Fan Focus: Sunderland

by Kevin Coleman

Today we interview Simon Walsh, Sunderland fan and editor of the fantastic Roker Report blog.

What is your greatest hope for the season ahead

Greatest hope would be a more secure Top Ten finish, perhaps a cup. Either way, Europe by hook or crook would be a fantastic, and possible achievement.

And your biggest fear

Well as any Sunderland fan will tell you, the ever present danger is relegation. This year is no different despite the spending, the danger of it just lurks round the club like a bad smell.

Thoughts on the club’s summer transfer business

Absolutely delighted with it. Whilst nobody outside the North East would really consider the likes of Wes Brown & John O’Shea to be ‘massive’ signings, they will be for us. Two players who have signed from the best team in the country, and played at the highest level. Our problems last season were not entirely down to injuries, or Darr£n B£nt’s departure (although they contributed) it was down to not being savvy enough to hold on to leads and the like. We hope John & Wes will bring this.

As for our other signings, Kieren Westwood was highly sought after, so glad to have gotten him. David Vaughan was the unsung hero of Blackpool’s season, and will contribute well. Craig Gardner (hopefully) adds the midfield goalscoring threat we’ve lacked for years, and his former Brum teammate Seb Larsson appears to actually be able to deliver a corner past the first man, which is refreshing. Of course, in Connor Wickham’s signing too, we’ve added the best player aged 18 or younger in the country, and possibly Europe. As for Ji Dong-Won, not seen much of him, but his pre-season form has been encouraging.

I’ve a feeling there’s more to come too.

Who’ll be your most important player this season

Combination of two really. Asamoah Gyan will be crucial as our most prominent goal threat. Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham are very talented, but a little raw to be relied on in the Premier League. Another important player will be Stephane Sessegnon. Sess is immensely talented, and he just hit his peak towards the end of last season, if he can carry it on, then we’re golden. This depends largely on where Brucey plays him though, as he has a tendency to put Sess wide, when he has much less impact than ‘in the hole’.

And who’s the fan favourite

Well the fan favourite, rightly or wrongly, is Phil Bardsley. Came in at left-back last season to cover and made it his own, walking off with the Player Of The Season award in the process. Asamoah Gyan’s also a fan favourite, with a personality that could fill the Stadium Of Light twice over.

Anyone new who we should keep an eye out for

I think people know the bulk of our squad now, which is good as it shows our new found strength in depth. If the worst happens like last year and we’re relying on kids once again, then Jack Colback, Billy Knott and Jordan Cook are all very talented.

The player you’d pay his taxi fee to his new club
Pick any one of George McCartney, Nyron Nosworthy, Matt Kilgallon, Marcos Angeleri. Perhaps we could get one of them 7-seaters to allow for them to carry the large sacks of cash they’ve collected for doing next to nothing over the last few years.
Who do you want to beat most this season?

Hmmmm, can’t think of anyone in particular can you? Our first home game of the season looks rather tasty though… (It’s Newcastle btw) ;-)

Opposition players you admire and you despise?

No real other teams I admire, but there’s ones I don’t miind watching when we’re not playing. Man United are always a decent watch, Arsenal the same because they’re always likely to play incredibly or implode spectacularly, but aside from that not really that arsed if we’re not playing. Will ususally watch our next opposition if thats the case.

Now then, it’s much easier to pick players and teams I dislike (dunno what that says about me!) so… *ahem*…. Newcastle United (just generally as a concept), Andy Carroll, Frank Lampard, El Hadji Diouf, Nigel De Jong, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, West Ham United (see Newcastle), Fernando Torres, Bolton Wanderers (See West Ham).

That’ll do for now, before I end up having no friends left.

Have you got the right manager, and what advice would you give him?

I think we’ve got the right man. Advice? Sign a proper left back, and play Sessegnon through the middle.

And finally, where will you finish?

Because pre-season optimism, I’ll say 7th. Ask me at 6:00pm on the first day of the season and the answer will probably be much different.

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