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Three reasons for Sunderland supporters to be optimistic about the New Year

Martyn Cooke



Photo: Reuters

To say that the last couple of years has been turbulent period for Sunderland supporters would be a significant understatement.

Sam Allardyce departed the club in the summer of 2015 to begin an ill-fated spell in charge of the England national team and the Black Cats replaced him with David Moyes, who proceeded to oversee a half-hearted campaign that ultimately concluded with relegation to The Championship.

The club quickly discovered that life in the second tier of English football was no easier and Simon Grayson was dismissed just three months after taking charge, leaving the team stranded in the relegation zone and facing the realistic possibility of slipping into League One.

However, there have been some tentative signs of recovery around the Stadium of Light in recent weeks and there is a cautious optimism among the supporters who are hoping that the appointment of Chris Coleman is the catalyst for a change in the club’s fortunes.

Here, The Boot Room highlights three reasons for Sunderland supporters to be optimistic about the New Year…


The arrival of Chris Coleman

Since the dismissal of Roy Keane in December 2008 there has been a continuous conveyor belt of managers that have attempted, with differing levels of success, to facilitate progress at Sunderland.

Chris Coleman became the Black Cat’s tenth manager in less than eight years when he was appointed as Simon Grayson’s successor in mid-November, but the Welshman’s arrival has created a sense of optimism around the Stadium of Light and the hope that the club can begin to build for the future.

The fact that Sunderland were able to tempt Coleman to take up the role is an impressive feat considering the 47-year-old’s reputation has never been more prominent after a successful spell in charge of the Welsh national team.

A manager of his calibre is exactly what the Black Cats require and his experience, no-nonsense style and ability to make teams hard will provide supporters with hope that the team can climb away from the relegation zone. Whilst in charge of the Welsh national team Coleman demonstrated that he could mould a group of, in reality, average players into an efficient unit capable of reaching the semi-finals of Eur0 2016.

Since his appointment there have already been signs of progress with Sunderland looking better organised, more competitive and look capable of picking up positive results. Coleman still has an awful lot of work to do but the general feeling on Wearside is that he is the right man for the job.

Lewis Grabban

Goals have been in short supply at the Stadium of Light this season but Lewis Grabban’s efforts have made him one of the few bright sparks in what has ultimately been a dismal start to life in the second tier of English football.

The 29-year-old is something of a journeyman having played for ten clubs so far in his career but his arrival on loan from Bournemouth has probably been the sole reason that Sunderland are not cut adrift at the foot of the Championship.

The striker has scored 11 goals in 17 league appearances so far this season, which is a quite astonishing feat when you consider the absence of quality in the team, the lack of service he receives and the club’s consistently poor performances. To score on such a regular basis for a struggling team is some achievement.

Grabban is certainly not the perfect striker but goals are the most valuable commodity in football, especially if you are in a team that is stranded in the relegation zone. The fear for Sunderland supporters now is that Bournemouth might considering recalling the forward in January, yet if the Black Cats can keep hold of him he will play a crucial role in Chris Coleman’s bid for survival.

The January transfer window

The main positive for Sunderland supporters is that the January transfer window will provide Chris Coleman with the perfect opportunity to start constructing a team that is capable of securing safety.

The current squad lacks strength in depth, is weighed down by the inflated wages of failed so-called Premier League stars and is vastly unbalanced, but when the window reopens in the New Year the rebuilding process can begin.

It is unclear how much money Coleman will be given to spend in January and it is vital that he brings in four or five new players that will galvanise the team – that will mean signing an experienced goalkeeper, adding quality to the spine of the team and starting to trim the deadwood around the squad.

However, if the Welshman makes the right moves in the transfer market then he can begin to build a team competitive team that can climb away from the relegation zone whilst starting the process of laying the foundations for the future.

What Sunderland need now is to sign young, progressive talent rather than wasting money on seasoned ‘old pros’.

The team needs to be built around players that are hungry, determined and focused on carving a career for themselves in the upper-tiers of English football and that have something to prove, in contrast to the likes of Darren Gibson, Jack Rodwell and John O’Shea who have neither the financial pressures or motivations to drive the club forward.

The January transfer window is the perfect opportunity for Coleman to begin rebuilding the club.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.


