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Should They Stay Or Should They Go? A Look At Those On The Fringes

So, do you remember when we said transfer silly season was well-and-truly underway? I think we at Sunderland know more about this than most already, with rather a huge amount of speculation about possible moves involving us in one way or the other.

And, of course, there is the whole Jordan Henderson thing. It went on, and on, and now it's over and done with. Yes we're disappointed to lose the young fellow, and many people will be going barmy at the thought of David N'Gog coming to us, but my advice would be take a step back, have a real look at his stats, and you might realise that it's not the end of the world.

Anyway, I absolutely digress. I'm not here to talk about the player that's out of the door, I'm here to talk about the players at the club that aren't necessarily at the forefront of out plans or minds. Those that need to kick on and prove that they are important to the club in the future, or should perhaps be considered as dispensable, and maybe shown the door.

And with that... Here we go.

Worryingly, when I came to look at this piece, it becomes strikingly apparent that our squad really is threadbare. None of us wanted to sell Henderson, we know what the injuries did to us last season, we've lost out on the four loan players that we had last season, and even including squad players that have rarely seen even a minute on the football field for us (eg Jordan Cook), we still only have 22 or so players available. I think we would all agree that isn't enough.

But what of the players that are here? What does the future hold for some of those on the fringe, those that only got a game when we were truly desimated by injuries, or those whose time here has simply run its course?

First up, one that has hit the papers recently - Craig Gordon

A story came to light recently that the club has decided not to renew our £9m goalkeeper's contract until his current deal is up. I think most would agree that Gordon has always been a victim of his own price tag, but as we discussed in the podcast last week, we have invested a hell of a lot of money in Mr Gordon over the years that he has been here, and there is no value in letting his contract run down and risk losing him for nothing. While some people champion Simon Mignolet, I am firmly of the opinion that 'Flash' is still our number one, and while coming for crosses may not be his strong point, he is still better than anything that we currently have. The rumours that we are chasing Kieron Westwood also add weight to the theory that Gordon's time at the club may be coming to an end. Personally, I think that we should be offering him a contract no matter what. Even if we no longer think that Gordon is our number one, we should be signing him up as an insurance policy if nothing else. Get him to sign a deal, and then if we so choose, we can at least command a fee for him if a suitor comes calling.

Verdict: First Team

Next up - Kieran Richardson

Let's be honest, Kieran is probably the most frustrating player in our whole squad. Remember, this is a man who scored two goals on his England debut, and was instrumental in West Brom's 'great escape' under Bryan Robson. Unfortunately for us, he just hasn't settled in one position and made it his own. We all know that Bruce's plan for him this season was to make him a permanent left back, even using the old Football Manager gem of giving him the squad number three, but despite Richardson's somewhat foolish claims that he could make the England left back spot his own, it wasn't to be. He's not really much of a defender. Again, unfortunately for us, despite being the only player in the squad with a decent left peg, he's not much of a left winger either, although he did look good behind the front man when Mr Bent decided to jump ship. However, with Sessegnon making that position his own in the second half of the season, it's difficult to see where Kieran fits in now. He makes a decent utility player, as he could slot in at left back, left wing and the middle of the park, but his inability to shine in any of these positions means that he may find his opportunities limited in the forthcoming season. Would I sell him? No, but that's mainly because we are so short on numbers, and I don't think that he would even raise much of a transfer fee.

Verdict: Squad Player

Steed Malbranque

I'm not going to go into detail here, instead I'll just ask that you check out Michael Graham's Captain's Blog on the subject, as he discussed the role that this pint-sized fan favourite has at the club only last week.

Verdict: Read the blog

Marcos Angeleri

'Oh Marcos', as Roker Report head honcho Simon Walsh sang so beautifully at the end of one of our fine podcasts. He promised so little, but actually produced nothing good in the slightest. How the same player that was dreadful against Notts County was supposedly being touted for a move to Inter Milan the previous summer is beyond me. Of course, he then dug an ever bigger hole for himself by claiming that Steve Bruce doesn't play him as he is a racist. Sorry Marcos, barring your luscious hair, you are an utter disappointment.

Verdict: Out of the door, regardless of our squad size

Christian Riveros

I think it is fair to say that we all had high hopes for Mr Riveros following the World Cup. Running the midfield for Paraguay, it looked like we had pulled of a real coup by grabbing his signature before the tournament. I think it is also fair to say that we have all been hugely let down in our hopes for him to date. Gone was not only the bite that seemed to be there, but any flair, hunger, pace and pretty much technical ability. It will be a big summer for the South American, and we can only hope that he will build on his goal in the final game of the season and become the player that we all hoped he would be. Bruce has said in the past that South American players generally take a year to find their way into the game over here, and we hope that is the case with Riveros, it would have been nice for someone to mention that to Manchester United's Javier Hernandez, no?

Verdict: Squad Player

Anton Ferdinand

Poor Anton, he started the season with no squad number and his manager desperate to send him off to Italy. In that sense, it is testament to him that he has knuckled down, and hasn't actually done too bad when he has been called upon. A stat surfaced that said from all of our defenders, he was the one that kept the most clean sheets this season. It may be a tricky one to imagine, but at the same time, suggests that Anton isn't as bad as some people make out. The real problem with him is his apparent lack of concentration though. With Ferdinand in the team, it's tough to shake off the feeling that an accident is waiting to happen, and is hiding in one of his boots. This season, only Anton could have messed around with a clearance for so long that he played it against Cesc Fabregas and into the goal from 35 yards. It's that lack of concentration too that might signal an end for his Sunderland career. I doubt that we would get even a third of the reported £6m that it cost for Roy Keane to bring him here, and while his willingness to play anywhere across the back line is commendable, with youngsters on the sideline like Louis Laing, and presumably a reasonably large weekly wage to show for his efforts, Ferdinand's time in the North East may just be coming to an end.

Verdict: Cut our losses

And that's about it I think. Obviously other players will be the subject of more speculation, it's just the way that football works when we are all bored in the summer with none of the beautiful game to watch, but I would like to think that all rumours from this point onwards would be about players coming to the Stadium of Light, rather than leaving it.

Do you agree with my round-up, think I've got something drastically wrong? Feel free to debate what I've just said in the comments box, and I'll try and fight my corner the best I can.

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