Sunderland Season Preview: The Thoughts Of Iain Macintosh

Is James McClean Sunderland's only priceless player? Read on and find out what Iain Macintosh has to say about it...

The top quality opinions just keep on coming here on Roker Report this week as today we speak to another friend of the site, Iain Macintosh.

Iain's quite frankly one of the most entertaining journalists around at the moment, mixing intelligent thought with a side order of witty to keep everyone entertained. It's also worth mentioning Iain has a great book out at the moment, on a subject we can all relate to... Football Manager Stole My Life is available right now, so go and buy it.

Until then, check out what Iain thinks Sunderland have to look forward to this coming season...

As far as incomings this summer it's been relatively quiet round here. What have you made of Sunderland's business and what do you make of the potential names that have been linked to the club?

Iain Macintosh: I don't think it's quite the summer that anyone expected, but on the bright side, those lingering fears that Martin O'Neill might spend a fortune on mediocre players have certainly vanished, haven't they? There is a fairly decent squad in place already, of course, but if I was pushing the boat out for a season ticket, I think I'd want a little more than two ageing freebies.

There have also been plenty of outgoings, with big-earners such as Craig Gordon, George McCartney and so forth all departing, while the sale of Michael Turner raised a few eyebrows too. Are there any more players you feel are on the chopping block?

IM: With the exception of James McClean, I'm not sure that anybody is entirely safe. You can put some of the inconsistency of last season down to uncertainty and change, but O'Neill won't have time for nonsense this year. He'll expect the players to know exactly what he expects of them and he won't hesitate to swing the axe if people continue to tit around.

To position yourself on the fringes of the world of fantasy for a moment, who do you think would be a dream signing for Sunderland in the next few weeks, although isn't that far removed from possibility?

IM: Well, this time last season I said ‘Nicklas Bendtner' and that didn't work out brilliantly, so perhaps I'm not the best person to ask. Still, incompetence has never held me back yet, so how about Joe Cole? He needs fitness, no-one at Liverpool is *that* sure about him. Another loan spell, but this time in the Premier League?

Over the summer there's been a bit of a change of style into a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation, although one of the main talking points has been wondering where Stephane Sessegnon fits into this. If you were the gaffer, where would you play him in order to get the best of him?

IM: I love and hate Sessegnon in equal measure. He's the best player in the team, but not always the brightest. I'd just stick him behind the striker and leave him to it. There's absolutely no point expecting him to play a disciplined game, so you may as well just take the harness off and go with it.

Martin O'Neill starts his first full season as Sunderland boss after a mixed year last year. How do you see the season going? More like the early ‘glory' days or more like the post-FA Cup run of disappointment?

IM: I think it will be just like last season without the wobbly beginning. They'll be tight at the back, they'll be good at set-pieces, they'll snatch points from better teams here and there and they'll drop points against weaker side every now and then. They'll slip home unnoticed in 13th

There's a few players in the final year, or final two years of their contract at the club. For whom do you think this season it's crucial they begin to show their worth to the team and the fans?

IM: I think it's crucial for all players at all times to show their worth to the fans. The North-East is not an affluent area and if you're going to come up here and earn a family annual income every seven days, it would be nice if you pulled your balls out of your arse and did some work for it.

Time for some quick predictions if we could, and we'll start with your prediction for Player Of The Season, and why?

IM: There's no excuses of youth or tenderness now, I think it's time for Lee Cattermole to step up. He is, in many ways, the perfect midfielder. He's very decent on the ball, he's a tireless worker, and he's a vindictive bastard. If he can improve the former and curb the latter, this could be his best season in years.

And your prediction for Young Player Of The Season?

IM: Though it was no fault of his own, Connor Wickham did not enjoy a very promising campaign last year. I think he'll start to believe in himself a little more under O'Neill, and we might finally see some of his undoubted potential coming to fruition.

Where do you think Sunderland will finish next season?

IM: 13th and everybody will have stopped talking about them by about February.

And finally, is this the year we claw back some of the bragging rights when it comes to them up the road. Can we beat Newcastle, and can we finish above them?

IM: Can you beat Newcastle? Yes, of course, and I think perhaps you will. Can you finish above them? I've seen nothing at all this summer to suggest that you can. And that includes Louis Saha.

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Many thanks to Iain for answering our questions. Buy his brand new book "Football Manager Stole My Life" today from Amazon (HERE) and follow the man himself on Twitter for more top quality football talk, and occasional Lord Of The Rings references @IainMacintosh

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