End Of Season Opinion From... Jonathan Wilson

Dino Panato

This week we bring you some opinion from those who tend to form opinions for us in the local and national media. To get things kicked off we have a best-selling author, journalist, magazine mogul and a Sunderland fan from birth, it's Jonathan Wilson!

What are your thoughts on Sunderland's season as a whole?

Jonathan Wilson: Pretty dismal. I do wonder what might have happened had the Reading game not been postponed right at the start. Say Sunderland had won that, they'd have had 10 points from six unbeaten games at the start and that, in terms of morale and confidence, might have given them some momentum. And we did seem to play teams when they were in good form - twice against QPR, the away game at Reading, away at Norwich. But that's a crap excuse. We were rubbish.

Do you feel the decision to replace Martin O'Neill with Paolo Di Canio was the right one?

JW: Probably. There was a sense of inevitability about the decline under O'Neill, a weariness about everybody. If nothing else, appointing Di Canio gave Sunderland another throw of the dice.

As a coach, everything suggests he could be very good; top marks at Coverciano, intelligent, passionate, workaholic. Obviously you wonder how players will deal with his intensity and, although I know people won't want to hear it, the politics trouble me.

I hated the witch-hunt aspect when he came in but Sunderland handled the situation appallingly; when somebody has the tattoos Di Canio has, when he's made those salutes, when he's attended the funerals of Italian fascists, when he's been (perhaps mis-)quoted as saying he's a fascist, they can't expect it not to be an issue. There should have been an explanation right from the start of what he believes - which, to be honest, I still don't feel I'm anywhere near understanding. So I give him the benefit of the doubt for now but with a sense of unease.

Who's your Player of the Season?

JW: Simon Mignolet by a million miles.

Game of the Season?

JW: It has to be the 3-0 at Newcastle.

Goal of the Season?

JW: Sessegnon at Fulham (our first right-footed goal of the season as I told the rest of the press-box with an enthusiasm they seemed to find misplaced).

Do you think the quite public stance Di Canio has taken with regards to attitude and fitness with the players is the right call to make, or should he have gone about things differently?

JW: I think it was exactly the right thing to do (in a general sense; I'm not presuming to comment on the specifics of the seven players he fined). The timing was perfect: rollick them now, let everybody have warning that next season will be more stringent and then they can begin pre-season in a more positive frame of mind, building fitness and morale.

From what I hear from Swindon, Sunderland will be the fittest team in the division next season (at least at the start).

Can you give us a reason or two to feel positive about the summer and next season from what we witnessed last season?

JW: Di Canio is a good coach. He'll add sharpness and improve positional work. And this is now our longest stint bin the top flight since relegation in 1958.

There's been a million-and-one players already linked to the club, but if you were in charge who would be your number one transfer target?

JW: There's really no outfield area where Sunderland don't need to improve but full-back and the middle of midfield are probably key. But as a fantasy signing (and we'd probably need £15m or so) I'd go for Luis Muriel of Udinese - quick, inventive, 22-year-old Colombian forward.

What's been your own personal highlight of the season, be it Sunderland-related or something else?

Dortmund's run to the Champions League final was great, the Cup of Nations is always fun - especially the Nigeria vs Cote d'Ivoire quarter-final, and the Chelsea buffet goes from strength to strength.

Clearly though the highlight was watching the 3-0 over Newcastle in the press-room at Wembley, twitching silently in my seat for 80 minutes or so and then finding myself doing a little jig of involuntary glee when Vaughan scored the third.

Finally, any further thoughts on what has been an eventful season for us?

JW: Glad it's over. Let's start again.

Many thanks to Jonathan for answering our questions. You can get yourself subscribed to what is quite easily the best football reading anywhere in the form of The Blizzard when you click here, an addition to that he also has a new book out -- The Outsider: A History Of The Goalkeeper -- which you can buy on Amazon right now, here.

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