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CHAMPIONSHIP RUNDOWN
BY ADAM GILL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MY FAVOURITE SUNDERLAND TEAM
BY IAN MOLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EXCLUSIVE STATEMENT FROM FULWELL 73...
TAKEOVER NEWS

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

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FIXTURES OUT…
TAKEOVER PICKING UP PACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUNDERLAND’S CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES
BY ADAm GILL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MORE TAKEOVER TALK
SHORT TO MEET FAN CONSORTIUM

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

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

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HERE WE GO AGAIN…
BY LUKE HAKIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LIMBO OF SAFC
BY ADAM GILL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PLEASE HAPPEN…
FAN RUN CONSORTIUM EMERGES

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

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

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SAFC FOR SALE
RESCUE REQUIRED…

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

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

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Pickford Craic…
Weep

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

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LIMBO…
JOKE CLUB

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

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

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

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

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SAFC CRISIS...
LETTERS SPECIAL

Dear ALS

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

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

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

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

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

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

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

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

Bob Todd
Eleebana
NSW
Australia

Dear ALS

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

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

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

Let us hope history will be repeated.

Martin Forster

Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Bacon

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THE GERMANS ARE COMING!
CLUB STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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SOMETHING BETTER CHANGE
BY JONATHAN SAGER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now this rejection.

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

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

Where do we go from here?

Who do we get to manage the team?

What will the team focus on?

What players will we sign?

Will there still be good players to sign?

Are we even going to make it through the season?

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

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

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what now...
BY PADDY HOLLIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TYPICAL, DESPICABLE ME
BY GARY BURRELL

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

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

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

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

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

Right, calm down.

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

I see Tuchel just knocked Southampton back.

It all makes sense now

As you were. GB

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MCINNES SAYS NO
SCOT TURNS US DOWN

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

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

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

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

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PICKFORD LEAVES…
£30M RICHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DEPARTURE OF PICKFORD...
BY MATTHEW HICKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COMPENSATION CLAUSE…
HURRY UP

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

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

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WHAT’S GOING ON…
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

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

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

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

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

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

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MOVING ON…
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MCINNES COMING…
JORDAN GOING

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

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

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

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MY FAVOURITE SUNDERLAND TEAM
BY LUKE HAKIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GERMAN TAKEOVER ON HOLD
PICKFORD CRAIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MY FAVOURITE TEAM
BY PADDY HOLLIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PICKFORD & DEFOE…
AND PRE SEASON NEWS

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

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

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

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

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BAIN BACK AT WORK…
GET A GAFFER IN ASAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DOES ANYONE really WANT TO MANAGE US?
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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more new gaffer crap…
hurry up

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

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

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

Dear Mr Bain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,
Alex Louise @safc_lex

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BRADLEY NOt WELL…
POOR LITTLE MAN

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

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

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

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

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WAITING FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO HAPPEN…
SEB CRAIC

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

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

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

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RESSIES REMINISCING
BY SOBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GIGGS…
AND GIGG LANE

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

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

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

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

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MY FAVOURITE TEAM
BY Martin Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COMINGS & GOINGS…
PLAYERS GETTING RESTLESS

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

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

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

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End of Season Ratings
By David Cousin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STAR PLAYERS DEPARTING GOSSIP…
INCOMING MANAGER SPECULATION

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

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

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

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

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MY FAVOURITE TEAM
BY JACOB KIRKBRIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BENNO STRAIGHT TALKING…
HOMEYMAN IN THE MONEY MAN

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

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

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

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

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

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NEW MANAGER GOSSIp...
AND PRE-SEASON PLANS

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

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

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

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

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THE SUMMER BEGINS…
NEW GAFFER SPECULATION

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

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

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AND SO IT ENDS…
BY CHRIS HARRIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya in the north stand.

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WHERE WERE YOU WHILE WE WERE GETTING HIGH?
BY FTM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The relief will be etched across the face of many a Sunderland fan after finding out Moyes has gone. We need to put this horrible season behind us and get ready for the hard slog of the Championship. Getting rid of Moyes will allow for a new and hopefully more positive vibe to come back into the club. I struggle to think of a team who would want Moyes as their next boss, especially after seeing his 16% win rate he had with us his campaign. However, the issues with our club won’t be solved by his departure. The structure of the club is a mess and we may struggle to be an attractive prospect to any decent players (or now managers) in the Championship. Our owner seems to show as little interest as possible and our scouting network is what has contributed to relegation through the signing of poor players for years now. We will bounce back, and getting rid of Moyes is a positive step, but next year will be a tough year of alteration and acclimatisation. Its times like this we as a fan base need to stick by the club.

