Season preview: Sunderland

This might appear to have been a quiet off season for Sunderland, and given that last season they had an avowed fascist at the helm, a bit of being out of the limelight might not be an unwelcome thing for the Black Cats. All things being equal, Sunderland are a biggish club with good stadia, an impassioned fanbase and a proper, massive neighbor upon which to heap all its hatred (Newcastle). It has all the makings of a club that could be doing reasonably well in a league that includes such giants as Chelsea, Man U and Liverpool.

So for Paolo Di Canio to single handedly nearly torpedo the club took some doing. It was depressing stuff to see the man come in and utterly demoralize the team with his Il Duce inspired reign of terror. Thankfully, it was brief. In his place came a much sunnier character in the form of former Uruguayan international Gus Poyet. The former Tottenham defender managed to pull the players together and get them playing as a team, instilling the sort of siege mentality so successfully employed by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. The Black Cats miraculously avoided the drop, and have seen not exactly a torrent but a steady trickle of decent talent come through the door over the summer transfer window.

Most notable among the new recruits is Jack Rodwell. The former Toffee (and then Man City bench warmer) had been viewed as quite the promising prospect, yet another well groomed professional off of the same assembly line that has given us the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley. Everton cashed in on him a few season back, but injuries and an inability to break into one of the deepest rosters in any team in any league of the world saw Rodwell fall well behind in the pecking order at City. I always liked the kid and hope he does well at the Black Cats, and he appears to have found his scoring boots already which bodes well for him and the fans at the Stadium of Light.

Other summer signings include the likes of Jordi Gomez (Wigan), Billy Jones (West Brom) and Costel Pantilimon (Man City), all on frees. It gives the impression that the coffers are not terribly deep when you are not merely padding the roster but recruiting first teamers on a shoestring, but you get the sense Poyet will keep them up. I’m predicting they finish in 14th come season’s end.