I'm not going to sit here and try to kid anyone - I'm well aware that John O'Shea's best days are well behind him and that he's been here for a very long time, through some tough periods in our recent history. I know that there are many Sunderland supporters that think we need to move on from players like O'Shea, and to an extent I agree, but I feel the true motives behind giving him a new contract are perhaps being ignored and the benefits of keeping around such an experienced player for a minimal cost will turn out to be a shrewd move by the club.
I don't necessarily believe in the notion of there being a rotten core at the club - Sunderland's biggest problems stem way beyond our antics on the football pitch and our reasons for being in such a mess financially are largely down to bad decisions made at board room level. There are certainly players at this club that have bad attitudes and last season there were trouble-makers amongst our ranks, but I don't for one minute believe this conspiracy that John O'Shea is a big part of the reason why Sunderland have looked disjointed on the pitch for a number of seasons now.
I look at the amount of Sunderland managers that have called upon him for leadership, and his fantastic history as part of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United. O'Shea is obviously very professional and collected and his experience around the dressing room this season could be vital, especially if we are going to achieve a decent finish in the Championship.
I don't believe that O'Shea will play a great amount of football next season. He'll be there to fill in, provide cover and add depth to our squad. Around the training ground and on matchdays he'll be an older head for our young players to look up to for advice and, come the end of the season, I have a hunch he'll be offered a role within the coaching setup at the club.
To me, giving O'Shea another year represents some stability in a time of immense change at Sunderland.
Absolutely not. On the surface there are some reasons to give a contract to a player like John O'Shea and things like his resume and tenure at Sunderland are chief among them, but I'm here to tell you that these excuses are only skin deep.
John O'Shea is a fine example of how much can be achieved through positive public relations.
For two years now O'Shea has ridden the crest of an undeserved reputation for reliability and experience. Well, experience can be explained away by his age and his C.V. but I'm not sure when the reliability label started getting traction. A few games here and there in which you can see how he might have been a fair player at the top level once upon a time do not justify tenure at a club that has had defensive problems since... well, since around the time O'Shea first signed.
And when I say “defensive problems” I mean a consistent issue at the heart of it. We seem to make a habit of switching out our fullbacks at every given opportunity and it's not like we haven't seen a similar rotisserie of absolute chickens in the central spots but there is one thing you can rely on come Hell or high water: if John O'Shea is fit he'll somehow be the first name on the team sheet.
I think that's what bothers me the most about O'Shea now. It doesn't feel like merely another extension of an experienced defender's contract for very little outlay, it feels like we're paying this man's mortgage because he's got a Premier League winners medal. The fandom he enjoys is hard to quantify because he himself is hard to appreciate; what he actually brings to the pitch (if anything) is highly debatable and I don't appreciate the fact that in spite of his lack of communication with his fellow defenders, in spite of his complete lack of pace and the full minute it takes between his brain noticing something and his body acting on it, he's not only guaranteed a starting berth but he's nailed on as the captain.
Now there's an argument that he's not going to be first choice, that he's purely for back up. Do you believe that? I don't, nothing so far has indicated that to me. What I know is that he's seen as a 'leader' and every single manager that comes through those doors is told before they get there that John O'Shea is a great guy to have around the dressing room. You know, that dressing room that's supposedly “rotten” and broken by a “drinking culture” the entire time O'Shea has been a constant.
Why? Sit for a moment and ask yourself. Recall the last time O'Shea said or did anything that wasn't one of safc.com's monthly, poorly conceived, poorly executed rallying cries.
“Look,” he would always, always say, “we need to work hard and look forward to da next game and come away with da tree points because, look, da fans are amazing and we need te give da fans what dey deserve which is da tree points” before then proceeding to do absolutely none of it!
In the last two seasons I can summon to mind perhaps three occasions when I've thought 'good from O'Shea, that'. Most of the time you either hold your heart in your throat or be grateful the ball isn't anywhere near him and our last line of defence needs to be about more than that. It has to be about more than having an average player in his twilight years, a man that we presumably have only kept because you couldn't give him away.
What evidence is there even of him leading, anyway? Because everyone says he does? I haven't seen it on the pitch. I've seen him speak to the ref and shout at his team mates but it's not like he's ever led a charge to victory or driven the team to overcome insurmountable odds. He oversees a never-ending stream of awful football so if he is indeed the leader on the pitch, the moral spine of the team, we should have crucified the man by now.
So what is it? Is it perhaps because he's the big man in the dressing room, the one with the winners medal? Do we believe that the young/new lads can even voice their real opinions at all? I doubt it.
Do you think the Sunderland squad sit there after every loss, every awful defensive display, and genuinely think to themselves 'well it couldn't possibly be John's fault because he used to play for Man Utd...'? Of course they don't and the big problem is that from the looks of it no one's got the bollocks to tell him that he's too old and he's been a liability for some time now.
You look at players like Michael Keane, Virgil Van Djik, Winston Reid – young, powerful players with a clear command of their area, aerial ability and the reactions of players in their prime – and you wonder why we've got the most bargain-bin option. None of those players were expensive purchases for their clubs.
When Kone inevitably takes his talent elsewhere we're going to be left with two central defenders that might as well not even be there. You could replace John O'Shea with a mannequin and I won't celebrate his ongoing series of unofficial testimonial matches. Every penny counts and we don't owe this man a living, contrary to what the men in charge would have us believe.
It's a sad indictment, too, of those men in charge that this is the answer to our defensive issues – more O'Shea. I'd like to believe that he won't feature much for us (in which case his extension is little more than a waste of money.)
In Grayson’s defence I can imagine Bain setting himself the task of re-securing O'Shea's “services” in a bid to continue his crusade of ensuring that talented and therefore expensive assets are not utilised for the benefit of this club so much as they are moved to an underground warehouse, somewhere he can sift through and categorise them in order to achieve the maximum profit possible when flaying a club alive.
Still, it's a lazy mistake to make and it could have been avoided. I'd sooner a young centre back like Ledger was given the same opportunities as O'Shea to make the same mistakes he will undoubtedly make; at least Ledger will learn from them. O'Shea is just a waste of good wages and a liability we simply cannot afford. Here's hoping Grayson can see that.
Was giving John O’Shea a new contract the right thing to do?
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