At Roker Report, we try and present as fair and objective picture of all things SAFC as we possibly can. But, whilst we do our best, at the end of the day every one of us are fiercely loyal and passionate Sunderland fans so we will always end up viewing the club through red and white tinted glasses to a certain degree. We make absolutely no apologies for that, but wouldn't it be great if now and then we could get a truly objective perspective on our club from someone with no Sunderland AFC affiliations at all?
Well, with that, I'd like to indroduce you to one of our new semi-regular features - Dropping The Gloves. The premise is simple: We have invited well-known bloggers, journalists, and ex-pros to answer a set of questions on our club with the caveat that they aren't allowed to try and flatter us in any way, shape, or form.
Kicking us off is the host of the brilliant Football Ramble podcast, Marcus Speller...
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 is it?
Marcus: I wouldn't say Sunderland are known for being as scrappy as Stoke but they're not known for playing an attractive brand either. I would put them in the same bracket as a number of Premier League teams who tend to veer towards the traditional English style i.e. emphasis on the solid and physical, not being afraid of knocking it long but can play some nice stuff here and there.
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?
Marcus: Sunderland seem to do ok in the transfer market. They made a big signing with, now UAE bound, Gyan last season, of course, but there are a handful of other clubs who have much more financial backing. I don't think Sunderland particularly lack financially but their problem is that other clubs have the kind of capital they don't. However, they have made some good signings such as like Wes Brown and Seb Larsson. I suppose the teams they're up against in the transfer market would be the likes of Everton, Bolton and Aston Villa.
From your vantage point, what would you consider to be the iconic or most memorable Sunderland moment during your time watching football?
Marcus: The excellent front pairing of Quinn and Phillips doing the business for Sunderland in that first season they were up in the Premiership. The two stand out moments were when they both scored doubles against Chelsea in the 4-1 win with that superb Phillips 30 yarder and the 2-1 win at St James' Park coming from behind with Phillips again scoring a beauty.
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?
Marcus: Sunderland are an established Premier League club and it would be a surprise if they were relegated. Their name doesn't feature on many people's lists as relegation candidates at the start of the season.
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?
Marcus: Sunderland have a very loyal fan base who can create a good atmosphere like the best of them in the Premier League. The noise levels that come out of the TV for their home matches is usually decent but it is a shame to see many empty seats (roughly 10,000 for the Chelsea match) at the Stadium of Light on a regular basis. I appreciate that there's probably a number of factors involved with this and it is a huge stadium to fill.
We'd like to thank Marcus for kicking this new feature off with a great insight and implore you all to, if you are not already, to check out his fantastic work on The Football Ramble Podcast as well as the accompanying site - www.thefootballramble.com