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Sunderland: Half term report‘Get Exclusively Live Barclays Premier League Games for just £5 per month* - no contract required’
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"Central defence is a problem area and Paul McShane and Danny Higginbotham haven’t looked like Premiership first choices for a lot of the time. Greg Halford still has to win the fans over too" The half term report on Sunderland has to be a disappointing one given the expectation that had been created on Wearside by the team’s performance last season and the riveting influence of Roy Keane.
On the plus side though, this is already a much better campaign than Sunderland fans had to endure the last two times they were in this division and only two performances have been really unacceptable.
One was the seven goal drubbing at Everton and the other was the three goal defeat at Wigan, a side that the Black Cats shouldn’t be conceding an easy defeat to. These two games apart, the team have made a game of it while missing some key names.
There’s been a lot of focus on the signing policy at the Stadium of Light but Roy Keane has had to manage without three key men for most of the campaign- Carlos Edwards (who is out again), Kieran Richardson and Dean Whitehead.
This season was never going to be the smooth ride that some observers convinced themselves it would be and Keane needed all his first teamers available to make the required impact.
It has to be said also, that there have been concerns about some of the manager’s acquisitions. Central defence is a problem area and Paul McShane and Danny Higginbotham haven’t looked like Premiership first choices for a lot of the time. Greg Halford still has to win the fans over too.
Michael Chopra started with a bang but then found goals hard to come by and Anthony Stokes looks like what he is- a young player still learning the game despite his potential.
Even Craig Gordon- a British record signing for a keeper- has had his troubles although to be fair, playing behind a porous back line didn’t help his confidence.
Buying Kenwyne Jones though, looks a top decision. The Trinidadian striker may have looked a bit expensive but he has the power and aerial ability to unsettle any defence and if he stays fit the Black Cats are always going to be in with a chance in games.
As with most of the clubs near the foot of the table, the January transfer window will be crucial to their hopes and there seems little doubt that Niall Quinn will find the money to allow Roy Keane to get the men he wants.
When Keane went into the market over the summer he often referred to ‘character’ as a critical requirement in his squad. The number of times that the team have scored late in games is a big plus point- motivation and commitment are still high and the belief to force the issue in the last quarter could make all the difference.
Though Sunderland have been bumping around near the bottom, the team have never had the feel of a relegation side and it would be a surprise if they are one of the trio to go down.
The first half has been a steep leaning curve and some members of the squad have been found wanting. However, there’s enough quality available-and returning to action - to make for an optimistic 2008.
If the manager can put out a side containing Jones, Whitehead and Richardson on a regular basis they are bound to be a more threatening and solid outfit.
Squarefootball Target- Survival; Current Rating- D
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