Wearside Wheat From The Chaff: Who Can Be Part Of The Sunderland Solution? (Part 3)

Gareth Copley

We conclude our search of the current squad for a Sunderland solution. Who has made our cut? Only one way to find out!

We are reviewing the current crop of players - and manager - to try and determine who should have a Sunderland future and who can be labeled deadwood and cast aside.

You can catch up with the first two parts of this mini-series HERE and HERE.

John O'Shea

Simon Walsh: As much as I liked O'Shea, I can't see him being part of the solution here in the long-term. Much like Cuellar, he's been alright in the main but he can't go on forever and little mistakes have become increasingly common in his game. Not someone we critically need to ship, but certainly we need better in the back line.

David Boyle: The Irishman might not be getting any younger but his experience within the squad is priceless. I have to agree with Chris that pairing him with a younger and pacey central defender is key however.

Dan Williams: As we are talking about the future of Sunderland, I would have to say that no, I can't see O'Shea as a long term solution. He's been poor on a number of occasions this season, and while he is far from a poor player, I think that O'Neill may have better/younger/faster players in mind in the long term.

Chris Weatherspoon: He may well be 31-years-old now, but O'Shea should certainly be part of the club's long-term plans. Experience like that is simply too good to pass up willingly. Yes, he has the odd stinker, but his quality is clear - stick a fast centre-back alongside him and watch him command his younger cohorts with ease.

Karl Jones: Provides a similar level of experience to Wes Brown, but it comes in a more durable shell. He's not having a bad season either, although the prospect of Martin O'Neill strengthening the spine of the team could put an end to guaranteed starts.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Lee Cattermole

Simon Walsh: Without a shadow of doubt, yes he is. He's one of our better players, our captain, and still yet to peak as a footballer. His best days are ahead of him, and I hope they're at Sunderland.

David Boyle: The rock around which we should shape the midfield in my opinion. Whilst the rest of the footballing world remains blinded by the stigma attached to our skipper his quality is clear to see for those who watch him week in and week out.

Dan Williams: I could be all controversial, but I can't. His time out of the team this season has shown us just how important he is to this team. Build the team around him, he's our future.

Chris Weatherspoon: The side should be built around him. He is, without doubt, the most effective Englishman in his own particular role. His passing ability is nowhere near as bad as suggested, and his ability to command a midfield is clear.

Karl Jones: In the minds of many he is our only competent central midfielder. His absence from the team this season has been telling - no-one in the current squad is as good at winning the ball back or retaining the team's shape in midfield. Without doubt one to build around.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Adam Johnson

Simon Walsh: It's been a difficult start to life on Wearside for Johnson, but ultimately he's still got an extraordinary amount of skill and ability. He's also got time on his side too. Once he fully matures he could be a key player in our team.

David Boyle: I thoroughly believe that the best is yet to come with Johnson. Following a tough start we are beginning to see why we were so excited to bring the guy to the club in the first place and I'm confident that the best is yet to come.

Dan Williams: Although Johnson has been far from the player that we know he is capable of being during his time on Wearside so far, there is no doubting that he is a class act, and that once he hits his stride, we will have a wonderful player on our hands, and for some time to come.

Chris Weatherspoon: Give him time, show faith in him, and instil confidence. Not for nothing was he seen as one his country's premier players. Hamstrung by a slow start, and the added impediment of having two men marking him in most games, given time I am certain Johnson can become a - and I use this word whilst cringing - a "legend" on Wearside.

Karl Jones: Slowly but surely, we are starting to see the best of the England international. He's chipping in with goals, picking out key passes and starting to feel at ease with what was expected of him. Whether it be on the right or left, Johnson has the ability to change a game.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Connor Wickham

Simon Walsh: I've long been a fan of Wickham and I'm glad that other fans seem to of late be coming on board to him. I think he should be kept around for the long-term as he could well be leading the line along with Fletcher for years to come.

David Boyle: Absolutely yes. I was a huge advocate of his signing originally and the signs of late have been encouraging that Connor will soon repay our faith in him sooner rather than later.

Dan Williams: Certainly. Like Dave, I hoped that he would sign, when I wasn't sure that we were capable of securing his signature. He's come in this season looking stronger than ever, and I hope he gets his chance to shine this year. Even if he doesn't, we've got a great talent in Wickham, and he's here to stay.

Chris Weatherspoon: I championed him last season and have done so again in this one. The lad is genuine talent, pure and simple. Thankfully, he's proven me right in recent weeks. Like Johnson, he could become a bona fide hero at Sunderland.

Karl Jones: Back in the summer, I made my case that Wickham should sent out on loan to get regular game time. Suffice to say that wasn't what he needed - well, not entirely.

