Black Cats back in business
The summer for Sunderland has been one of frustration, anger and general disgruntlement -- from fans and from Gus Poyet -- but finally things seem to be turning around as we near the start of the Premier League season.
August 6th, 2014
The early signings of Costel Pantillimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez were all solid if unspectacular ones, but it got the summer transfer window off to a good start.
From then on however an increasingly frustrating pursuit of last season’s stand-out performers — Fabio Borini and Marcos Alonso — lead to anger among fans and the manager.
Many pointed their finger at the newly-installed Director Of Football, Lee Congerton – the Welshman who arrived via Hamburg deemed to be unwilling to overspend. Whether he has been hamstrung by sanctions imposed by Ellis Short and the board, or whether he himself is simply incompetent were the point of discussion for many a week, and in some quarters still rumble on.
Agreeing a fee for Atletico Madrid’s Cristian Rodriguez seemed to galvanize the fans and restore some faith in Congerton; however as that went from being an ‘imminent signing’ to completely off the table in a matter of hours, the vitriol merely increased.
It’s a tough job Congerton is in. I’m not one to criticise him at all as we have absolutely no idea what he’s got to work with. The role is a new one to Sunderland fans, and if we’re honest don’t know ourselves quite how it works. I wouldn’t criticise too much what I don’t understand.
Poyet’s annoyance at Congerton’s alleged lack of ability to bring signings in spilled over into his post-match press conferences, but that all changed recently.
The arrival of Patrick Van Aanholt from Chelsea appears to be shrewd business. I myself thought about him as a solution should we not be able to get Marcos Alonso tied down this summer, and it appears the club also felt the same. A very similar skill set for the two left-backs, and it fills a major need at the club.
More recently a fee for Fabio Borini was agreed, and while the Italian decided to continue with his Liverpool side to head to the USA for a pre-season tour, the fee was at least agreed and all parties remain hopeful that that deal will, eventually, be forced over the line.
The jewel of Congerton’s reign so far would have to be the signing of Jack Rodwell from Manchester City. Fees suggested by the press say that it’s worth £10m. More credible sources suggest it’s merely rising to £10m, and the initial outlay is only around £6m.
Rodwell’s addition is a superb one. Not many 23-year old England internationals arrive for such a low fee. Of course he has had his injury problems, but I strongly doubt we would have made a move had there not been cast-iron assurances over his fitness from the club’s medical staff.
Rodwell will provide an excellent box-to-box presence and becomes an automatic starter for us. Something he’ll want, and he’s a position the fans all want.
So while some have given all sorts of abuse in the direction of Congerton and the board, quietly he is improving the team significantly in my book, with every player in so far filling a need and improving on the predecessor.
Costel Pantillimon or Keiren Westwood?
Billy Jones or Phil Bardsley?
Jordi Gomez or Craig Gardner?
Patrick Van Aanholt or … Nobody?
Jack Rodwell or Jack Colback?
For me, it’s a no-brainer.
By no means is Congerton’s work done. We still need a wide striker (probably Borini, eventually) and a couple of youthful central defenders, but there’s been nothing so far when you look at it on paper that suggests Congerton can’t get the job done.
I think it’s time to sit back and relax a little as fans and allow those in charge to do what they do. After all, they ain’t doing too bad so far…