I got the chance to catch up with Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football and Super Sunday presenter David Jones, to chat about Sunderland. I gathered his thoughts on the Black Cats’ transfer business, the season ahead and his memories of being a Sunderland fan.
RR: Firstly, thank you for the interview David. What do you make of Sunderland’s start to the season and has it surprised you?
DJ: My pleasure. No I haven't been surprised. Looking at what we've had in the squad in these early weeks, with injury problems and late transfer dealings I'd have taken two points from the opening three games before the start. In truth, the performance at City was better than I expected and we were unfortunate to lose; the Boro defeat was a big disappointment but then against Southampton we were starting to look like the team Sam built. One point is better than none!
RR: How did you come about supporting Sunderland? And what are your best and worst memories as a Black Cat?
DJ: It's a pretty well known story now why I support Sunderland - I wrote about it recently in the ‘Tales From The Red and Whites’ book published last year. The abridged version is that my dad was great pals with Alan Durban and when he became Sunderland manager they became my team. My first game of football was Sunderland against Southampton in 1982 and I caught the bug big time.
RR: Obviously you’re a busy man with Sky Sports and Oxford United so do you get the opportunity to watch Sunderland that much as a fan?
DJ: Honestly, no. I'm hoping to get to the QPR game in London soon. Probably only once or twice a season purely as a fan these days. I will occasionally get the chance to go to midweek games - catching the train up to the NE to meet my brother and nephew who both have season tickets. I still get a buzz having a pint in the Kings Arms and walking to the ground full of hope; then trudging back in the darkness, trying to avoid the dog muck whilst scratching my head. I do though watch most Sunderland games as I spend many Saturday's at Sky Studios watching the 3pm kick offs from around the country.
RR: David Moyes replaced the popular Sam Allardyce this summer, do you think he is the best man to not only save the Black Cats but take them forward?
DJ: No, I would have loved to see what Guardiola or Mourinho could do with this squad ... but Moyes probably was the best man available which is very different.
I had a good chat with Phil Neville about him recently. Phil is one of the nicest blokes in football and he could only say good things about Moyes. He's a very well thought of coach and won't waste his chairman's money, and as we could surmise in his first press conference he is burning with a desire to show people what a good manager he is. I loved his celebration when we scored at City too. Like Sam, there's no BS with Moyes and I would expect him to have a good relationship with our fans.
Niall tells me Ellis Short has long courted him as well so he should get more time than most!
RR: With the summer transfer window finally over, what do you make of Sunderland’s business?
DJ: Well it could have been worse but I can't quite understand why we didn't manage to sign a striker. I know we made a late enquiry for Leonardo Ulloa but Leicester are too organised a club to start selling players at the very last minute. He was exactly what we needed in my opinion.
I'm interested to see what Plan B is when Jermain Defoe runs out of steam. I'm relaxed about the keeper situation; Premier League managers tend not to trust young ones but Jordan Pickford will only improve if he plays, so he should get that chance now. Our net spend was £20m, about mid table for PL clubs. Hopefully we've added some value for the future as well as improving the squad.
(ed: note - we spoke to Dave before signing Victor Anichebe!)
RR: Sunderland once again brought in a lot of players this summer, eight in total, out of them, who do you think will have the biggest impact this season?
DJ: Well there's no doubt Adnan Januzaj is the most talented player we have, possibly the most talented that we've had for a very long time but there has been a big if around his mentality and commitment. If Moyes can get the best out of him and he develops this season at Sunderland, then we are in for a treat. His quality should also rub off on the likes of Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch and make them realise what they need to add to their game - likewise he can certainly learn from their desire.
RR: Sunderland also let a few players leave this summer, do you think the Black Cats should’ve kept hold of any of them?
DJ: Younes Kaboul did well alongside Lamine Kone last season but better judges than me were never convinced that would last. Of the rest, no I wouldn't have kept any. In fact, the best business David Moyes has done in this window is to resist the pressure from outside influences to keep Kone at the club. That is a massive plus and I applaud Moyes for that. Kone gives me great hope that every little thing is going to be alright.
RR: Sunderland fans crave progress, what would be your idea of progress this year?
DJ: It would be great to get 40 points ... perhaps even before May. I'd take that, but I actually think Moyes is more ambitious.
Remember, when Kirchhoff and Cattermole are fit and Wahbi Khazri rehabilitates himself, our first XI starts to look pretty decent. The concern is we are relying so heavily on a man who is 34 next month to score our goals. Well I suppose it's good enough for Manchester United!
RR: Finally, David, thanks for speaking to us. If you could have one player at Sunderland to aid them in the league this season, who would it be and why?
DJ: I'd take Paul Pogba, I think he'd love playing for our fans. Can I have Zlatan as well? And Kante?