Sunderland AFC Mid-Term Report: How Do We All Think It's Going?

Steve Bruce 4

Since there is no domestic football to look forward too this weekend, we are looking back instead. With 8 games played, the season is very much now well underway, so how would we assess it?

Every member of the Roker Report team has been asked their opinions on how the season has started for Sunderland and how the club is looking moving forward.

So lets dispense with the formalities and get to the opinions. We are also keen to get your views too, so please feel free to follow our lead and leave your own mid-term report in the comments section.

Simon Walsh - @SimoWalsh

When Mike proposed the idea of doing a mid-term report on SAFC, I sat down and had a little think about things, yet all I could think of was my own school reports. Luckily those dusty old school reports closely match the way the team have played this season – "For some reason not applying themselves (himself) to their full ability, can do better"... And that’s pretty much the case isn’t it?

We entered the season full of promise, a strong pre-season in the transfer market left us thinking top ten was virtually nailed on, and though we won’t admit it now, some of us even dared to dream of European football.
Now we’re sat with one win in seven, and the season ahead is looking crushingly depressing, and all too familiar. So what’s gone wrong? An answer I can’t really give, but I hope it’s all sorted out soon. On paper we’re the right mix of youth, talent and experience in the likes of Jack Colback, Stephane Sessegnon, Nicklas Bendtner, Wes Brown & John O’Shea, but it’s just not happening as yet.

I’m want to look for blame, but we’re duty bound as football fans to lay at someone’s door, and this door is large and unusually shaped with a Corbridge postcode. Yep, it looks like Mr Bruce will be getting most of the blame here, with a seeming inability to gel these talented players together. "But it takes time to gel ten players!" I hear you cry... It does, but the vast majority of these where brought in early in June/July, and we’re now in October. There should be some semblance of a team.

It’s clear to all fans, and no doubt new chairman Ellis Short – Get it sorted out sharpish, or get out of town Steve. I hope and pray for the former, but I suspect the latter is more likely.

Dan Williams - @DanInFrance

Despite my best efforts, I'm finding it very difficult to be positive about what we have seen so far this season.
The second half of the Liverpool game, which filled me with such opening day optimism and expectation seems a long, long time ago now.

Since then we've seen yet another depressing derby day defeat, elimination from the cup by a lower league opponent, again, and some pretty dismal stuff inbetween.

I don't want to sound like a stuck record, as I've made my feelings clear elsewhere on the site, but it's difficult not to point the finger of blame at Mr Bruce.

Although we all hoped for the best when he brought in the players that he did, especially as all of our business was done so early, none of that promise has transferred to the first team. We insist on sticking with a system that doesn't seem to suit us and look short up top, while only giving our 8m striker the last 15 minutes when games are too long in the tooth to be truly changed.

Admittedly, no-one saw the Gyan situation coming, but rather than pity Mr Bruce, handling of the situation only added further weight to an argument claiming he's no longer the man for the job. Once again, he played the innocent victim in a situation, rather than grab the bull by the horns and do things his own way.

His recent interviews have done nothing to change that either, and unless he does something about the rift that is growing between the club and its fans, and he does it quickly, then I honestly hope that Mr Short sees it fit to remove him from our club, and appoints someone who has the skills to provide what is a very good squad of players with the tactics, plans and innovation that they require to move up the division.

David Boyle - @DavidBoyle1985

It would be fair to say that it has been a turbulent start to the new term for Bruce and the lads. Despite the inevitable sale of Jordan Henderson the summer recruitment drive, on the whole, was a successful one, with each new recruit looking like an improvement over what we already had. We now sit seven league games into the season, out of the Carling Cup at the first hurdle, with one win under our belts and Bruce seemingly still unaware of his first choice starting eleven. So the question has to be asked how much longer can we wait for the new squad to gel?

Whilst Bruce is quick to claim he has been a victim of "mass hysteria" from the fans I think the boss needs to have a look closer to home for the source of the problem and passing responsibility for the current problems to the supporters is a recipe for disaster. All too often we are left baffled by his decisions, the starting eleven for the Carling Cup clash with Brighton being a key example.

However there have been some positives. Brown has looked fantastic at times bringing much needed experience to the defensive line. Gardner and Vaughan showed flashes of brilliance during the win over Stoke and looked a really useful midfield pairing. The stand-out player without a shadow of a doubt has to have been Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane has been head and shoulders above anyone else in a Sunderland shirt since his arrival, leading the line with a nice mix of skill and determination.

