Bruce: Transfer dealings were like "a chubby kid in a sweet shop"
Hello there, your favourite Castres-based Sunderland fan here Dan Williams, and it's my turn to spill my brains out all over the pages of The Durham Times for Roker Report's weekly column.
Now then, this article arrives on RokerReport.com a little late. Why? Well you could have, and indeed should have bought the paper itself from your local newsagents for just 30p yesterday. Even if that seems to be too much for you, you could have just headed to http://www.durhamtimes.co.uk/sport/rokerreport and read it. Make sure you do in the future.
So now that's that out the way and you know what to do next time, here's my thoughts on the 'Boro game, and also some about the transfer window too...
It's that time of year once again. The one day that the good people at Sky Sports let Jim White out of his cage to bounce around the screen, getting louder and louder as the clock ticks down until the transfer window slams shut.
It's fair to say that, in recent times, Sunderland haven't exactly been quiet in the transfer stakes. I'm not going to be using this article as a way of having a dig at Steve Bruce, but the way that he rebuilt the squad, over and over, was never going to be the way to make us into a consistent side, nor was it a healthy position to be in at all.
As I'm sure you're all aware, Martin O'Neill has transformed the team, without actually making any changes to the personnel. Rather than bring in player after player in the hope of improving the squad's fortune, he's looked at what he has, taken stock, and got each and every member of the team playing to their strengths, and more importantly, as a team.
And so we reach the somewhat strange situation in which it is unlikely that any Sunderland supporter will be truly heartbroken if the club makes no move into the transfer market, and instead, we decide to use the tools at our disposal for the rest of the season.
Admittedly, the injury to Nicklas Bendtner is something of a blow to our cause, but Connor Wickham has looked strong at every opportunity he has been given this season, and Ji proved against Manchester City that he has the composure to finish if he gets a chance in a big game.
Only a couple of days after the summer transfer window ‘slammed' shut, Steve Bruce declared that he was already looking into bringing more players to the club, and that we didn't have enough quality in the squad to compete at the level that we had hoped. Admittedly we had just unexpectedly lost Asamoah Gyan, but it was disappointing to see him craving new squad members merely days after finishing his big rebuilding job for the third time in three years.
It may be a strange analogy, but Bruce's deadline day acquisition of Nicklas Bendtner on loan seemed like he was a child in a toy shop who had just been told that it was about to close. Rather than consider his options and take his time, he was so desperate to get something, anything, that he grabbed the first thing that he saw. That, by the way, isn't a dig at Bendtner, despite his poor patches, he has become very important to the team, it was more about the nature of Bruce's dealings, and the way that he conducted his business.
In the same way, his summer transfer dealing were always like a chubby child in a sweet shop... "I want that one, and that one, and that one, and that one."
With O'Neill at the helm, however, it feels like we have a more controlled approach taking charge of matters in the club. Our manager has picked up an unfair reputation in the past for bringing in top players on huge contract, but a look at the success he has had during his career means that it is difficult to question his methods.
Which brings us on to Sunday, and the fourth round of the FA Cup. We at Sunderland haven't been blessed with much 'magic of the cup' in recent seasons, and taking a look at Martin O'Neill's previous record, we have every reason to be hopeful that he is the man to lead us to relative glory in the competition.
Unfortunately for Roker Report's head honcho Simon Walsh, his long-haired Argentinian man crush Julio Arca picked up a red card in his last game, meaning that he won't be available for an emotional return to the Stadium of Light. It does however mean that, as the home fans have speculated, he can sit with us now instead of on the bench.
Hopefully, the fact that the match is televised and on a Sunday lunchtime won't take too much away from the atmosphere, and whether you class the game as a derby or not (it isn't, by the way), it should be a great day out at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
But back to my original point... As the clock ticks down on January 31st, and Jim White's voice gets higher and higher, it may not be the most exciting day that we have ever experienced as Sunderland fans. However, this time around, we can be sure that, whether new faces will be gracing the Stadium of Light or not, our party is still well under way, and we should trust Marty to do exactly what it takes to make this season a success.