According to Garry Doyle, the chief sports writer for the Irish Times, Sunderland captain John O’Shea will announce his retirement from playing professional football at the end of the season.
The 36-year old Republic of Ireland defender signed a one-year contract extension at the end of last season following a spell of interest from table-toppers Wolverhampton Wanderers and, according to Doyle, O’Shea will finally put an end to a playing career which began all the way back in 1999 at Manchester United.
It’s unsurprising news, but news all the same.
Doyle writes that O’Shea isn’t expected to go public with his retirement plans before the culmination of the current season, which ends coincidentally with a game against Wolves on the 6th of May.
When O’Shea signed his new deal last summer, nobody could have expected that he would go on to play as much as he has during the current campaign.
Appearing on 32 occasions for Sunderland already this season, the five-time Premier League winner has managed to stay fit practically throughout and has played in almost all of Chris Coleman’s games so far since he arrived on Wearside in November, operating usually in the middle of three defenders in the Welshman’s preferred five-at-the-back system.
There has been plenty of derision aimed towards him, however, and despite his apparent commitment and willingness to play and put his body through the ringer where others simply refuse to, his performances during the current season have been disappointing. Many supporters would readily concede that O’Shea’s time at Sunderland is most definitely up.
What his departure does signal is the need for fresh leadership within the dressing room.
Whilst you can probably suspect that Lee Cattermole will still be amongst the Sunderland squad next season whether we are in League One or not, O’Shea is the club captain and his presence as a supposed dressing room leader must be replaced. Going off what Chris Coleman has said recently, it wouldn’t surprise many if George Honeyman was afforded a bigger role within the squad, perhaps jumping into O’Shea’s considerably-large boots.
O’Shea has played 249 games for Sunderland since joining for £5m from Manchester United in 2011, scoring three goals.