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Sunderland AFC - a neutral's view

I'm not really a football supporter, but I am a follower of the management shenanigans of the premiership and since on field results affect the off field decisions very directly I am somewhat forced to follow the on field action of most of the teams. I suppose that may make me a fan in the true sense, of football and all teams, rather than just a fan of one team. But this season, I've picked Sunderland as my summer love team... It was Wigan before, and Wolves before that, everyone supported Blackpool, Newcastle once... I'll ignore the fact that they've all gone down at some point or other (not good enough management) and it's a 'good old underdog' thing. If there was a team that I have to support come what may, it's Wolves ("Wolves? Who are they? Exactly!") Oh dear, I hear you say and you'd be thinking Wolves are doing a Leeds right now! My father, a lifelong Wolves 'supporter' used to tell me back in the 70s that Wolves were too good for the second division and not good enough for the first division. Fast forward 40 years and lets hope he's not still correct. So why on earth have I, a neutral, picked Sunderland? Because I think it's going to be fantastic this season. I have a mate of 30 years who's a real Mackem, (I went to his wedding in central Sunderland), now living in the States and of course he's a true disciple. But the poor guy has gone through hell in these last 40 years... He may even have to fly back for an important match this season...

I see a lot of random scribblings regarding Sunderland. Most of it is extremely lazy journalism to fill a few column inches. The gist of most of what passes for reasoned argument and in depth analysis goes along the lines of:- Sunderland have been historically 'not very good' (to be frank, c**p), they are still not very good, they've ditched 'good' managers, put a psycho Italian in charge, binned half the team, bought an entire new team, they can't possibly gel, the manager will explode, it's all gonna go pear shaped and they're destined to go down. A couple of hours 'research' on the internet and a little bit of analysis will tell anyone with even a half open mind, this isn't exactly what's going to pan out. Di canio would kick these journalists lazy bums despite the fact he doesn't kick/kill (depending on your journo) anyone.

