DROPPING THE GLOVES NEW
Time to once again venture out into the non-Sunderland-supporting world to find out what people really think of our football club. That's right - Dropping The Gloves is back.
I can't stress enough how long I have wanted to get this week's guest on Roker Report. He is the brains behind one of the most innovative and interesting sites in the whole of the football blogosphere. Ever wanted to know what all those refereeing mishaps over the course of a season does to a league table? Or if the 'big' clubs really do get the most decisions in their favour? Or see objective and unbiased reviews of refereeing performances? All this and more can be found on www.debatabledecisions.com.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Simon McPolin.
Stoke are known for a physical game and strong set pieces, Arsenal for possession football. Do you consider Sunderland to have a similar identity, and if so what?
Hmmm, that's a difficult one to answer and mainly because it's changed so much each time they've been in the Premiership. I think they're smack bang in the middle of both examples and that's a good thing because it gives Sunderland options depending on the way the game is going. They have the players to play quick, neat football that takes the opposition defence to task, but they also have the no nonsense players who can get stuck in and grind out a result when they haven't played well. However, whether they've actually found their rhythm with either system is open to debate and one or two shaky performances throughout the season would seem to indicate that there's still work to be done, but with a little bit of consistency and one or two more signings I think Sunderland have the potential to match the consistency of teams like Everton and hover around the Champions League spots waiting for one or two of the usual suspects to slip up.
How competitive do you think Sunderland can hope to be in the transfer market? Which clubs do you consider their natural competitors for signings?
They've spent big in recent times, unfortunately for the fans various managers haven't necessarily spent well, but I think the money is there to make a decent fist of improving the squad and bringing in players that will help take the club to the next level. I would expect a decent amount of money to be spent during the summer and I think the money is there to offer an edge over rivals for some big signatures, but I suppose some of that also rests on getting rid of some dead wood and moving on players who haven't impressed or haven't shown the desire that fans expect.....cough.....Gyan.
As far as natural competitors go, that's another difficult one because the teams you might consider likely to go for the same sort of targets as Sunderland aren't exactly flush with cash and are unlikely to actually put up much resistance when it comes to making the bid the selling club will accept. I'd put you alongside Spurs, behind the big five and ahead of everyone else.
From your vantage point, what would you consider to be the iconic or most memorable Sunderland moment during your time watching football?
I left this question until last and I've spent the entire time writing this talking about how much time I have for Sunderland, so I have to level that out with a negative....right?
Sorry guys, but my most memorable moment involving Sunderland is a goal you conceded and it's that Cantona chip from the 95-96 season. The one-two with McClair, the technique to chip the ball perfectly over Perez, who I think everyone felt a little bit sorry for, the clip off the post before finding the back of the net and that celebration, it was a joy to behold.
I remember my dad's reaction when the goal was shown on Match Of The Day, he nearly jumped out of his seat even though he knew the result and who had scored. Unfortunately for Sunderland it's a negative memory, but for me it's probably the most iconic image of the Premier League since it began and at least Sunderland were involved in it.
Niall Quinn claims that Sunderland have dropped their 'yo-yo club' tag. Do you agree with that and consider Sunderland now an established main stay of the Premier League, or is it a club you would still not be surprised to see involved in a relegation battle?
I've always had a soft spot for Sunderland, mainly because of my dislike of Newcastle fans, so I'd certainly consider the Premier League worse off if Sunderland were to go down. Thankfully I can't see that happening any time soon.
One of the biggest reasons for me thinking this is that Sunderland seem to have one of the better foreign owners that the Premiership has been graced with, they don't get involved when they shouldn't, they back the manager financially and also give the manager plenty of time to make a go of it, but aren't scared to pull the plug on big names if it isn't working out.
My one concern about Sunderland's future is Martin O'Neill. As an Ulsterman I should probably big up my fellow countryman, but I've never been particularly sold on him, his attitude or the brand of football he likes to play. He'll keep you in the Premier League for the foreseeable future, but I can't see him taking Sunderland to a level I would like to see them playing at and think they are capable of achieving.
I think all clubs like to pride themselves on quality of their support. Comparatively speaking, and as a neutral observer, how would you rate the Sunderland fans?
Living in Northern Ireland I don't think I've ever met a Sunderland fan face to face, I've met a Newcastle fan, but he only started supporting them in 1997 (shock horror) so there isn't all that much demand here for football from the North East of England. I have, however, met and talked to a number of Sunderland fans on various football forums and via Twitter, one of our judges is a Sunderland fan and from my experience they're one of the most down to earth sets of fans I've ever come across.
They don't suffer from the delusions of grandeur that their black and white neighbours display so readily, but that doesn't mean they don't care passionately about their club and expect success. Like the owners they don't seem to turn on a manager as quickly as some other fans do, they know their limitations and are happy to see them given a chance.
I think Sunderland fans can be proud of the quality of their support and I'd love to see them get a big victory over Newcastle or make a play for Europe in the coming seasons, an opportunity for them to steal some of the attention from the media myth that Newcastle fans are the biggest and best in that neck of the woods.
Remember... all participants in this feature are expressly told that flattery simply isn't allowed, so I am sure you will join me in commending Simon on his obviously exquisite taste! Why not show your appreciation by making www.debatabledecisions.com an essential part of your football Internet experience. They can also be found on Twitter at @Deb_Decisions, so make sure you are following them for the latest refereeing stats and opinion.