Age and wages will leave Sunderland struggling to sell Papy Djilobodji

Mathew Nash



There is a sense of excitement around Sunderland at the moment, despite their relegation to League One. It is only the second time the club has featured in the third-tier of English football but with a new owner, new manager and a new first-team shaping up, there are reasons to be positive.

Of course, there is also some deadwood to trim. Four players who are all expected to leave Sunderland this season are currently still on the books. Didier Ndong, Lamine Kone, Bryan Oviedo and Papy Djilobodji are all set to leave this summer.

The latter will no doubt prove the hardest to sell.

Djilobodji joined Sunderland from Chelsea in the summer of 2016 for a fee in the region of £8 million. The Senegalese star went on to become an undoubted failure at the Stadium of Light.

(Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite impressing on loan at Werder Bremen before his move to Wearside, he flopped dramatically. He played 21 times as Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League, failing to impress in any of his appearances.

Now, despite the fact he had a half-decent spell at Dijon on loan last season, selling the player will not be easy.

The 29-year-old, who has had his wages stopped after failing to report for pre-season training, turns 30 in December. Sunderland will want to recoup as much of their £8 million fee as possible, although surely know that is increasingly unlikely. Nobody will go near that price for a failing talent approaching his 30th birthday.

“He has requested not to come back – no we are not paying his wages.”

– Sunderland owner Stewart Donald on Papy Djilobodji


Then there are his wages. Djilobodji is reportedly on £33,000-a-month, according to L’Equipe, which no club will want to pay for his services. that equates to £1.7 million-a-year. 


Sunderland must do what they can to get rid of the Senegalese defender. But finding someone to stump up cash and buy him? That is looking like a tall order.   

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Elliot Embleton shows Sunderland what he can do with stunning England u-19 display

The England under-19 international was sensational against Turkey yesterday.

Mathew Nash



England under-19s got their European Championship campaign off to a winning start yesterday evening. They defeated Turkey 3-2 in a hard-fought affair in Finland. It was a game which will have left Sunderland fans very excited.

The winning goal was scored in the 54th minute by Sunderland midfielder Elliot Embleton. His goal made it 3-1 before Turkey pulled one back moments later. He cut in from the right-hand side before rifling a rasping left-footed curler into the top-corner. It was an unstoppable goal and that, in itself, should have been enough to have Sunderland fans excited.

But his all-round performance was sensational.

(Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)

He swung in a right-footed free-kick for Japhet Tanganga to score England’s first of the night. He then slotted a perfectly timed left-footed through ball into Ben Brereton, the Nottingham Forest man finishing coolly.

Sunderland were relegated to League One last season and it seems plenty of their young talent will get a chance this season

Embleton has to be a part of that. The 19-year-old looks to be a star of the future for Sunderland, if he can replicate this sort of performance on a regular basis.

There is certainly reason for Sunderland fans to be excited about Embleton’s potential impact at the Stadium of Light.

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Mohamed Eisa could be Sunderland’s answer to Jamie Vardy

The Sudanese striker has been in goalscoring form his entire footballing career.

Mathew Nash



Sunderland look in pole position to sign Mohamed Eisa from Cheltenham Town this summer. As reported by the Roker Report yesterday, Sunderland made a seven-figure bid for the player last week. That has since been reported by the Sunderland Echo to be in the region of £1 million and would be an excellent piece of business from the Black Cats.

Sunderland desperately need a new striker. The club are lacking any real striking options other than youngster Josh Maja.

Eisa has been in fine form for Cheltenham. Last season he scored 25 goals in 50 games for the League Two side in his debut Football League season.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

There are of course reservations over his footballing background. The Sudanese-born Londoner has never played above League Two level. He came through the non-league ranks with Dartford, Corinthian and Greenwich Borough – never receiving any ‘formal’ academy football training.

But his raw talent could be enough to carry him through to success at Sunderland. The 24-year-old has a career record of 98 goals in 161 games.

That is comparable to Charlie Austin, who made his name with the likes of Hungerford Town, Poole Town and Swindon before heading for the big leagues. The best example, however, is probably Jamie Vardy.

Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town is where he cut his teeth. Now he is an England international, Premier League winner and record breaker.

Sunderland will be aware this is a gamble but, as evident, those gambles can pay off. If Eisa goes on to become their very own Jamie Vardy, then £1 million will look a bargain in the years to come.

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