So lets start there - Di Canio. I shall christen him "The Canny One". You heard it here first! Di Canio is, by many accounts, a combustible, inexperienced, Italian faschist psychopathic madman who wears his heart on his sleeve... Well lets just address these one at a time. Combustible? He has a Mediterranean temperament no doubt, and why not? He appears to come from about 10 miles from the Med. His temperament does appear to come to the fore when he believes he's being messed about, by 'dissing the club', not acting professionally, having a 'losing' mentality or worst of all, not actually working very hard (or are the last two the other way round). Inexperienced? At premiership level, yes, although to be fair, he's had a month or so... His experience has been just short of two years in the lower divisions, taking Swindon (Swindon? Who are they? Exactly...) to league winners one year (so he's already won silverware), then to play off places the next. This isn't the mark of some random guy who's happened into football management. Critics cite the fact that he spent vast sums (4 million quid) to do it. Am I missing something here? He only got success because he spent money at Swindon and now he's spending money at Sunderland, he'll be a failure? What? So success should continue under a new manager, surely? There's no point arguing with people who can't follow simple logic... Contrast this with Moyes and Wenger who aren't exactly splashing the cash (yet)! Anyway, 4 million doesn't buy you a shed load these days (unless you're Di Fanti). I'd like to see critics take Swindon up two flights... but thankfully, they won't be given the opportunity. Di Canio bought reasonably well - he had turnover, but to suggest that he made no difference whatsoever at Swindon is mind boggling in the extreme. He made ALL the difference there. Of course he left when Matt Ritchie was sold from under him (to balance the books). His passion was very evident then as he offered to front up £30,000 of his own dosh to help out. Ultimately, he didn't receive assurances that he wanted and walked out. His backroom team, showing ultimate loyalty, followed him out onto the dole one week later. Italian? Yep, from Rome, they got that right... Faschist? I'd say he's a faschist. Like many words, faschist means different things to different peoples. In England, the word has extremely poor connotations (Hitler, Nazis, Racists...), but it's usually bandied about inappropriately and incorrectly to derogate whoever it's aimed at. In Italy, the term pertains to someone of the extreme right (only politically). The guy would admire Maggie Thatcher, for sure. But get this, the guy is (was strictly) working class. His parents were working class. He's, through sheer determination and hard work, pulled himself up. The fans should connect with that. He's become middle class now and his eldest daughter is moving further on by achieving a first class degree at university. I congratulate them both. In the popular vernacular of English working class football managers, "The boy done good". Di Canio's politics are a result of his formative circumstances, just as North Easteners' are. It is not relevant to Sunderland AFC. (North Easteners' circumstances are relevant to the UK, but that's another story). Is di Canio a racist? No, I don't see ANY evidence of that whatsoever. So the press is half right (and completely wrong in the English sense) and really just another example of sloppy reporting to garner readers of a few more column inches. Psychopathic? Don't be silly now. He hasn't killed anyone... yet! Madman? He's mad as spoons obviously - he's Italian... Well no, not really. There is a structured methodological approach to his madness, no doubt at all. In fact it's said there's a fine line between madness and genius. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt - 90/10 to genius. Heart on his sleeve? Yep, they got that bit right too. It's difficult to tell if some of the interviews he's given are off the cuff from the heart stuff, or a little bit more nuanced - like Cantona, talking of a trawler (himself) chopping up sardines (his actions) as he chugs along (on and off the pitch) so that the following seagulls (pressmen) have tidbits (copy) to feed themselves (fill column inches). As I say, too hard to tell at the moment whether he's being nuanced. Certainly his command of English (although not perfect - it's better than my Italian, Non! Io sono Inglese) is somewhat better than some other foreign managers. Di Canio is a workaholic with extremely high standards. His failing (as a manager, for me) is to expect everyone else to measure up to the same high standards. People don't. The art of management is to coax the best from what you've got (and recognize deficiencies and fix them). Di Canio's style is too confrontational for a normal business environment, but it may well pass OK on a football pitch. This being The Premiership however (it's a true bastion of capitalism - only 'fair play' will dent that), there's the element of 'ultimately replaceable' applied to everyone associated with the game. So, he can lose underperformers and bad eggs and acquire motivated people singing from his hymn sheet (within certain financial constraints). He realizes that he is just as expendable as anyone else. I am relatively critical of his management style and that of Sir Alex Ferguson too, but in football, it gets results. Do the ends justify the means? In the Premiership, the answer is probably yes. Di Canio has ambition, he's driven, he has a plan, he's been given the opportunity to execute that plan and he's certainly canny enough not to mess up the opportunity. I know a good handful of millionaires and have met more. Not one of them is a footballer (er, well OK, one was), pop star or lottery winner. What every one of them has in common is that they work very very hard (and smart). Di Canio is in that same mould. Even his detractors (being on the wrong end of his man management - by hand grenade - and flamethrower - skills), concede that he is a very good coach, with a burning desire to succeed. Di Canio is box office. There's no doubt about that and it's easy to pigeon hole him into some sort of 'entertaining buffoon' box, but again it's lazy journalism. He's nobody's fool, that's for sure. He achieved some of the highest ever marks when he passed his coaching qualifications after retiring from playing. This is a man who is in one hell of a hurry to get to the very top of football. He can clearly see his destiny. Can we see it? Maybe, maybe not, maybe YES. If Brian Clough can take a team like Nottingham Forest (Nottingham Forest? Who are they? Exactly!) and win two European cups, then there's no reason why a manager of similar capabilities can't do it with a club like Sunderland. Has Di Canio got those similar qualities? Difficult to tell, but I sincerely believe so. Some managers are mere journeymen, some have the skills to stay in the Premiership, some have the skills to stay at the top of the premiership, some have the skills to go up from the Championship, some have the skills to go up to the premiership and back down again, some to go up, stay up and go back down. (I'm thinking of Mick McCarthy now and back to Wolves, er hang on, didn't he manage Sunderland once?). I can't see that Sir Alex Ferguson would be sending letters to all second division (well any division) football managers (as he did to Di Canio) when they won unless he could see something of himself in them. I think there's a lot to be said for a team in the Championship using a proven promotion getter to get up (like Ian Holloway), then trade them in (just as assuredly as they'd trade in their own players) for a better replacement to stay in and progress up the Premiership. To keep an untested manager on to stay in, let alone, progress in the Premierhip is an interesting notion and to some extent makes it even the more mind boggling that Sunderland should give a manager who hasn't even seen Championship action a go at the job. Mind, if a manager brings a team up through the ranks consistently and rapidly, then you'd have good reason to try them in the premiership. I don't see that Di Canio is an any way, a journeyman manager. Swindon had a very good, but confrontational manager. I suspect many on the board couldn't see past the confontational bit. I don't see that these worries about di Canio are justified.

