A few days ago Craig Clark wrote an article for the Durham Times titled, "Needless Comparisons Not Helping Sunderland". I had a really long comment typed out in response, but scrapped it and decided to make a FanPost. The article for those who haven't read it, mainly speaks about the comparisons and judgements being made between SAFC and Newcastle and how it is genuinely unhealthy for the club. Let's face facts though, the Mags are our biggest rivals, there will always be comparisons between our teams and it will always be a hot topic in the minds of fans of both clubs. What I really wanted to address in this post is the even more unhealthy comparison to Swansea City in which Craig states what most SAFC fans are thinking, "Why Not Us". People see Swansea as a club who are two years removed from the championship and are making huge strides in the Premier League, in regards to both table position and trophies, and they are right. Sunderland fans feel that their club should be in a similar situation to Swansea, if not better, due to our run of six consecutive years in the top flight. Fans making this comparison are blindly comparing two different clubs that took two very different roads to the Premier League, and I wanted to really break down why SAFC are struggling to find the success that Swansea have, in order to create some perspective.
It begins with looking at the way Sunderland were built and the way Swansea were built in each respective team's promotion winning season into the Premier League. Sunderland opted to take the approach to build quickly with veterans like Dwight Yorke, David Connolly, and Stern John, and for the remainder of the team, bring in proven championship players. There were a few good signings, the loan signing of Evans, and some players that looked like they could be Premier League quality given the chance, but overall Sunderland was in the hunt for a quick return to the top flight.
On the other hand Swansea looked to develop a team. They made some really nice signings and scouted well for younger players to develop like Scott Sinclair, Joe Allen, and Ashley Williams. They focused more on bringing in quality rather than rushing to get into the Premier League with a team that they knew would have to be completely overhauled due to lack of quality. They took a strong core and began to build on it when they came to the top flight, with signings like Ki, and Michu.
Sunderland had no core upon their return to the top flight, and it has taken us until now to really start to build a team instead of piecing together enough serviceable players to keep us in the Premier League. More emphasis has been placed on the quality of signings and in structuring contracts so that we can build a strong core. I have no doubt that we are heading in the right direction under Short and hope that the moves we have made under O'neill so far reflect the moves we make in the future. This season has always been about restructuring and I think if we as fans can keep that in perspective we may be willing to forgive O'neill for a lack of consistency, because it is just the beginning of a better more stable Sunderland.