Where has it gone wrong for Sunderland?

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Football Blogs, Premier League, Sunderland
Tags: , ,

It is amazing how quickly things change in football. The 22nd January saw Steve Bruce’s Sunderland reach 37 points after defeating Blackpool. Seven fixtures later and with just one solitary point added; The Black Cats find themselves in 12th place and dangerously close to being dragged into a relegation dogfight. On the verge of Europe to relegation contenders in the blink of an eye, what has changed on Wearside?

The bank account maybe between £18-24 million better off at the Stadium of Light but Darren Bent, whether you rate him or not, would be a huge miss for any club. Bent had a very successful 18 months at Sunderland but after joining Aston Villa in the most recent transfer window, Sunderland have found themselves in reverse; huge coincedence or did Sunderland rely on the England international too much? When you see that Bent scored 32 Premier League goals for the Black cats in just 58 games, it is hard to argue that it was just an untimely coincidence. Furthermore Bent and Sunderland’s flamboyant pre season signing Asamoah Gyan had formed an ‘in sync’ partnership and looked like forming a deadly partnership for years to come. Gyan however despite being as lively as ever has now only scored twice since Bent’s exit. (which is a shame for football fans, even Geordies, because we all enjoy Bolo Zenden trying to impersonate Gyan’s dancing celebrations.)

The usual clichés are thrown around when a player moves on to pastures new, ‘wish him the best of luck’, ‘thank him for his services to the club’ and my personal favourite ‘I hope it works out for him.’ However Steve Bruce acted bitter towards Bent, Aston Villa and Gerard Houiller, failing to give the normal courtesies in these situations. An uncompromising manager such as Bruce does command the dressing room and perhaps Sunderland’s sudden slump has a lot to do with Bruce’s negative attitude being carried over into the dressing room. Good Managers likes Steve Bruce, absolutely affect the dressing room, which they absolutely must, however like all things there is a flip side, which Sunderland are maybe currently experiencing.

One player doesn’t make a team though and Steve Bruce has spent bold and he spent big in the transfer window leading up to the 2010/1 season and in January. Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon joined Bruce’s side in January to add to the likes of Ahmed Elmohamady, Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan whose services Bruce has secured either on loan or permanently for vast sums of money. Steve Bruce’s financial outlay has seen The Black Cats losses (as of 15th February) rise by over a £1 million from the previous year, this takes into account £28 million spent on new purchases, but doesn’t include club record signing Asamoah Gyan’s transfer fee. Any club chairman or owner would expect to see promising results in the league to justify such excessive spending when clearly it isn’t helping the ‘books.’

There is no denying it was looking like it was going to be a very exceptional and promising season for Sunderland, with thoughts of Peter Reid’s back to back seventh place finishes maybe being eclipsed. However the sceptics out there would have realised that since Sunderland’s return to the top flight they have finish 15Th, 16th and then 13th, admittedly not all under Bruce, but there is an element of perhaps the Black Cats were over performing with their European qualification aspirations this season. Every season needs a fairytale and Sunderland were promising to be it but sadly for the Mackems, like seasons before them, they will more than likely finish in the bottom half; especially when you see they still have to play Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.

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