Di Fanti - Director of Football. Sunderland AFC (I can't see Sunderland ditching 'AFC' in the name as Hull have just done) isn't just Paolo di Canio. Di Canio has a good backroom team consisting of his own coaches and physios, but now supplanted with more Italians on the Director of Football and scouting side. Di Fanti, it has to be said, looks like at least half the brains of the operation, footballing wise. This is not to downplay the role of Di Canio, but collectively, the sum of the men is much better than each of them individually. Just as Football is a team game, the backroom is also a team game. Di Fanti has evidently turned from poacher to game keeper. He's swapped his mobile phone for an office job and a rebuilding exercise that seems daunting to say the least. His contact book is evidently full of useful names from most of Europe and South America. His scouts evidently do stunning work too and between them they've got some very interesting new additions into the squad. The brief seems to have been simple and I think it runs along the lines of "Get me big, strong, good, attack minded, intelligent, creative footballers with winning team oriented mentalities and development potential at sensible prices and reasonable wage demands to give the rest of the squad some decent competition for playing time". Amazingly, he's certainly delivered almost an entire team to that specification. Not only that, he's secured some interesting coups and most remarkably of all he's done it for roughly 15 million, once he's finished offloading the 'unwanteds'. Compared to the tens of millions spent in previous transfer windows (for few 'quality' players), the Di Fanti economy/quality equation looks truly incredible. This has also been achieved without upsetting the apple cart where the 'wanted' old squad are concerned. There is, as far as I can tell, a wage harmony throughout the squad. Evidently, the blueprint extends to a couple of fullbacks (to double up and give competition) to the 'make do' pair (Colback and Gardner) currently available and to a creative midfielder. I say make do, but to be fair to the system envisaged by Di Canio, it's not as though these more middle of the park players are being asked to change roles entirely. It looks as though the full backs are some form of hybrid wingers too. A team with four wingers? I'm a strong believer in round pegs in round holes and square ones in square holes. Specialist fullbacks are ultimately a better solution than the make do system that Sunderland have no option but to embrace. Part of this is of course self (Di Canio) imposed by deliberately sidelining certain players. Bardsley in particular springs to mind. Whether or not he'd been warned not to be a pillock by Di Canio prior to the Casino incident (rolling round in 50 quid notes - presumably he'd be happy to wear a Wonga sponsored shirt - and I hear he might have the opportunity), he was certainly unprofessional. I'm not suggesting for one moment that Di Canio has made a scapegoat of him. I think it's more subtle than that - there's a large element of getting both the right mentality and getting the wage bill down. Bardsley could just do a Tevez and go and play golf somewhere for a few months, but like Tevez, he'll wake up one day thinking 'What the hell am I doing here?', throw down his clubs, get on a plane back to Blighty and get back to footballing. Time to move on (and take a pay cut if necessary). The final piece of the jigsaw is a specialist creative midfielder with "the keys to the house". The latest gossip suggests he's going to be English too, although once again this maybe an attempt to soften up some other team's manager to get another foreign player in. If it's a simple as Di Canio says, then maybe it's Tottenham's Huddlestone. I wouldn't bet on it though. I'm interested to know how the di-di-dynamic came about. I know that the owner was introduced to Di Fanti as the son of one of his business colleagues, but I'm wondering how the Di Canio connection came about. Maybe it was Di Fanti who suggested Di Canio. Truly amazing if that's what happened. Oh, hang on, Short - di Fanti - O'Neill - meeting early 2013 - di Canio walks... Unlikely to be related incidents. The contrast between Di Fanti/Di Canio and Kinnear/Pardew at Newcastle is stark. Talking of Kinnear... I thought he was dead. There can't be two comedians called Kinnear can there? (He was ace in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - the proper one with Gene Wilder in it - buying millions of duffers before getting a winner). Kinnear appears to have been wasting valuable time trying to appoint a side kick to actually do some Director of Footballing for him rather than actually getting on with the job directly. There's a spoof news site (newsthump) that headlines "Kinnear claims he sank the Spanish Armada". Cool, I never knew that! To be fair to the guy, he HAS got a French target in, who should bond well avec l'equipe Neufchatel. He's certainly Mike Ashley's man. The dynamic between him and Pardew looks very toxic. Conversely, Di Fanti and Di Canio look like they're a very complementary pair and both know exactly what they're doing. Is Di Fanti "The Fantastic One"?