He needed to be told - coached - just how to use that man-boy frame of his to his advantage, and that has what has happened, with Wickham away from the first-team picture. Scoring goals for both club and country at Under-21 level was just the icing on the cake, as Wickham's re-emergence has shown that he is starting to become the centre-forward that was hoped for.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Fraizer Campbell

Simon Walsh: No, not at all. He was never that great and since injury he's not looked much better. Rarely makes an impact form the start or from the bench, it's time for Campbell to go.

David Boyle: Could well be one of the first of the current crop to leave in my opinion. Seems a nice lad, had a tough time with injuries over the last few years but unfortunately isn't up to scratch. Will be a good edition for some Championship outfit, more than likely Hull from the sounds of things.

Dan Williams: Aside from a good few games before his big injury, he's never lived up to the hype that he gained at Hull. Can't say that I'd be sad to see him go. Maybe Brucey and the Hull boys will have a few quid to spare for us?

Chris Weatherspoon: No, no, no, no, no, get out, get out, GET OUT!!! Sorry, he's just not good enough.

Karl Jones: I'm already on record as saying that his 'moment' against Middlesbrough was possibly the most personal you could get in football these days. The problem is sentiment carried progression. The Fraizer Campbell that comes off the bench these days offers very little. A move would be best for both.

Verdict: Part of the problem

David Meyler

Simon Walsh: Another player who's a likeable chap but ultimately a limited player. Is he part of the answer here at Sunderland? I can't seem him ever being more than a very good Championship player or serviceable backup here. If he's happy with that then I might come around to him staying.

David Boyle: A popular lad among the fans and seemingly the players too but unfortunately I just think we have moved on and require more quality in the middle of the park than what Meyler can offer.

Dan Williams: David 'Nandos' Meyler. I can't see a future for him at the club, I really don't think that he's good enough, and he only got 'good' in a lot of fans' eyes when he wasn't on the pitch. Thanks for trying, but no thanks.

Chris Weatherspoon: A strange beneficiary of faith from the fan base given his very limited playing time in a red and white shirt. I think he is part of the long-term solution - but only in the sense that he could act as a decent backup should he be called upon.

Karl Jones: This is a tricky one; on the face of it you would think Meyler's frame and athleticism lends itself to an area where Sunderland is regularly out-fought and out-manoeuvred, yet that is exactly what O'Neill has targeted come January. Should the manager find such a player, then Meyler may find himself discarded, or potentially even made into a centre-half if pre-season was anything to go by.

Verdict: Part of the problem

Martin O'Neill

Simon Walsh: Without a doubt, yes. There's been people doubting him at the minute but look around the league and the dole office and you'll not see many better options who might come here. We gave Bruce nearly three years. O'Neill should get at least that and then some. It's time for stability.

David Boyle: Unquestionably, yes. As Simon mentioned, stability is key right now and we have to give O'Neill more time and investment to mould his own side whilst shipping out a lot of deadwood from the squad. Keep the faith and I'm sure we will be repaid tenfold.

Dan Williams: And, here we go, no. I'm not convinced that we will ever be the team that we want to be while he is in charge. Yes, I realise that things take time, but Sunderland have been woeful for the last 30 something games, with the occasional positive 'blip'. I have no names in mind for a replacement, I know that sacking him now would serve no positive purpose, but I am yet to be convinced that Martin O'Neill is the man to bring success back to Wearside.

Chris Weatherspoon: Yes. The most successful manager on Wearside in many a year (perhaps ever), and a man who thinks deeply about the game. He's achieved success pretty much everywhere he's been, and there are shoots of encouragement emerging in what is a squad overly laden with squad players. Like I've said previously, even if we get relegated (we won't, mind), he should be kept.

Karl Jones: Quite simply, he is the man capable of piecing all this lot (and some pieces from elsewhere) together to form a successful Sunderland. O'Neill is methodical and particular - both in the press and in his planning - and it's quite reassuring to know that the club is in the hands of a man with a plan.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Conclusions

Players part of the problem: Titus Bramble, Phil Bardsley, Kieren Westwood, Carlos Cuellar, Matthew Kilgallon, David Vaughan, Louis Saha, Wes Brown, David Meyler, Fraizer Campbell.

Players who can be part of the solution: Simon Mignolet, Jack Colback, Seb Larsson, James McClean, Steven Fletcher, Craig Gardner, Stephane Sessegnon, John O'Shea, Lee Cattermole, Connor Wickham, Adam Johnson.

Almost a direct 50/50 split, then. Our writers clearly think we are not too far away, but there is a lot of work to be done. Perhaps most tellingly is that of all the defenders that the club actually own, only John O'Shea has made our 'solution' list, and even that was far from unanimous.

Of those deemed part of the problem, four are out of contract in the summer, and three of the others are over 30 years old, so it is important to note that the opportunity is looming to replace a large chunk of that problem list with solutions.

As for Martin O'Neill, despite Dan's clear concerns, I would still consider that to have been a strong vote of confidence in the manager from our writers.

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