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borini is back...
good

Sunderland have brought Fabio Borini back from Liverpool, on a four year deal, for £7m.

Borini had this to say: "I am delighted to be back at Sunderland. It is a club I know really well from my time here previously. It will be emotional for me to play at the Stadium of Light again and I can’t wait to get back on the pitch as a Sunderland player.”

Dick Advocaat added: “Fabio is a great addition to the squad who will make our front line stronger. He can play in a number of attacking positions which is a huge benefit to the team.”

Lee Congerton chipped: “Fabio is a player who I’ve known since he was 15 years old and I was fortunate enough to help recruit him to Chelsea. He has developed into a Barclays Premier League striker which we have already seen from his previous loan spell at the club, and we are delighted to have him here on a permanent basis.”

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MURPHY'S LAW
The Apotheosis of Fabio Borini

I don't know how or why we reached the position we find ourselves in, but Fabio Borini has just joined Sunderland AFC for the second time in his career.

One could explore Wikipedia for all the relevant Borini statistics — how many goals he scored and made, our win percentage with him in the team, it's all factual. Stats don't make stories though; narratives do.

Borini's time at Sunderland was marred with the most peculiar of emotions I've ever felt supporting this club, and I believe that's the reason he was so popular with the fans. It was a matter of good timing, with Borini entering the fray on the back of Di Canio's departure. It was a terrible time to be a Sunderland fan, with Paolo fuelling tensions between our supporters and quickly becoming the pantomime villain after his chin patting against West Brom. Out of the darkness, with Gus Poyet's arm around his shoulder, walked Borini, straight into the Wear-Tyne derby.

As far as christening goals go, as far as derby winners go, that was up there with the best. Borini's strike against Newcastle made him an instant poster-boy for Sunderland AFC, when the club desperately needed a figure of affection. The fans had lost that connection with their football club, and Borini was the perfect link between the two tragically separated entities.

Borini's second derby goal was just as sweet, albeit not as significant. Fabio famously laughed in the face of Tim Krul as the grotesque Dutch keeper attempted to psych him out. An amateur mistake. Borini's mental coolness was directly proportionate to his physical coolness, and with a hot girlfriend, the body of a Spartan, and the most iconic goal celebration we've seen at SAFC for some time, Fab was cool as fuck. No debate. He slotted home that penalty with the composure that only he could bring to the momentous occasion. I reiterate: cool as fuck.

The Italian was proficient in the wide areas, operating as the perfect 'inside-forward' in Poyet's system. I feel that the equally impressive performances of Adam Johnson also heightened Borini's game, and Sunderland played some of the more attractive football I've ever seen at the Stadium of Light when Fabio was in form. When he wasn't in form (and let's not romanticise this too much, he did have some poor matches), he didn't go missing from games. He showed for the ball every opportunity he had, he ran at defenders, and he always looked to attack. He nearly ran himself into an early grave at Cardiff away, if you remember.

The weakness to Borini's game was his decision-making, which I fully believe he would have improved over time. He lacked experience, just as Poyet did. An affinity was forming, no more evident than in the Capital One Cup Final.

Borini led the line on Sunday March 2nd 2014, and rewarded our faith in him with a goal of the highest quality. Outside of the foot from an acute angle, bending around the behemoth Costello Pantilimon (what ever happened to him?) and into the far corner. Euphoria. Ecstasy. 40,000+ orgasms all in tandem. Remember how it felt to see your team score in a cup final — that was him who did that.

Borini did more at SAFC in a few months than most players could do in their entire careers: scored in two derby games, scored in a cup final, and sealed our safety in the league. He is as close to a God as you could possibly get, considering he was only on Wearside for about 9 months. What more could you ask for really?

He should have joined there and then. He was a ready-made legend here, and he really messed it up. He took a gamble in an effort to make something of himself and it didn't pay off. It hurt me, but I don't blame him. The lad has no emotional or geographic attachment to Sunderland, and with an excellent season behind him, you can't fault Fabio for showing ambition, even if it was at our expense.