I really hope Steve can sort things out, after all I think he has done a lot of good for the club since his arrival. However he has left us worryingly short on the left hand side, how many years do we have to wait for an actual left-back? There is also a lack of a "Plan B" when we he needs to change things tactically, unless taking off all your creative midfielders and just filling the final third with forwards is his idea of mixing things up?

So overall I believe we have a decent side that should comfortably finish mid-table. Bruce has all the ingredients he just needs to find the right mix and sharpish.

Michael Graham - @Capt_Fishpaste

I would have to rate this as easily the most frustrating time I have had as a Sunderland supporter. You don't follow this club for 25 years without growing accustomed to losing a lot of football matches, so it isn't really the poor record itself that is the irritant. It is more the fact that we are still losing despite finally having some players of genuine pedigree at our disposal following a very impressive summer of transfer activity. 

Considering where we were just 5 short years ago, that we are now watching players such as John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Stephane Sessegnon, and Nicklas Bendtner playing their trade on Wearside is quite remarkable, and the manager deserves a lot of credit for bringing them to the club.

But with that said, a solitary win this season is nowhere near good enough for a squad of this quality, especially when the fixture list was relatively kind to them. I appreciate that the (latest) new-look squad will take time to gel and produce its best football, but should we really have to be firing on all cylinders to pick up more than a couple of points out of the 12 up for grabs against Newcastle, West Brom, Norwich, and Swansea? With what we have available, we should be doing much better, despite Bruce's protestations.  

It is far from a lost cause, however. Indeed, if Bruce is able to forge a new system that builds upon the often brilliant hold-up play of Niklas Bendtner, then there is absolutely no reason why the players we have can't treat us to an exciting brand of football. If they can get it right, it should also be considerably more conducive to consistency than relying on a solitary player for goals ever was.

Moving forward, we really shouldn't be anywhere near a relegation scrap, but we have said that before. The hope must now be that the time for procrastination is over and, if the results don't pick up soon to come more in to line with the quality we have available, that the club will be willing to take strong and decisive action to turn our fortunes around.

Chris Weatherspoon - @Christoph_21

Ah, the mid-term. Such an Americanism isn't it? American children, and students, sit mid-term exams to measure their progress. American politicians, often easily mistaken as American children, endure mid-term elections, where once again one could surmise that progress (or a lack of it) is being measured.

And thus it was somewhat fitting, as we here at Roker Report were asked to come up with our own 'mid-term report' on the state of our football club's affairs, that Sunderland's current situation had an American front and centre.

Ellis Short has now assumed what is, in essence, full control behind the scenes, and it seems fitting that we should now take stock and weigh up just where the Black Cats are at the moment.

Niall Quinn's relinquishing of the chairmanship marks the end of five successful years at the helm for the Irishman, and, hopefully, the beginning of another prosperous era in the history of Sunderland AFC.

With Mr Short now assuming Quinn's role as well as being the club's owner, we now have in place a man whom is surely more equipped to deal with the business-heavy dealings are ubiquitous in the position of chairman. Without meaning any disrespect to the outgoing saviour of our club, Quinn was always a football man first and foremost; Short's arrival should herald yet more progress behind the scenes at the Stadium of Light (we hope).

Of course, it is on the pitch where the real business is done and, true to form, it is here that Sunderland are currently letting themselves down.

On paper, Steve Bruce's side looks more than capable of supplanting last year's top ten finish. However, a rocky start to the season and some glaringly obvious flaws in the squad have the doubters out in force, and Bruce now faces a tough run of games in which he must pick up some points.

In truth, it seems to me that the manager himself is fast becoming the club's weak link. His tactical decisions leave a lot to be desired and, on the basis of recent performances, so do his motivational skills.

Bruce seems to be on borrowed time – despite Niall Quinn's recent assurances. The manager seems far too cautious in his outlook; his policy smacks of trying not to lose a game, as opposed to going out and proactively seeking to win one.

Whilst the current moment is effectively only the middle of Sunderland's first 'term' of this season, it could well be nearing the end of Mr Bruce's.

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And that just about does it. If you'd like to add your own thoughts, you're more than welcome to leave a comment on this article. In fact, it's actively encouraged as we love the interaction.

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