Many critics point to massive squad acquisition and turnover and point out that it in no way guarantees success. Generally they like to point out the reverse. Has anyone taken a scalpel to a squad like Di Canio and cut away half of it and replaced them all? I mean, basically, he's buying an entire team. They say it can't be done, you can't make it gel, it takes ages to get it right... We need to see that the scalpel has been applied surgically. Certainly fitness is important. The footballers at Sunderland are professional athletes playing in one of (if not, the most) competitive leagues in the world. Quite simply, if a player runs 9 miles in a competitive game, but does 2 1/2 in training, how can he be fit enough to go flat out for 90 minutes? The training regime has been put together to address this simple conundrum. But Di Canio isn't just concentrating on fitness. He is working on mentality, tactics and teamwork. Di Canio has correctly identified 'mentality' as one of the key areas for squad success. Di Canio is wielding a scalpel just as assuredly as a surgeon doing brain surgery. He may have cut away good footbaling talent, but he's cut away the cancerous elements with it. He wants to build a professional football TEAM. There is certainly room for stars in his team, but the team and its harmony are more important. He wants a group of individuals who are willing to die for their team mates for the benefit of the collective. Winning isn't quite everything, but it's a main narrative. Winning becomes a virtuous circle. Instilling a winning mentality is essential to win and to reinforce that mentality. It's difficult to instill this mentality in a collection of individuals who won't or can't buy into the approach. It's easier to let go of those who don't buy in and to instill it in a new group of people and the remnants of the squad who do buy in. (Unfortunately, you can't do this with an entire country, so other methods are required). Di Fanti has managed to replace much of the squad in a remarkably short period of time, which has enabled Di Canio to start the beasting, brainwashing and bonding very early in the preseason to forge a cohesive team. The fact that he has competition for most of the places on the field also helps this strategy. I can almost imagine them lining up before every match, giving some chest thumping salute to the supporters before intoning "TE, OPERERVS SALVTAMVS, SVNDERLAND"! Tactically, Di Canio is going for pretty much all out attack. For Sunderland fans used to digesting the defense minded stratgey of O'Neill, things should be much more exciting. This however may be one of the factors in a possible downfall. I see the requirement for specialist fullbacks and the acknowledgement of that fact within the recruitment department of at least addressing this obvious deficiency. With a solid back four and some replacements, the attacking concentration should work fine. Without a shored up defence, things could get decidedly dicey... But if you go out to draw every match, even at 100% success rate you'll just stay in the Premiership. If you go out to win every match, you get the same result with a 33% success rate. Clearly, it's better to try to win. The majority of people who see Di Canio as some sort of sadistic "Mr Motivator", who wants the fittest football team on the planet and nothing else, completely underestimate the man and the transformation that is unfolding at Sunderland.

Looking at the squad, there are a few potential worries. Colback is a real dilemma for di Canio. The refusal to sign a new contract appears born out of a frustration not to be playing in his preferred position in midfield. I think di Canio is trying to convince him that left full back isn't the dead end Colback thinks it is, emphasizing as he does, the attack minded pseudo winger role. Colback is more of an all rounder in any case. Well worth keeping to cover more than one position. Bardsley of course is a natural in defence, but he's blotted his copy book where di Canio is concerned. I can see why di Canio wants rid, quite apart from the heavy wages going out there. Bardsley isn't pulling his weight, either professionally or on the pitch (realtive to his pay). Di Canio is evidently trying to address both of these positions with reinfocements in any case. If he gets them I then wonder whether Colback will be in the starting XI. Presumably, Colback is wondering the same thing. I understand also that Colback wanted better terms and it's maybe a point of priciple for di Canio not to unbalance the financials on Wearside. I see Sunderland being forced to use Colback as left back and allowing his contract to run down. If the finishing position at end of season is good, then maybe he can be induced to sign up again at that point. Gardner is somewhat easier for di Canio, having already expressed his desire to play anywhere. If anything, I see the fullbacks as the Achilles heal of Sunderland. Maybe the attack force can score enough goals for it not to matter, but it seams unlikely. Certainly they'll score, but not enough to cover the losses (for a high table finish). Either goaly won't be up to Mignolet's standards, but that was the price di Canio had to pay to do this level of restructuring. The midfield is evidently a major area of concern to di Canio. I'm pretty certain he'll get a good creative player in, if not in this window, definitely in January (and I fully expect di Canio to still be there in January). Altidore's lack of a goal in the (few) preseason games is of almost inconsequential concern. I've not seen any of the matches (I'm not a real supporter), but the reports suggest he's looking pretty sharp, pretty formidable and he's certainly been involved in a few assists. However, Altidore has been 'bangin' 'em in' in Holland for the last couple of years, he's scored in four successive USA games and 3 were world cup qualifications and he's stuck one past Germany... How many rubbish players could do that? How many England players can do that? None, in a century of history, I suspect. The main point here though, is that the attack is playing as a team and not as a series of independent individuals. The other new recruits and the old guard remnants appear to be blended rather well and generally, the team sounds like it's pretty solid bar the few areas that diCanio is still addressing. It's unfair to single any of them out, but they all, Giaccherini, Cabral, Moberg Karlsson, O'shea, et al, look very capable and very 'up for it'.