Let's remember why we fell in love with Fabio Borini. His work-rate, his passion, his humility, and his will to win. He is everything you want from a Sunderland player, and I'm overjoyed that we finally get to see it again. His performances really will be the make or break for us this season, and if he recaptures the form he enjoyed last time round, I've every faith he can keep us in the league again.

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more new players please...
one day to go

Well the transfer window closes at 6pm on Tuesday, September 1, so a lot of the news today surrounds potential comings and goings at the SOL. The possibility of us signing Fabio Borini (again) has reared its ugly head, although Inter are also looking at the player, but reports claim we have agreed a fee of £7m with Liverpool. We are also being linked with Borussia Dortmund striker Adrian Ramos and if/when we get another forward in, Celtic may pounce for Steven Fletcher. Dick Advocaat is also keen to bring in another defender, god knows we need one.

Meanwhile, new boy Ola Toivonen has been impressed with the quality of the players that Big Dick has brought in so far, despite us being bottom of the league going into the international break. Toivonen said: “You can see what kind of players we have here, and I think it’s only going to get better. M’Vila is a quality player, so he’s only going to get better with more fitness because he hasn’t played for a long time. And the same goes for Kaboul, who needs to get a bit more fitness, like me. This international break is a good time for the whole club to get fit and train. It’s always nice to get some minutes, especially when you’re at a new club and in a new league. It was a fantastic experience, so I’m happy. I was a little bit lucky when I won the ball in the middle and Jeremain was screaming that he had space, so I put it there and he managed to score.”

In other news, Yann M’Vila reckons he will improve as his fitness levels increase. To be fair he looks head and shoulders above the likes of Catts, Rodwell and Larsson already. He said: “I’m happy and satisfied with my first four matches. But I still don’t think I’m 100 per cent. I’m still feeling a bit breathless in the last few minutes. I don’t think it will take long for me to get there though. No, no, I don’t score a lot of goals! In 150 matches in France, I only scored three goals, which is not a lot! So I’m happy after only four games for Sunderland that I’ve already scored. Hopefully that continues. It’s very rare for me though. I think it was a good point, because at half-time, we were frustrated and we spoke about that,” added M’Vila. “But we were more motivated and came back to get Sunderland a point. We tried to change a few things at half-time, particularly in midfield – Toivonen came on to play in that 10 position. It was better, and we scored an equaliser. I’ve already watched him (Toivonen ) because he moved to Rennes, and I obviously follow that club because that’s where I started. He’s a very good player, and you saw that with the pass for Lens. I think he will help us a lot. He gives us a lot more in the final third than the other midfielders. He can keep hold of the ball and he has the good vision to find a team-mate. He’s quite quick too, so I think he’ll be a very good signing for us.”

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Bank Holiday Blog
By Eve Sayers

Another game passes and Sunderland continue to present themselves as a paradox. We’re improving on previous performances this season but at the same time we’re not getting better.

And if our defence and certain players don’t book their ideas up then we won’t progress at all this season. Of course one certain player in particular I’m talking about is Lee Cattermole.

Anyone who knows me and the editors of ALS will especially know is that I’m a massive Cattermole fan; I can’t rate the lad enough. I’m not going to make excuses for his mistakes this season, giving away a penalty in one game is bad enough but doing it again a few games later is unacceptable. I agree with Cattermole being ‘punished’ for his mistakes by Advocaat and getting hauled off early on in both games.

However, I don’t agree with our fans calls to drop him, that won’t do the team or Cattermole any good. You have to love how fickle some of us can be, he signs a new five year contract and he’s the best thing since sliced bread, he makes a few errors and he’s the liability he’s always been and should be dropped immediately? God help us if we drop our players every time they hit a run of bad form, that 25 man squad rule would hit us hard. I believe the international break will allow Cattermole time to recuperate last season’s form.

Moving on from Catts, it was nice to see Yann M’Vila and Jeremain Lens both get a goal each. They both look like quality players and M’Vila certainly showed class with his free-kick. The midfielder could be a big player for us this season, he looks competent defensively and if he can bang them in like that then I can’t wait to see more of him. Plus what Sunderland fan doesn’t love an absolute nutter?