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MOYES GONE
BY SOBS

He's gone. Inevitable, really. Now that Dour Dave's gone, in one of the least surprising moments of his reign on Wearside, we feel a sense of relief that matches the sense of relief we had 24 hours earlier when the shambles of a season was finally over.

We'd spent a decent part of the train ride home today discussing the possible outcome of today's meeting between Moyes and Short, and had decided that it would probably go something like:
"I need £x million now to rebuild the team"
"You can't have it"
"Jings, crivvens, help m'boab, ah cannae work with the shower I've brought in. I'm aff."

Mebbe not, but I wouldn't bet against that being the gist of it. Just as there were few who didn't think he was a better than decent choice last summer, there are few who are not pleased to see the back of him. Personally, I've retained a bit of the wish for continuity that we all want. and hence didn't turn right against him - the first manager to complete a full season since Bruce - as soon as a sensible man would. Now he's gone, however, I've stopped (and it was very easy to stop) feeling any loyalty towards him, and can stop defending his daft decisions and statements just because he was our gaffer. I know injuries haven't helped, but you never got the impression at any stage of the season that there was any attempt to establish a Sunderland way, a pattern of play. I know Chelsea are the polar opposite of us, but no matter what the name on the back of the shirt, they played the same formation and when they made a substitution it was either to try something different in terms of passing, or a like for like in the case of an injury. We just seemed to be a bit of a Sunday morning set-up - see who's fit and give it a try. Every move during the season seems to have been preceded by an excuse. "the players I'm bringing in aren't any better than those already here" "the players just aren't good enough" - the list is virtually endless, and the August declaration that we were in a relegation battle proved to be 100% spot on. Apart from the "battle" bit, as it's something we only seemed to do to restore a tiny bit of pride by not getting whupped by one of the Big Teams.

Perhaps Moyes realised pretty early on that he wasn't going to get the money he wanted and began his seemingly endless stream of negativity, which can't have helped the mindset of the players. Refusing to play Khazri for months, and thus depriving the team of his energy, probably affected the other players as well, as Wabi is a very popular bloke amongst the squad. Everton fans, for all his relative success there, called him Dithering Dave as he always seemed to wait too long to make a substitution. He leaves our club after one of the worst seasons in our history, with high points being those wins (pitifully few that they were) and the low points every other game, and us fans with the impression that he never really looked like he wanted to be here. He also leaves a bunch of ex-Everton players who probably only came because of Moyes (aye, I know what you're thinking) - will they want to stay? Do we want them to? Will the new man/men/woman/women want them?

Who next? I reckon it has to be someone fairly young but with a bit of experience and a will to impose a style of play, which immediately brings to mind the likes of Wagner, Monk, Jokanovic, and perhaps Staam spring to mind, although anyone with any sense would look at us and what's happened over the last few seasons and think "it's a Hell of long way to fall from that job." Nigel Pearson has been mentioned, and whilst his discipline would be welcome, he's as flaky as owt. Ryan Giggs looks about as inspiring as well, Moyes, and has zero management experience. Then we come to the dreamers' choice of Kevin Phillips plus one - again, zero experience, but he has his coaching badges, for what they're worth, knows the club, or knew the club as it was when he was here. Today is very different, but perhaps he knows what the "thing" is that's wrong but that nobody can identify. Whoever it is, we need to make sure they fully understand what they're taking on and that they're open and honest with the fans, and the club are open and honest with them, but someone with at least a hint of a smile on their face. Please.

Which brings the next question - who will be advising Ellis Short on who to appoint?

I'll leave you with that one.

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POOR DELUDED FOOL
BY GARY BURRELL

Three years ago, David Moyes left Everton as the "New Alex Ferguson". Today he leaves Sunderland as the "New Alex McLeish"

A few months ago I was watching Sky Sports News, and an item on the newly vacant managerial role at Rangers FC. They showed footage from after a Scottish football match that had been on TV that day, where Alex McLeish had been a pundit in the studio. The presenter asked him if Rangers had been in touch with him, and if he wanted the job. I can't recall any of his words. I can't remember if he said that Rangers had contacted him, but I do think he said he wanted the job.

