have reservations about his style of play, but I think he would move us away from our annual relegation battle and give us a platform for a couple of seasons. He also has Premier League experience in bucket-loads but his age is another negative aspect long-term.

Outsiders such as Michael Laudrup (raking it in with his current job in the Middle East) and Steve McLaren (Mags apparent chief target) may get mentioned but don't appear to be concrete suggestions.

The bookies currently have Advocaat an odds-on favourite to be Sunderland manager, perhaps they know something we don't.

So in summary, I'm not Anti-Advocaat. I like the man and would have no qualms about him taking the job permanently.

But if he does, lets not get carried away. It might end in tears.

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Dick craic…
dAnny graham too

Nice morning to wake up to even if my hearing has not returned from what was an excellent Foo Fighters concert at the SOL last night. In today’s news, there’s plenty of Dick Advocaat craic starting with Jack Rodwell, who he believes has potential to turn into a star for Sunderland - but only if he can improve his poor fitness record: "I think Jack is still a promising player for this club. He's only 24 years old and I still believe in him with the way he can play. But he cannot go on the way he is now, because you can't count on him." Advocaat wants him to change his injury prone nature: "Someone, it doesn't matter who, has to find out what is causing his problems. Of course it affects his confidence."

Meanwhile, the Dutchman, may not even be here next season, but he's still recommending potential signings to Director of Football, Lee Congerton - what a man. The gaffer said: "I've spoken to him about some players, yes. We've done a little bit of planning but it's difficult for Lee to start because of the situation.” More from Advocaat who believes, however, that the club doesn't have to spend a fortune: "Look at Swansea and Southampton, for the last five years they've been an example of how you can do it with good football. Manchester United are a company spending £300million but we can't do that."

There's also a nice line about the supporters from Advocaat to finish things off: "You can still do something if you have 40,000 supporters coming here every 14 days. Ellis Short knows that."

Finally, Danny Graham also wants Advocaat to stay but hopes whoever comes in gives him a chance to keep on impressing: “A lot of players want him to return. Hopefully that will be the case. We have all thoroughly enjoyed working with him. It has been very pleasant over the last seven or eight weeks. If he did come back it would be a massive coup for the lads and the club. If someone comes in, hopefully we all have clean slate and we all have to fight for the jersey on the first day of the season. Whatever happens I am sure everyone will be looking forward to another season in the Premier League. It’s been nice to be involved at this stage. The most important thing is that it wasn’t just about me, it was the whole squad, the whole team. Whoever has played has tried to make sure we stayed up, it has been good to get a run of consecutive games. I just want to come back now and whoever the manager is, make sure I am in his plans. A lot of the lads will be looking forward to a break whereas I just want to keep playing. I am just pleased I have given myself a chance of showing that I can come back and be a part next year. That’s what I want, I have enjoyed being involved again. And it’s been great to stay up.”

The striker was also positive about how we played in the last month: “Since the new gaffer came in we have looked stronger, picked up valuable points in some big games like against Southampton and Everton and then Arsenal. Those [points] made sure we were safe. We have been positive towards the end of the season but we have to come back and make sure we are not in this position again. It’s been two years in a row and we need a better season. We have not really had lows at the end of the season. I think we could probably have avoided defeat at Chelsea because we had enough shots on goal. They took their chances. The boys have put in a massive effort over the last few days, we went to Arsenal and got a point. We got beat – but we can’t look too down at that.”

The season may just be over but the club have already announced details of our first pre season game. It will take place against Darlington 1883 FC on Thursday 9 July, in a 7.45pm kick off at Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland. Ticket details and further announcements regarding pre-season plans will be confirmed in due course on the club’s official website, www.safc.com.

We will also face League One side Doncaster Rovers on Wednesday 29 July, in a 7.45pm kick off at The Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster. Tickets for the clash will be priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions and juniors. Further announcements regarding ticket purchases and pre-season plans will be confirmed in due course on the club’s official website, www.safc.com.

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ALS BLOG…
bY EVE SAYERS

All in all it was a pretty poor season and arguably the worst since we were promoted back to the Premier League. But we beat the Mags twice (again) and stayed up so at least we have something to shout about. It’s pivotal that we 4-5 quality players in the summer, we can’t make any mistakes this time.

For now, I’m going to try to pick out the five highlights of our season. Yes, five…

1. Adam Johnson’s injury-time rocket again st the Mags. It was three in a row at this point and we needed the three points to stop us falling further down the table. Lee Cattermole’s reduce in the first 15 seconds was a thing of beauty, Steve Taylor smashing his face off the post was even more beautiful and nothing was as beautiful as Adam Johnson’s winner. Anthony Taylor opted to play the advantages on the two fouls in Johnson’s run, AJ then gave it to Fletcher who fed it to Buckley who crossed it, Johnson controlled and won it for Sunderland, absolute scenes. And that Klinsmann at the end, what a night.

2. The signing of Jermain Defoe. To get Jermain Defoe in a straight swap for Jozy Altidore was fantastic business; Lee Congerton certainly pulled that one out of the bag. To get the 11th all -time Premier League goal scorer was a hell of a deal because sadly, players of Defoe’s stature don’t always come to Sunderland. The experience Defoe which brought to the club was great and it certainly bolstered our attacking options.