Lens' pace is something we’ve been crying out for going forward for a few seasons. We’ve already scored six goals in four games this season and 12 goals in five if you include the Exeter game which shows we’ve definitely improving from last season’s diabolical strike rate. Toivonen made an immediate impact on his debut and played his part in Lens’ goal, if the pair continue to link up well and Defoe keeps up his form then attacking wise we’re sound. Although it would be nice to get another striker in before the window closes.

But we’ve been shambolic defensively this season and stupid mistakes keep costing us points, it’ll be a long hard season if the back four doesn’t get sorted, and quick. I’m hopeful that a fully-fit Kaboul alongside O’Shea will make the world of difference to our defence, but in my opinion, we’re in need of a full-back before the window shuts on Tuesday. If PVA is to get injured, then unless Advocaat is prepared to turn to youth then there is no real cover for him. There’s always Billy Jones who can supposedly play left-back but he’s not great in his natural position at right-back so that prospect doesn’t fill me with confidence.

The promising thing is that Advocaat sounded more positive and upbeat regarding signings post Villa, so let’s up hope that we get one or two in before Tuesday.

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Jonny Evans Anyone?
By Phil SmiTH

Jonny Evans has signed for West Brom at a knockdown price, and no one at the club seems to have batted an eyelid. That tells you everything about the gap between where Sunderland is and where it could be.

It wasn't just his exceptional performances during those two loan spells that made him stand out. Few, if any, centre halves in the modern era have exuded such absolute authority and poise when wearing red and white. The younger ones in the crowd watched him and began to see why the name 'Charlie Hurley' can make our Dads and Grandads misty eyed.

In his recent book, Roy Keane dedicated pages to his appreciation of Evans, lauding his talent and his character. Little wonder. When Jonny and Craig Gordon were on the field, the team had such a resilience and class in defence.

Though the Drumaville era was littered with transfer blunders and occasional drubbings, I loved the image the club was projecting to the outside world. There were failures, certainly, but rarely because of a lack of ambition.

Which is why you feel that if there was someone at the club with an instinctive feel for the club and the fans, (Niall Quinn, perhaps) they would have gone all out when it became clear United were willing to sell. What a lift it would have been.

At some point, we've all been asked that question in the pub. If, within reason, you could sign anyone, who would it be? Ever since his first appearance, the answer for me has always been Jonny Evans. He epitomised everything I wanted Sunderland to be. A nod to our rich history, and someone who could become the heartbeat of an upward curve in the team's fortunes.

Of course, there is every chance that the club looked at the deal and baulked at the wages, especially given Evans' injury record in recent years. If that is the case, however, I would be inclined to ask about a young chap named Younes Kaboul.

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A Game Even My Mother Would Be Proud Of
by Laura Wilson

Yesterday at Villa Park Dick Advocaat’s men looked a much improved outfit compared to previous performances, with their new-look side exciting Sunderland fans.

Based on last season’s evidence I didn’t hold much hope as unfortunately I was present at their 4-0 whitewash at the Stadium of Light on March 14.

My decision to treat my family to the Mother’s Day clash, which let’s say wasn’t one of my best, left me out of pocket and after this defeat relegation loomed.

And following many woeful defensive displays this season I didn’t expect anything less than to see a few goals fly past Costel Pantilimon.

However, what was evident this time around was their much improved striking force who provided a lively display.

And the introduction of Ola Toivonen to the squad made such a difference as he laid on the assist for the second goal.

With fellow bright new signings Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila, it poses the question as to whether or not Sunderland need any more additions to their squad.

In parts the Black Cats even controlled the game with their defence finally working as one unit.

But this is Sunderland we are talking about. I’m afraid there is still some moaning to be done.

Obviously my main rant has to be directed at Lee Cattermole who yes, is an integral player in the team, but has all too often let us down with unnecessary bursts of anger.

Also, their midfield has much to answer for as Aston Villa grew into the game and later took control.