What I do remember however, is thinking that he came across as one of the most miserable, uninspiring, boring blokes I have ever seen interviewed. I get the fact that people can be totally different off-camera ('they' reckon Nigel Pearson is a cracking bloke and not the prick he appears to be on screen. Although I'm personally sure about that like...) but this was hideous. I remember thinking that McLeish's name had cropped up previously on the list of managers that are churned out by the bookies and the media every year, when we are looking for a new gaffer. And I remember thinking I would hate for him to be SAFC Manager. Then it struck me....

Setting aside the obvious factors of Nationality and hair colour, the pair of them come across like men who believe the world owes them a favour. That nothing is ever their fault. They enjoyed a good few years of success in football management, but despite this being some time ago, they still class themselves as a 'Top, top, Manager'. But mainly, they both just seem to be really negative, really dull and really broken men. And that is how David Moyes will be remembered by many Sunderland supporters.

Nearly all of those that have briefly held the position of SAFC boss in recent years, have given us 'something'. And I don't just mean saving our Premier League status. Whether it be Di Canio sliding down the St James Park touchline, Poyet getting us to a Cup Final, Allardyce working wonders in a transfer window, Bruce achieving a top half finish (you may recall him mentioning this) or O'Neill's early months of late goals and victories over the like of Man City & Arsenal. What has Moyes given us? Nothing. Not even a slap, although he did threaten to once.

It seems almost fitting that his resignation came a day after rolling over and having his belly tickled (he definitely wouldn't have laughed by the way) by Chelsea, and their skin-crawling tribute to John Terry. A weakness that typified his time at our club. Setting in place from the beginning an expectation that we were nothing other than cannon fodder. Already doomed to fail. Just there to make up the numbers. Our time in the top flight was up in his eyes, and he was just being honest when he told us so.

Well thanks for the honesty David. I would say thanks for the memories, but there are none to thank you for.

Oh, and cheers for not taking any compensation too - Mr Short has went on record to say this is a "testament of your character", I personally think anything else would have been "taking the piss" - and enjoy your next role in football. Which I expect to be a place on the list of candidates for the position of Scotland Manager. Alongside Alex McLeish....

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MOYES GETS OFF SCOT FREE
BY LIAM CARSON

David Moyes has escaped Sunderland this afternoon but, while nearly all Sunderland supporters have headed out to buy some fireworks and sparklers to celebrate the Scot’s departure, some of those supporters also have feelings of annoyance, frustration and anger.

As the weeks of the season drifted by, Moyes somehow remained at the helm, even with the vocal disapproval from the stands.

It was in these moments that Moyes failed to have the courage and dignity to admit that he was not capable, competent or suited to the role that had been bestowed upon him.

His failure to act in moments like this, where there was a chance of salvation for the club, which makes the timing of his departure today, so hard to swallow.

Moyes, like the entire Stadium of Light, knew the club was only heading in one direction. The former Manchester United manager could have left weeks prior to our relegation, it could have provided that ‘new manager bounce’ however, he failed to act.

Moyes did not have a plan A, never mind a plan B. He refused to admit this due to his pride and ‘reputation’. Now we are left relegated and manager-less, while he has absconded, leaving us in the same position we were a decade ago, having to pick ourselves back up again.
The man was a coward. He blamed all others for the club’s failings. He admitted hiding from supporters instead of applauding their faith and support. He hid behind his past success.

Moyes had, in his own mind, developed an aura of grandeur and magnificence. The former Everton manager, to survive, was suckling off the lasting moisture of his success, from almost a decade ago, and spewed that towards the media. This self-delusion made him believe that, as a former Manchester United manager, ‘the chosen one’, he was bigger than Sunderland.

When he arrived in the summer, it was interesting, Ellis Short stated: “The fact that David has committed to a four-year deal is a clear demonstration of his belief in what he can achieve here.’

Famous last words, utter irony, depressingly Sunderland. You can chose your own description of that quote.

The disappearance of clear leadership, a lacking of real belief in the squad and limiting achievement to maybe surviving a relegation battle is why Moyes failed at Sunderland.

Last week I wrote that it would be almost criminal to let Moyes exit the club on his own terms, following our relegation. The man has been the first manager since Steve Bruce to have a full season in charge, a change in policy that has resulted in the worst possible outcome.

Why now though?
It could be that Moyes’ arrogance and self-delusion has led him to believe that he is too big of a fish to swim in the Championship pool. It didn’t stop the Champions League winner, Rafa Benitez, though, and look how that turned out.