3. 5 in a row. Poyet had not long been sacked, Advocaat was new at the club and many fans were skeptical about him. Our home form was dreadful and the player’s confidence was at an all time low. Newcastle weren’t much better, John Carver made the club look like a circus and the game could’ve gone either way. The only goal of the game came out of no-where. It was nearly half-time and many fans were in the concourse but the fans who were in the seats stayed there and spent the whole of half-time bouncing about celebrating. Fletcher got his head to Pantilimon’s goal kick and headed it down for Defoe who hit a spectacular volley past Krul. No one could’ve saved that. Theirry Henry’s comments after the game optimized Sunderland, he’s played in the World Cup and Champions League but said he’d never seen an atmosphere like it and never seen fans celebrate as much unless they were waiting for their team to lift a trophy. What a day.

4. The Everton game. Despite the win against Southampton the previous week boosting confidence at the club, not many would’ve put us down to win. Dick had Sunderland well organized and after Danny Graham’s heroic performance the week before, it was delightful to see him grab his first goal for us. You could see what it meant to him and it meant an awful lot to us, if we were going down, we were going down with a fight and that’s all the fans wanted to see. When Defoe doubled our lead, the three points were secured and that win was crucial in our survival.

5. The Arsenal game. Needing a draw to secure our survival was always going to be a tough ask, we were under a huge amount of pressure and the fact it was away to Arsenal made the task even harder. Arsenal themselves needed a point to secure an automatic place in the Champions League so it was always going to be a tough game. Despite the fact we needed a draw, Advocaat still opted to play three strikers, the man is a genius. His positive mindset paid off as we secured a 0-0 draw, and we could’ve even won the game if we took our chances. To see Advocaat crying at full-time was a touching moment, the Dutchman has the Champions League to his name but keeping us in the Premier League made him cry for the first time in football. He knows what it means to us, he gets it.

Hopefully Advocaat’s wife will let him take the job permanently and Short will promise Dick 4-5 quality players. Bring on next season!

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More reflective craic…
Fletch and dick happy

Another season come and gone, I’ve aged about 10 years in the last 10 months. So has Steven Fletcher by the look of his hair but the Scot was relieved to end his goal drought: “Yes, it’s been a while, so it’s good to get on the score-sheet. We knew going there that it was going to be hard, with them winning the league. They keep the ball for fun, and they’re nice to watch, even when you’re playing against them. But I thought we put in a good performance.”

Fletch also praised the boss, Dick Advocaat: “We’ve got a new way of playing under the new manager, we are creating chances. As a striker you want chances, so that’s been good. If he does stay, that would be great for us next year. It’s down to the manager now and the board speaking to him and how it works out. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. There will be a lot happening in the summer. There’ll be a lot of people leaving too, so it will be interesting to see what happens. He’s a hero with the Sunderland fans for keeping us up. We’ve reacted to him because he’s given us the belief. He’s brought the best out of us. He fills us all with confidence. He talks to you individually and is a good man-manager.”

Speaking of Big Dick, here are some more quotes from him: “If, IF, I’m not coming, someone needs to come in who knows they’re building a team. They must have a clear idea of what they’re doing, a philosophy. He must work like I have on a lot of movement and that kind of thing.”

“I have been in several leagues and I have managed national teams as well – Holland etc – and four years with Rangers. But this was great. It was difficult as well because it is better if you start at the beginning (of the season) because then they know what they have to do. When we came in, we had to tell them there’s only one way, and that’s my way. The players adapted really, really quick and their commitment to the club was really great. They did it and I’m really proud of them,” the Dutchman added.

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post chelsea craic…
REACTION

Sunderland lost 3-1 away to Chelsea in what proved to be a nothing fixture. A goal from Steven Fletcher opened scoring but Chelsea were were drilled and Eden Hazard was ruthless, meaning they had enough to recover comfortably for the win. After securing survival away to Arsenal, it was nice to just sit back and relax to watch the game and despite the 3-1 defeat it wasn’t a bad performance from the lads. Elsewhere, Hull went down whilst Newcastle avoiding relegation to guarantee another 6 points for SAFC next season. Cheers lads.

Dick Advocaat believed we played some good football in the defeat, and were unlucky not to take more. He said: "It was a very positive performance. We played some good football and we had opportunities to score goals, but you can see the difference in quality and that is why they score easier than we do. They had most of the possession but the way we work and control the passing is getting better and better every week. I really enjoyed the game because the players tried to play more than we have before. We were very organised but we gave away two easy goals when there was no need to.

"Tiredness definitely played a part but the pressure wasn’t there today and sometimes having it can be a good thing. What I saw today was good for the future. I have really enjoyed my time at the club. We have great players and they have all worked hard to get the results we needed."

Advocaat may have taken his last game in charge of Sunderland, and he admits that the highlight of his stint in the North East is staying up against Arsenal. Advocaat said: “The highlight is without a doubt Wednesday night. It was a great reception for everyone on the pitch with the supporters and in the dressing room with the players. The camaraderie between the players and the staff is what you want to see."

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