Jack Rodwell appeared all at sea as time after time he was closed down by Villa players and was forced to pass back to his defence who have taken the brunt of the blame for recent displays.

But saying that, Aston Villa’s second goal was far too easy as Sunderland were caught sleeping.

The ball came directly from the keeper and the home side were able to glide down the pitch, whipping a ball easily into the box without any challenge from the green and yellow shirts.

But there is no reason why Advocaat’s men can’t turn this around. The fact is they have conceded ten Premier League goals that were all avoidable, and unlike last year’s scoring drought they are now providing a threatening striking force.

If only they had performed like this on my mother’s first Black Cats experience. This time we would have been walking out with our heads held high instead of leaving Wearside with our tails between our legs.

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Advocaat praises 'hard-working' performance…
Refuses to criticise catts

After a 2-2 draw away at Aston Villa, Dick Advocaat admitted he was impressed with Sunderland's 'hard-working' performance. He said: “I’m pleased with the point. It was a very hard-working performance. Some moments of the game were okay, but the majority of the match, Aston Villa were the better team. We started well in the first half, scored the goal and then gave a very easy goal away. In the first 20 minutes of the second half, we did okay and got it to 2-2. Aston Villa then took over again, and they were playing at home, and we had some problems with the movement of their wingers. I tried to explain that to the players at half-time. But in this system we play, everyone has to work, otherwise it’s too difficult for the striker up front.”

Advocaat refused to criticise Lee Cattermole, but made it clear that he thinks the midfielder should be doing better; "There's no need to concede those kind of penalties, and also the one at Leicester. I will never say a bad word about Lee Cattermole because last season in nine games he did brilliant for the team. But at the moment, those kind of mistakes are not good."

You can only assume that Sunderland are looking to bring in more midfielders, and Advocaat admitted he hopes that is the case: "We have brought players in already and hopefully there will be more over the next few days," he added. "We have a good bunch of players. On Tuesday [when the window closes] it [the season] really starts, when we know what players we have. Unfortunately, half of the group has international duties, but that’s the way it goes."

Finally, Advocaat had praise for the new man, Ola Toivonen, who linked well with Lens for the goal. He said: "Ola is a good player who has a great touch and is a bit nasty. He needs a little more sharpness. He played as an attacking midfielder for me at PSV and he has that good touch and vision. I think we did well to take him."

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post villa craic…
REACTION

Sunderland came back from behind to earn themselves a valuable 2-2 draw at Villa Park. It was a decent performance by the lads with Yann M'Vila opening the scoring with a sweet free kick. However, Lee Cattermole allowed Villa back into the game by giving away another needless penalty, which Scott Sinclair converted. Sinclair made it 2-1 to Villa just before half time, but Jeremain Lens got us back into the game after 53 minutes with an equaliser. Ola Toivonen came on at half time for Cattermole and with Lens scoring again and M'Vila finding the net the new players are looking good, but our failure to win a game so far this season leaves us joint bottom of the league with Newcastle. More new players please...

Dick Advocaat had this to say afterwards: “It was a difficult game but the boys worked really hard to get the point. We started well and Yann scored a great goal, but after the penalty Aston Villa controlled things. Following the changes at half time we were the better side for 20 minutes and scored another good goal. After that it was Aston Villa again. Overall, I am very happy with a point. Ola is a good player who has a great touch and is a bit nasty. He needs a little more sharpness. He played as an attacking midfielder for me at PSV and he has that good touch and vision. I think we did well to take him. It's important to score goals from different areas of the pitch. We still have to get games under control and I have to discuss with the players how we do that.”

Jeremain Lens also gave his views on the game and his goal: “It was great to see it hit the back of the net because I’m an attacking player and I need to score goals. I’ve already had two assists in the past games but to score a goal gives me a very good feeling, so hopefully after this point there will be a lot more to come during the rest of the season. It is better than losing and after the way we started I think we deserved a point,” continued Lens. “We made some mistakes and that was the reason we conceded two goals, but I think in general we played better than we did during the early stages of the season. After the Swansea City game we knew we needed to do the same and we did that in the first 20 minutes, and although we dropped back a bit and had to defend we had chances so it is a good result. It is so much better heading into the international break having taken something from the game, so the key now is focussing on building on this result against Tottenham Hotspur. We have good spirit and we try to play football so we will give Spurs a difficult game.”