Maybe he didn’t get the financial backing that he needed to improve the squad sufficiently, to make it competitive. It would be hard to say that this was not likely to be a factor. It is well noted that Moyes has routinely implied it as the crux of the talks and negotiations between him, Ellis Short and Martin Bain. It is also well noted that the club has limited resources to play with. It is therefore, logical to assume that this is where Moyes got up and left. Benitez stayed at Newcastle with the knowledge he had financial backing and could sell off players like Wijnaldum, Dummett and Townsend for decent fees to fund a promotion bid. It is the lack of these nice things that means Sunderland are unlikely to come straight back up.

Moyes also has his reputation to think about. He’s already crashed and burned in the Premier League, if he was to crash and burn in the Championship then he would be lucky if he was to get his next job in the Moldovan fourth division.

It could be one of these, it could be all of them or it could be something completely different that I have yet to have the slightest of desires to even think about.

One thing is for certain though, Moyes is not a saint for deciding not to take any compensation. The Scot failed to keep us up, he has then left us while we are at our lowest and apparently, he could have taken up to £3 million of compensation for his ‘services’. The club’s funeral service maybe. He did the right thing for once, in not taking the money, but there shall be no applause. He shall now be instructed to sneak off silently into the darkness and we should now not dwell on the difficulties of this season, but look to the next.

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GONE DADDY GONE
BY DAVID POUT

Not sad to see Moyes go but sad that we didn't get rid of him months ago if this was always the likely outcome of relegation. Above everything else that has happened I cannot understand the huge gulf in understanding between Short and Moyes that has been hinted at in Moyes press conferences all season. It seems Short always wanted Moyes as his Manager because he built Everton up on a shoestring, but Moyes simply couldn't be arsed to do that anymore. His short spell at Man United seems to have stroked his ego to a level that he can't justify with his results. He may have one of the biggest win ratios over the last 20 years but I'm pretty sure his win ratio for the last four years would be one of the worst in global football. And like any business partnership, a confused strategy combined with seemingly awful communication between him Ellis Short eventually led to failure and a separating of ways.

I have always wanted to believe in Ellis Short as I think he genuinely wants success on the pitch despite also wanting it in the club accounts. However, to date he has got neither right and has made bad decision after bad decision. His experimentation with Directors of Football has been laughable. How he runs his other businesses successfully I struggle to comprehend as his continuing run of badly advised decisions has led us to where we are now. I hope the only way is up for Ellis now as the opposite is unthinkable.

Ultimately Short has no real link with our club other than a financial one. It can't be in his heart the way it is in ours. So, I won't be surprised to see the club run on a shoestring in the championship until the books are balanced and he can find a buyer willing to invest in a 'sleeping giant'. If that's the case I hope we go for a young, hungry, passionate manager who sees it as the challenge of his life and is proud to be our Manager. Instead of the fear and pessimism I have had to listen to for the last nine months I want to hear pride and determination in our Managers voice every time I hear him. Most of all I want our club to have a leader I can believe in again.

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ON PAPER IT WAS OBVIOUS.
BY GILES MOONEY

I was as confident when Moyes arrived as I was when O'Neill came in. Maybe that's when I should have realised. I'd wanted him at Sunderland since he got the Everton job. The logic was clear. He'd built Preston and Everton over a period of time, developing youngsters and gradually moving the club up the league with a structure on and off the pitch. Could he repeat that with us? Well, it wasn't great. In fact it wasn't good. In fact it was odd.

Players who'd looked fitter, happier and more involved towards the end of last season got injured. Too many to be unlucky, so presumably down to training and motivation or poor medical support and fitness.

Young players arrived as expected in Love, McNair and Ndong and others were promoted to first team action but they immediately looked out of their depth and unsure of their roles. Then they got injured too. Or demotivated as they were dropped without having done anything obviously wrong.

The only player to look fit all season has been Defoe. A player who famously looks after his own fitness regime.

Moyes was an organiser, especially defensively. Always had been. And yet our defence looked like they'd never met. Formations were always chosen because the other team were good at something we weren't, never to play to our strengths.

Set pieces were, well, not set.

Allardyce had brought organisation, morale and fitness. Moyes threw that all away with his actions, selections, substitutions, attitude to the fans, interviews and media interactions. Sad but it's all inevitable after that early comment knocking the players. Was it a desperate attempt to get support from Short? We'll never know.