The preseason friendlies have given us a slight taste of the New Sunderland 2.0... The Asia Trophy was evidently in di Canio's mind when he went out there. They tuned over Spurs (as I suspected they would) who I think suffered from the sort of complacency that di Canio is quick to remind his own players, they must not do. AVG won't make it easy against Spurs next time. The Man City game was more or less as expected. Reports suggest the attack gave City some serious problems, but you could say City's defence gave Sunderland's attack some serious problems too... And there's the rub, City are a far classier side over the entire pitch. Maybe under Mancini, as a collection of mercenary prima donnas Sunderland might have been able to turn them over, but we have to keep coming back to the fact that football is essentially a team game. This is something the Americans appear to have taken to heart and it is I suggest the reason that they now punch above their (perceived) weight internationally. I personally wouldn't fancy England's chances coming up against the USA in a world cup match... The Denmark game sounds like it was great for the first half, then Sunderland took their foot off the gas. Di Canio was evidently not happy about that. I think he wanted to see 'the killer instinct' and wanted Sunderland to truly go for the jugular, especially when an entire new opposing team was wheeled out... They were certainly fit enough to carry on the fight, but they didn't. And that's the point, classy teams would carry on. Remember Spurs, who got turned over... they went on to blitz South China in a pretty devastating manner right after. THAT is what di Canio EXPECTS to see of Sunderland. And as he rightly reckons, if they haven't got that killer instinct, they're going nowhere at the higher levels. At 1-0, a game is still anyone's, but at 2-0, it's almost in the bag, 3-0 and you're reasonably confident that you'll win and at 4-0, there are almost no teams who can come back. It's simple, score goals and keep pressing for more. We ain't going to see many 1-0 games at Sunderland, that's for sure.

Ellis Short - "The very rich one". Ellis Short is ace. I think he may actually be a supporter! Who knows if he knew the connotations of the FTM badge he was spotted wearing out in Africa. For the cognoscenti, I believe it means 'F**k the Mags' or in more polite circles, 'Follow the Mackems'. For some reason Short has a visceral hatred of Pardew and he's been overheard telling him "Why don't you just f**k off!", at a derby match, which as a businessman would not make sense. Maybe, he really is a Mackem supporter. Perhaps it's in his blood line or something. I know it sounds stupid, but I'm reasonably sure the Glazers aren't footy supporters (they wouldn't know one end of a football from the other - mainly because it's round - over here) and I'm not so sure FSG are either. They are essentially both cash generating businesses. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure Short wants to see some serious return on his 'investment'. He won't own Sunderland forever, unless they do start winning things, then maybe he will discover 'a love supreme'... but I doubt it. But, I think Short has decided he wants a 'bit of fun' in his investment, by which I mean, appoint someone with some serious drive with a clear vision and who would rather kill themself than not achieve success and really put the cat amongst the pigeons. I think Short now understands football. He knows it's essentially a massive entertainment business, not just in England, but all over the world, where results aren't just measured in the bottom line. Short would like to see Sunderland as a Man United or a Madrid, not just for the asset value and the revenue that they generate, but maybe now for all the silverware they could collect. But even he hasn't got pockets that deep. He's also canny enough to understand that success requires more than a random plan to buy in new players every transfer window without some form of understanding as to why and where they are required and for the longer term. When asked about di Canio, Short's considered, terse, but very telling response was "Well, he's got me convinced"... Really? He's got me utterly convinced too. Short, in his professional life, takes very calculated risks. He's doing no differently with Sunderland. One other bit of 'fun' Short might be having is removing the 'dead wood' of Milliband from the board at Sunderland. Milliband was off out the door to New York anyway and apparently on a tasty little retainer. It's just one more hungry mouth at Sunderland that didn't really need feeding. Both Short and di Canio would probably have preferred Maggie Thatcher on the board... OK, I mean alright, probably too much for most Mackems. Remember, I'm a neutral. Short must have done some homework on Di Canio... Surely he knew? Tell me he knew... Of course he did.