Here's our pre match round up...

After weeks of speculation suggesting that Dick Advocaat would walk if he didn't get the players he was promised, the manager has denied that he is leaving. Hopefully that means we will get a few more in before the window shuts? "I never said that I will quit this club. I hope I can stay until the end of the season. Honestly. This is a great club, I really mean that. I have been at many great clubs but this is a really special one. I have had a good talk with the president and also the players this week. The team will be there for me," he added. "We did it last year [avoid relegation] and we will do the same again. That is the feeling I have now and we know how to do it with the players."

Thankfully, Dick is more than aware that we need a forward: “Up front we would still like to do something if possible,” he said. “A striker is our priority now for the end of the window. We’ve done really well so far, price-wise, in the market. I still think, with the players we have now, we have to fight, but, with one or two (more), then I will be very happy with this squad. And maybe on the last day I will have to make a call! I think they did really well at the end of the season last year, but it looks like we’ll have to start again. But we can only improve the way we work as a team. In principle, we start on Tuesday because then you know what squad you’ve got and you can think about how you want to work with what kind of team.”

The gaffer also sent a message to Emanuele Giaccherini, Will Buckley, Liam Bridcutt, Valentin Roberge and Charis Mavrias, who he is looking to get rid of. “We are still hopeful that some players will go to refresh the squad,” said Advocaat. "We still have to wait to see which players will go. But it’s important to know what group you have. If players don’t leave they will play for the second team. That’s the consequence if they think it’s easy here. We have to get rid of some players, with all respect to them. Some managers like certain players and others don’t.”

In other news, Jermain Defoe has hit back at the adverse publicity that followed him advertising for a PA. Sick of this story now! Defoe said: “If I was one of those footballers who was stumbling out of nightclubs, drunk, smoking, then I guess I’d be fair game. But I don’t do any of those things. If I wasn’t representing my club or my family in the right way, then I’d have no problem about anyone writing anything they wanted about me. But when people are writing about things that are irrelevant, and turning things against me, I don’t think that’s fair. People have been writing all kinds of things about this PA stuff, so I want to clear it up. The intention from the start, certainly from me, was that the job would be to provide support for my family who have been trying to run my foundation. I’ve launched that to build and run a children's’ home in St Lucia, but I guess the headlines about that aren’t as interesting as the other stuff that was written. The help that was needed was going to be focused on the foundation because my family have been doing their best, but it’s becoming a bigger and bigger job. It’s things like organising the gala dinners to try to raise funds, organising the trips to St Lucia so I can do my charity work and get the people over there who are needed to make the whole thing run. I’ve been building a children's’ home and it’s nearly complete now. I’d rather people talk about that – positive stuff – and talk about my football as well because that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on since I’ve been here. I always try to conduct myself in the right way, especially since I’ve been getting older, so it’s frustrating when people are writing stuff that seems so irrelevant. Am I really doing something that bad? A boy from East London trying to get on in life and do good things,” he added. “I’ve read that I can’t do this or can’t do that, but yeah, I do pack my own fridge, and yeah, I do go and get the shopping from Waitrose near where I live, most days with my girlfriend. I try not to let things get to me, because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to perform, but sometimes that’s harder than others. I can deal with things, but when my mum, my sister and the rest of my family are getting frustrated with things as well, it’s hard. I’ve dealt with much harder things than that before so ordinarily it wouldn’t bother me, but when your family are involved as well, it’s crossed a line. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. To be honest, I wouldn’t have called it a PA because I’m not someone who would ever say, ‘Oh, this is my PA’. But that’s not to say I don’t need someone to help my family do some of the things I can’t do. I’ll hold my hand up – I can’t do admin or accounts or stuff like that. I need help to do that, and hopefully that help will in turn help to change lives in St Lucia. That’s my passion away from football, but I need help to do that.”

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