Whatever has happened though, his departure is a blessing as we look to a new beginning. We were, as many opposing fans have told us, in the wrong division. Ten years of falling out of love with football is over. Keeping Moyes would have been like dating the nurse from Dignitas. We need to move on.

As we look to the future it's worth noting that I don't blame him entirely and replacing him will do nothing unless we look at the business, the back room, the trainers, the medical team, the scouting structure, the money. But, of course, they're not things managers do in their first year so, first things first, let's get a manager who might have a second year.

My wish. Phillips with Reid playing the Saxton role.

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MOYES FUCKS OFF…
BYE

David Moyes has resigned! Jesus, why keep him all season and then let him go, should have sacked him at Xmas! Ellis Short stated: “I pursued the services of David Moyes for a considerable period prior to his appointment last summer, which makes the announcement of his departure difficult for everyone concerned. Having worked tirelessly throughout the campaign to avoid relegation from the Premier League, David has chosen to leave the club without compensation, which is testament to his character. In the days ahead we will take some time for reflection, and then focus on recruitment and pre-season as we prepare for our Championship campaign. We wish David well in the future.”

David Moyes said: “I would like to thank Ellis Short and the Board for giving me the opportunity to manage Sunderland and the fans for always being so passionately supportive of their club. I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League”.

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post chelsea craic…
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Sunderland were beaten 5-1 away at Chelsea in our last Premier League game. An early goal from Javier Manquillo was cancelled out by 5 Chelsea strikes, signalling why the champions are the champions, and why we are going down with a whimper. Things can only get better. David Moyes had this to say afterwards: “I don't think we deserved [the game] to finish in the fashion it did. For long periods the players did their best to hang in there. Chelsea are top for a reason and we tried to make the gap between the two teams as small as possible. Players came in and acquitted themselves well. Joleon Lescott did fine in his first game, against a top team. We had some of the young lads with us and it's good for them to see what the top level is like. If they can take something from it, it's to look at the size of the top players, their ability and how they play. We've had a difficult week with Arsenal and now Chelsea – two difficult games. It's been painful at times. We are gutted about the season, but now we have to get over it quickly and get ready to go again.”

Meanwhile Moyes reckons he won’t sell Jordan Pickford for less than £30million. Moyes said: "It would need to be a really, really big offer. I have said all through the season that sometimes on your journey, you may have to sell to improve. But I have heard some really derisory sort of figures getting mentioned, and it wouldn't be any of those figures, I can tell you that."

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It ain't over 'til it's over, goes the saying, but us Sunderland fans know it was over for definite a fortnight ago and all but statistically way before that. Actually, it's a blessing that the whole wretched thing really IS over at last.

Nevertheless, we set off for the traditional last away game weekend of frolics on Saturday, unsurprised that virtually a full team had cried off with injuries, and still wondering if we could manage Julio's Wembley dream as well as, or instead of, Chelsea's champions party.

Also under discussion, naturally, was the fact that Moyes seems to have actually lightened up since relegation was confirmed. Pressure off, perhaps?

Quick pint in Hartlepool's wonderful Rat Race bar, 1242 train south with assorted Mackems and Sanddancers, bags hoyed into hotel, bit scran as we willed Bradford to beat Milwall - look, I don't care if everything south of the river is two for a pahnd, Bradford is a lot closer- then off to see Dr Feelgood via the Euston Tap. Don't say we ignore the culture of the capital! Whether Sunderland boy Robert Kane heard our Haway the Lads chant as we appealed for the encore we'll never know.

Everyone in and around the Bloomsbury hotel area seemed to be from Shields (mostly) or Sunderland and showed no signs of slowing down when I hoyed the towel in.

Mind, when the team was announced and there was no Defoe, we feared even worse. Nevertheless, a bright start saw a Deb free deflect nicely for Manquillo to blast his first and last SAFC goal into the roof of the net. Five minutes later the almost inevitable, and definitely unstoppable, equaliser went in from Willian off Pickford's hand and that was about it. Terry's cameo lasted 26 minutes, ending his Chelsea career as it had begun, against us. Level atthe break, their second on the hour was seen coming a mile away, as the stragglers from Wembley arrived along with a few home fans who'd paid well over the odds to get in our end - and meet with universal disapproval.

The three late goals spoiled what was already spoilt, but not our spirit in the seats. We might be down, we might be out, but we're still the Sunderland boot boys. And we are mental. And we are mad. And we'll be back next season.

When asked if price tag would be in the region of £30million, Moyes replied: "Yes."

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