Thursday, June 9, 2011

Will Brucey Be Able To Cope?

Last season, Steve Bruce's Sunderland finished a solid tenth with 47 points - their best finish to a Premier League campaign since 1999/2000. It was a squad that boasted the likes of Darren Bent, Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck and Kieren Richardson but this end-of-season transfer chaos has began to spell the end for this hard-labouring side.

First there was the mammoth signing of Darren Bent by Aston Villa back in January which saw the Black Cats receive a modest £24 million. Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn said at the time of selling Bent that "We are not going to replace someone like him perfectly in the next 10 days. We might find a bit of a solution, we'll see." They neglected to reinvest straight-away and they paid the price as their much hoped Europa League spot went a-begging as they picked up only 10 points in their final 14 games prompting an inquest from Quinn. The fans seemed to be aiming the misfortune at the departed Bent who left Tyneside after netting 11 goals up to January which had boosted the Black Cats' European qualification hopes. Bent then went on to score a further nine times for the Villains.

Bent had been the focal point of Sunderland prior to the season's eclipse and much attention was focused around him as he had scored 25 goals the previous season for the Tyneside club. His departure left a gaping gap to fill and the attention then shifted onto Gyan and Co as they were prepared to salvage what was left in their season. Cue a desperate run of results that saw Sunderland win only three out of their last fourteen league games and they slumped to tenth, a position they would have delightfully obliged to accept at the beginning of the season.

This summer has already seen yet another face leave Tyneside with the news that Jordan Henderson is set to join Liverpool, leaving yet another hole in Sunderland's team to fill. Yet another mammoth £20 million bid seemed to good to resist for Bruce's side as well as obtaining Liverpool's French U-21 international David Ngog as part of the proposed deal. Henderson, one of England's most sought-after youngsters, had been part of the Sunderland youth academy since he was seven and was being chased by big clubs such as United and Liverpool. Bruce has promised to reinvest the money from Henderson's fee into their transfer kitty for the summer as they look to fill the cracks that are currently occupied in the team. One such target includes Birmingham's Craig Gardener, who's looking for a move away from the Midlands after the Blues' relegation and he'd come quite cheap considering Birmingham's current dilemma as they prepare for life in the Championship.

As well as losing Bent and Henderson for next season, Bruce also looks set to lose John Mensah, Sulley Muntari and Nedum Onuoha, who are all due to return after their respective loan deals (and David Meyler to injury), but above all Danny Welbeck, who was a pivotal figure in the Black Cats' climb up the table in last season's campaign.

One suspects that unless Bruce prepares sufficiently for next season then he'll have some job on his hands keeping the Black Cats up and preparing for seasons to come.

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