Hello all, we're back once again with a column for The Durham Times, our favourite North East newspaper, and we're not even contractually obliged to say that, it's just a fact.
Every week we provide them with our take on all things Sunderland, so why not start buying the paper each and every Friday from your local newsagents. It's only 50p, which is a bargain for a week's worth of news! If you're all digital then you can head on over to their website on a Friday and read it there (CLICK HERE). Finally if you want to wait, head right here at the weekend where we'll be reproducing it.
All things considered, here we go with the latest...
The end of the season can't come quick enough for Sunderland, which is quite the turnaround given that two months ago we simply didn't want it to end.
The initial impact of Martin O'Neill was fantastic, nobody can deny that. The way in which he singlehandedly inspired Steve Bruce's lorry load of losers into a team who believed in themselves and felt they could win any game was nothing short of magnificent.
However over the last few months we've begun to see the side revert to form. The early season form in which we were inevitably second best in most games, and looking fairly clueless as to how to turn things in our favour.
The difference between now and say November 2011 is that now we have an opportunity to turn things around. Under Bruce, there was a sizeable part of the season, and months until the January transfer window. During which it's notoriously difficult to sign players anyway.
At least after this most recent dismal run, there's an opportunity for change, and Martin O'Neill seems to recognise that more than most. These thoughts played themselves into the forefront of everyone's mind in our recent outing against Fulham.
It's highly unlikely that Asamoah Gyan will come back to the club, and even if the Ghanaian did, it would be incredibly difficult for him to win over the fans given his controversial exit from the club.
It's also equally unlikely that Nicklas Bendtner will be sticking around after his admission last week that even if we did agree terms with Arsenal, he might choose to look elsewhere. It would be a shame to lose such an impactful player, but we have to accept we aren't the sort of club that can pander to, or live up to his ego or expectations.
This would leave us with only Stephane Sessegnon and Fraizer Campbell as senior strikers, while Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham have seen very little action since arriving on Wearside. If all goes according to plan, the latter two could be shipped out on loan anyway, so it's imperative we look to bring in some quality players in that department this season.
Many names have been touted around, from unknowns (to many anyway) such as FC Basel striker Valentin Stocker, who has apparently turned us down this week through to more known quantities such as Wolves striker Steven Fletcher.
The latter seems the more likely to come to us following the clubs relegation, and the fact he seems to be very much in the Martin O'Neill style of a big man who can get you at least ten goals a season. Fletcher would be a perfect fit in our style with Seb Larsson and James McClean providing crosses, plus Sessegnon in behind picking up on the scraps.
All things considered though, I wouldn't want Fletcher to be the only man brought in. Good as he is, one of our main problems for years now has been our wont to rely on one striker to do it all, and there have been other suggested names n the frame such as Yakubu from Blackburn Rovers, Kenywne Jones, who we all know well and perhaps most intriguingly of all, Huddersfield Town hitman, Jordan Rhodes.
With it being likely we'll have to spend in the region of £7m for Fletcher, a £3-4m "punt" on Rhodes could turn into an excellent acquisition for the club. Rhodes has similar attributes to Fletcher, and would provide good competition as well as being a reliable alternative option.
On the subject of goals, there's another team in need of them badly, and that Manchester United who are headed to Wearside this weekend. I may be pessimistic at the best of times, but this week I don't see United getting the nine goals (at least) needed to overhaul their so called "noisy neighbours".
It is however, quite nice to have some involvement on the day, and in what has been a season packed with unexpected moments, there's still a chance that we could prove to be party poopers, and end this one on a bit of a high.
Getting any sort of result could be quite crucial, given the world will be watching, and if we can dig in and roll our sleeves up to put in a competitive and solid performance, it might just end up being easier to attract players this summer.