Sunderland’s full-back finagling continues

Why Sunderland continually struggle with full-backs is really beyond me, and as the season looms this familiar problem is back once again.

Sunderland’s full-back finagling continues

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August 5th, 2013

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Whether it be left back or right back it seems to make little to no difference, in that we just can’t seem to find anyone with a modicum of Premier League quality to step up into the position. It’s a struggle to identify which of the two is the most pressing to be solved, but by the end of August we need a pair of specialists for the positions.

Looking at our left back spot, we’re down to the last man standing in Jack Colback. The fiery-haired academy product is more than capable in the position, however it’s by no means his or Paolo Di Canio’s preferred position for him, and we ought to be keeping happy with only a year remaining on his contract and a recent refusal to sign a new one until his role in the side is clarified.

Danny Rose was obviously the dream target this summer; however, we know Daniel Levy to be a horrendous (for the buying side) negotiator and it has looked little more than a pipe-dream all summer long. Lucas Orban seemed to be the only viable alternative to Colback or Rose, however the Argentine chose recently to spend his next few years in Bordeaux rather than Barnes. And so we’re back with Colback. And if he goes down with an injury then Lord only knows what we’re going to do.

It’s not just a recent problem at left back though. Arguably since the days of Mickey Gray and Martin Scott we’ve been without a specialist in the position, and even Gray was a converted winger. To put things even further into perspective, when Gray departed in 2004, Colback was yet to take his GCSEs as a dearth of fullbacks came in to try and do a job.

The left is certainly more pressing than the right in the long-term, but in the short-term our right back position is an absolute nightmare, and who will line up there come the opening day against Fulham is anyone’s guess.

Paolo Di Canio has been quick to praise the turnaround and growth into the position of Craig Gardner, a love which has been reciprocated by Gardner who insists he’s happy to do a job there. Unfortunately we’re going to be without Gardner to open the season on account of an overhanging suspension from last season.

New signing Modibo Diakite played the role at times whilst at Lazio, and while the YouTube videos of his marauding runs seemed to capture the imagination of some fans I remain yet to be convinced he can do a job there. They reminded me of little but a slightly more in-control Nyron Nosworthy, all gangly legs and head down. Not to mention Diakite has yet to feature this pre-season on account of injury.

Perhaps John O’Shea could come in, but we’d be removing the new captain of the side from his best position in the centre of defence. Similarly the impressive Wes Brown .

Don’t even bother suggesting there’s a return on the cards for Phil Bardsley either, after he’s spent the summer training with the Under-18’s and generally happy to pick up his cheques rather than move on to anywhere who’ll have him. A summer pursuit of highly-rated Argentine Gino Peruzzi has looked to be fruitless as an injury has seen him return to his homeland for further rehabilitation before any fresh move can be made.

If I was to hazard a guess at this stage I’d think for the opening of the season we’ll see a new name emerge against Fulham in the form of Valentin Roberge. The Frenchman has been little more than a barely noticeable sub so far this pre-season but one or two games at left back whilst training in Italy might mean he gets the gig at home on the opening day.

This would of course mean Colback switches to right back, however he’s done that before and done it well.

Despite summer investment it’s a familiar old problem which hangs over the club. At least Di Canio has acknowledged it in the press, and isn’t content to continue on with plodders such as Bardsley in a way Martin O’Neill was.

New names are likely to be linked, and this continually baffling situation should be sorted before the start of September, but it’s just a huge annoyance that this never seems to be able to be sorted out.

New season, new era, new regime… One familiar problem.

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