How the season starts out will have little bearing on the eventual outcome. I expect Sunderland to outclass the lower placed teams easily enough. If they lose their first match (unlikely, but ultimately, probably good if they did), they'll get one hell of a motivational ass kicking. The run of big games early on should be extremely entertaining and we'll have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen before December. Di Canio is the new messiah on Wearside having engineered a serious stuffing of the Magpies at the end of last season and they'll be chanting his name most of the time and cut him some slack for the inevitable losses along the way. Having the supporters and your boss on-side is most of the survival equation for the odd bad result or two or even a run of bad results. I don't expect di Canio to tolerate a big run.

Right then, enough pseudo ramblings, lets tie this up now. There's a new hegemony in the North East. Just as in Manchester a few years ago, the neighbours suddenly became noisy and then went on to win the Premiership. Newcastle's neighbours are about to get noisy... And I do believe they are about to overtake Newcastle. No, you're not going to win the Premiership - not this year! I predict a league position of AT LEAST 9th this season. Di Canio will know that his predecessors' best postion over the last few years was 10th (under Bruce) and I would bet my bottom dollar (only I'm not actually a gambling man - like Short, it's preferable to deal in near certainties) he wants to surpass that mark. Di Canio will consider less to be a failure. I have to laugh when I see quite a few professional predictions that have Sunderland in 17th or relegated. I've seen a well reasoned article ending with a prediction, ignoring all the reasoning, 17th... I've even seen a computer prediction (Bloomberg Sports) suggesting 16th, but although they've added in the new signings, they haven't considered the motivation and tactical nous of the new manager. I'm pretty sure they and the program don't know what they're talking about. The final position comes down to who can and will Sunderland beat. Most people have got them on for the win against Fulham. If the team believe that complacently, it'll go badly wrong. The manner of a victory (if it happens) will be important. Di Canio wants to entertain the Mackems, he wants the team to score goals, he wants real football, total ultra-fanatical football. Will Sunderland beat Man United? Possibly, but on most days, probably not. Will they beat City (Man)? No, the same applies (only it's fractionally harder to beat City than United his year). On a good day, yes, Sunderland can take points off them and can even beat them. Di Canio needs to meet these teams on good days... Some say these results are random, they're not. Statistically, the top several teams are more likely to beat Sunderland on any given day. I have to laugh when TV commentators come on and say things like "Oh no... we're down to the randomness of a penalty shoot out now". Penalty shoot outs are not random. You take England/Germany, you'd have to give that 9 out of 10 times to Germany. Why? Cos, it ain't random... Germany are the better team. Five a piece would be random, or the teams are equal. So it comes down to those small factors, skill, tactics, attitude, fitness, desire, teamwork etc. There is a very small element of luck, but di Canio will tell you, it's not about luck it's about hard work. Remember the millionaires... they're not lucky, they work extremely hard (which is why people like myself and di Canio probably don't think they should be taxed punitively). There's a famous saying (often attributed to a top golfer) when told that he was lucky, replied "You know, the harder I practice, the luckier I get". Odd isn't it? Di Canio works hard and he works Sunderland hard. If the team continues to work hard they will be 'lucky'. I once saw a logo on an F2K paper cup. It read, quite simply, "Good enough, never is". 9th is not good enough for Sunderland. Di Canio knows that.

And finally... thinking of Charlie and the Chocolate factory again and the scene in the candy shop, the music starts...

#Who can make Sund'land shine? If any one can, Di Canio can... [fade: He can make Sund'land shine].

One for the terraces maybe... maybe not.

Right I'm off to swat up on Pellegrini and see whether or not he can outwit "The special One" (To be fair, Mourhinho, called himself 'A Special One', so he wasn't THAT arrogant). Calling the top three will be very tricky this year. Moyes has done well at Everton for years and in time he'll do well at Manchester United, but the team reckons "Fergie was worth an extra 10 points in a season". I agree. Footballers win matches... true, but generally, good Managers mastermind the trophies.

About the author: Andy works very hard in Helsinki at the moment, analysing stuff, finding problems, suggesting solutions. He worked hard for 4 months in Gateshead a few years back and stayed in the Royal, where a pair of the workers there, were Mackems. He even met Gazza down at the Metz. Class! He's quite lucky like that. If anyone knows a think tank that'd like a thinking bloke, he's all ears...

STOP PRESS: AS I type, I hear news of more strikers and at least one attacking full back has been signed up. Di Canio and lets not forget, di Fanti and Short are all in one hell of a hurry.

Are you making a FanPost? Well that's fantastic, just keep it tasteful.

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