Dropping the Gloves #4 - Gav Stone Of Les Rosbifs

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Here at Roker Report, we are sexy, but we are also outragiously biased and there isn't a single thing we want to do about either. But occasionally it is time to get a little dose of reality from around the blogging world as we Drop The Gloves with someone with no need whatsoever to flatter us. 

This time, we invite Gav Stone of the refreshingly unique Les Rosbifs to join us in the penalty box for a 5-minute fighting major, but only after we quiz him on how he perceives our beloved club.

So, Gav... lets hear it!

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?

Gav: I would put Sunderland nearer the Stoke end of the scale than the Arsenal one. That’s not to say you guys are the northern version of the Potters; I think they have their own unique style, something Tony Pulis has always kept his sides too judging from when I used to watch Gillingham in the late 1990’s. I associate Sunderland with strong, physical football, with the occasional of flair every now and again. But then we are talking about Steve Bruce. Tough, uncompromising as a player, flattering to deceive as a manager - still. If ever a club reflects the personality of their manager, I think Sunderland is it.

Taking money out of it, how competitive do you think Sunderland can hope to be in the transfer market? Which clubs do you consider their natural competitors for signings?

Gav: You can't help but take money into account, and you've spent a fair amount over the past couple of years! That said, I think you are limited in the transfer market because of the perception of Sunderland being - how can I put it - mediocre, both as a club and a place. This, I suspect is the perception of the average professional footballer rather than me, I hasten to add! Steve Bruce has recruited well and brought in some good, experienced players (mainly via the Manchester United connection) and I feel this is an advantageous route for you as a club because, I suspect, you get first dibs on the likes of Wes Brown and his ilk. Again, this is no bad thing.

Sunderland will always pale into insignificance compared to, for example, a London club. Having just moved up to your way (and loving it), there is a weird - incorrect - perception that the North-East is too far away for anything of note to happen. It is NOT grim up north and, with the keenness with which Ellis Short seems to spend money, it has given you a competitive edge in the transfer market.

You have the money to compete - and beat - the likes of Bolton, Everton and Blackburn to players, but at times Bruce has given me the feel that he builds the squad like I do on Football Manager: if I have heard of them, I sign them.

From your vantage point, what would you consider to be the iconic or most memorable Sunderland moment during your time watching football?

Gav: As a Gillingham fan, it would have to be that play-off semi-final back in 1987, if only for the fact we had a batch of Newcastle United fans in our section or Roker Park singing "Geordie Gills". We got the better of you that day and sent you to the old 3rd Division, before we were stitched up by the evil Swindon Town again.

I also vividly remember the 1985 Milk Cup final. Being a Norfolk boy and all that, the whole county were watching it that Sunday afternoon in March, when an Asa Hartford effort deflected off of Gordon Chisholm and went in. It was a proud day for Norfolk.

Apologies, that's two incidents AGAINST your club! What stood out though was the manner in which you took the results. If I were to select positive moments for your club, it would be the relative Premier League successes under Peter Reid. You were a tough team to beat in those days and deserved more success.

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?

Gav: I do actually think Sunderland are now a mainstay of the Premier League. You spend a fair amount of cash, have some decent players and good support. Your manager leaves something to be desired at times, but there is enough going on at your club to highlight you are big enough to be permanent Premier League. Ian Ayre would snap you up for his no-relegation league instantly.

Historically I see Sunderland as a top flight club and from the outside looking-afar, I see a club who are well run compared to those who I would class as classic yo-yo teams (Reading, Ipswich Town, etc). You have survived the difficult first season long ago. That's not to say you won't go down - I just hope Ellis Short and friends have enough nous about them to realise when enough is enough with a manager.

I think all clubs like to pride themselves on quality of their support. Comparitively speaking, and as a neutral observer, how would you rate the Sunderland fans?

Gav: Friendly. Being a Norfolk boy, a lot of my friends are Norwich City supporters. They always speak very highly of your support whenever the two teams meet. It is a match they look forward to - all off the back of that Milk Cup Final.

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Thank you Gav! Les Rosbifs does sterling and insightful work in keeping an eye on English footballers plying their trade abroad, so make sure you stop by for a look some time. You can also follow them on Twitter at @LesRosbifs.

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