Since Martin O'Neill breezed into town, Sunderland seems to have changed so much for us never mind anyone else. But we thought it was about time to catch up with how the rest of the football world was viewing our imperious club.
We caught up with Simon Furnivall, the head-honcho over at Lovely Left Foot. If you are not familiar with the site, then I really can't stress this enough - shame on you! Shame. On. YOU!
Not only can the dulcet Yorkshire tones of our very own Dan Williams be heard there from time to time on their podcast, but their site is packed full of quality writing and they have just announced that they will be soon releasing their own digital magazine. Be sure to get your grubby little mitts all over that one and ensure the unrelenting and eternal love of your eyes for bestowing such an incandescent gift upon them.
On with the show. You know the drill by now.
Stoke are known for a physical game and strong set pieces, Arsenal for possession football. Do you consider Sunderland to have a similar identity, and if so what?
To be honest, I don't.Sunderland, to me, have always seemed something of a chameleonic club who change to fit the philosophies on the manager in charge rather than having an overriding club philosophy which, in part, helps identify the right manager for the job. If anything jumps out, looking through a list of recent managers at Sunderland, it would be work ethic. They are all managers who seem to prize that highly, and certainly for the large part of the last decade Sunderland have been a hard-working and difficult team to beat, but there is nothing about them that one identifies immediately when the name is mentioned.
How competitive do you think Sunderland can hope to be in the transfer market? Which clubs do you consider their natural competitors for signings?
Without real knowledge of the ins and outs of the club, it's difficult to say whether they ever will be competitive at the higher end of the market. It seems that they have taken a step up in the market since Ellis Short came in - one would look at the signings of Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan as evidence of that and I don't see any reason why they can't continue to be competitive in that market (the £10M to £15M player). That puts them in competition with Aston Villa, and maybe Newcastle if they show more of a willingness to spend as they did on Papiss Cisse, just below the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham in the market. I'm not sure they'll ever make the step up into fighting over £20M players, there hasn't been anything from the owners to suggest that they have the desire to spend to that level on a single player.
From your vantage point, what would you consider to be the iconic or most memorable Sunderland moment during your time watching football?
Single iconic moments probably aren't overflowing when I think of Sunderland, though given that I'm a Liverpool fan, John Byrne missing that chance early on in the 1992 FA Cup final comes close. The iconic 'moment' that I most associate with the club when I think of them is actually a player; Kevin Phillips. I am still in awe of his achievements in that 1999-2000 season. To achieve what he did and win the Golden Boot with a newly promoted club is the sort of thing which rightly gets remembered long after it has happened and if I had to choose one single image as summing up Sunderland in my mind, it would be one of that Quinn/Phillips, little and large partnership linking up.
Niall Quinn claims that Sunderland have dropped their 'yo-yo club' tag. Do you agree with that and consider Sunderland now an established main stay of the Premier League, or is it a club you would still not be surprised to see involved in a relegation battle?
I absolutely agree with Quinn. I think that was proven at the start of this season with the general reaction to the struggles under Steve Bruce; everyone put the blame at the manager's door, there was no-one, as far as I could tell, saying "well it's Sunderland, that's about where you expect them to be". Sunderland are a club whom I expect to compete for a top ten finish now, which suggests that they have come a long way in a short space of time. I also believe that, in Martin O'Neill, the club have the right man to help them push on even further. I have my doubts over O'Neill's ability at the top level, but I would be very surprised indeed if, within the next five years, he hasn't qualified the club for European competition at least once.
I think all clubs like to pride themselves on quality of their support. Comparitively speaking, and as a neutral observer, how would you rate the Sunderland fans?
This is a tough one to answer as I haven't interacted with that many Sunderland fans, and unfortunately I have never been to a game at the Stadium of Light. The atmosphere always seems to come across decently well when I watch a game on TV and those Sunderland fans I have chatted to (mainly via Twitter, and mostly the Roker Report guys) come across as intelligent and reasonable. I'm sure like any club you have your lunatic fringe but they don't make themselves known loudly as that of other clubs do. From the limited experience I've had of Sunderland fans, I'd rate them among the better and more reasonable in the league.
Thanks Simon. Both Simon and his brilliant blog are on Twitter, so get yourself following by clicking HERE and HERE.