Buzzer's Blog: Summerbee - Cats In Good Hands For New Season

Huddersfield's Jordan Rhodes - the finisher Martin O'Neill needs to find this summer?

With pre-season about to get underway and the transfer market starting to heat up, we thought it was about time to seek the opinion of someone who... well to put it frankly, someone who actually matters.

So we got in touch with regular Roker Report guest columnist and former Sunderland winger Nick Summerbee to seek his views on how things are shaping up on Wearside ahead of the new campaign.

Nick has recently launched his own website, where you can keep abreast of his various appearances and projects, as well as book him yourself should you have a project in mind. It can be found at www.nicksummerbee.com, and it's well worth keeping an eye on.

Over to you, Nick...

There seems to be an awful lot of talk about wholesale changes on Wearside this summer, but I am not too sure about that myself. I don't think Sunderland are that far off. Key to that is the manager.

Sunderland have a top manager there in Martin O'Neill. If you aren't going to pull your finger out or work for him he'll get rid of you, so clearly the players have lifted their game.

He's had a good look at his players now and he'll know which ones he needs to improve upon. Fans need to stick with him, be patient, and he'll get it right. I think it's going to be a good season for Sunderland with a top half finish and I really fancy them for a good cup run.

One thing that is especially noticeable is how much the place is bouncing compared to this time last year.

But O'Neill is someone who can do that. He will get the club going. If you look at Newcastle, that is what a team spirit can do. It isn't that much different to what ours was. We were not big names but we worked hard, gelled together, and played a certain way. I look at Sunderland now and it's exciting because they look well on the way to that.

With that said, it is pretty clear that there does need to be a bit of squad strengthening to compliment it, and you have to expect O'Neill to be relatively busy in the transfer market this summer. Getting in a good centre half, a good centre midfielder - a ball player and winner - and a good centre forward from somewhere is what everyone is looking for, and O'Neill will be no different there.

Obviously, there is a big need for a forward at the moment. I look at Connor Wickham and think this could be a big season for him. He is a big powerful lad but he doesn't really throw his weight around enough. We haven't really seen him contribute yet, so now is the time he has to step up. Hopefully O'Neill can get him going this season.

It seems like every forward under the sun has been linked with Sunderland so far this summer, but the one I'd really like to see them making a move for is Jordan Rhodes from Huddersfield. He can obviously finish.

They are not too far away with the players that are there now, however. Sessegnon is a wonderful player and Fraizer Campbell is there too. He plays football with a smile on his face and he's a good player that the club have missed during his various injuries. So Sunderland can afford to be a little picky with regard additions to make sure any new arrivals can actually add something as well as arriving at the right price.

Whoever does play up front for Sunderland next season can look forward to the service from James McClean, though. It will be a tougher season for him, as everyone knows what he is all about now, but he is such a good raw talent. Any forward playing with him knows they just have to get in certain areas in the box and the ball will find them sooner or later.

That's all I used to ask of Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn. For me, I knew that I if I could get ten crosses into the box a game and four of them got near Kevin Phillips, then that was it. I'd done my job. Hopefully McClean will forget about coming short and messing about and instead just get himself one on one with a defender and attack him. None of this full back overlapping rubbish. Just concentrate on getting his crosses into the right areas.

When you get to the byline as a winger, you open doors. Defenders will always find it hard with a ball coming across goal and with players coming onto it. Hopefully he stays on his natural side for that reason. If he can cut inside and bring a little extra to his game then great - although I wouldn't want him to do it too much - but where you want James McClean is attacking on the outside and whipping crosses into the box. No one should be trying to take that out of his game.

Just as important as growth on the pitch, however, is growth off it, and this summer's summer trip to South Korea is just something that has to be done for the sake of the football club. It has to try and become a worldwide brand. Sunderland really need to get their name out there.

Some will perhaps say that it isn't ideal to travel so far, but I have no problems at all with it. The bottom line is that if the club want to reap the benefits of the the Premier League's global audience then they have to put the effort in to getting out there and see them. It is not as if the lads will be staying in doss-houses. It will be 5-star hotels all the way.

But at the end of the day, wherever they go and whatever they do, pre-season is a footballer's worst nightmare. You have a bit of time off from football and all of a sudden you lose your sharpness and fitness. It is something that just has to be done, though, because if you don't then you'll be struggling to get up to speed all season.

In fact, you never even quite get your full fitness until five or six games into the season itself anyway, which really highlights just how crucial a period this is for players. It is one thing I don't miss!

NICK SUMMERBEE

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Remember to pay Nick's website a visit at www.nicksummerbee.com, and if you are not already following him on Twitter, you may rectify that oversight on your part here!

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