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Podcast Notes: With a clean slate, our new owners have a chance to build a ‘perfect’ Sunderland

Sunderland should be about hard work, commitment, a strong relationship between players and supporters and playing with a swagger. With a clean slate we have a real chance of getting back to being what, at our core, we are.

Podcast Notes |
James Nickels

Well - what an utterly mental few days we’ve had, eh?

On Friday we travelled down to Craven Cottage and the Lads gave a decent performance to the 1,200+ brave Sunderland fans in attendance - though we still ended up on the losing side.

On Saturday we enjoyed the fact that Sunderland could not possibly ruin our day, as we had already played.

Then, on Sunday, all hell broke loose. Charlotte Coleman put up a cryptic tweet with a dog and a suitcase that led to speculation that something was afoot at the Stadium of Light. About one hour later the club then announced that Chris Coleman had been sacked.

Cue mass-hysteria and furious fist-shaking.

But all of that fell into near insignificance with the bombshell being dropped on Wearside that Ellis Short had not only agreed to sell the club, but had taken all the club’s debt with him. Stewart Donald is the lucky chap who has been given the keys - pending EFL approval, of course - and now we can start rebuilding this club with a clean slate, albeit in a league that none of us wanted to be in.

On this week's Roker Rapport Podcast we pondered what a clean slate and a perfect Sunderland set up would be - here’s my two-pence on the matter.

What is a ‘perfect’ Sunderland side?

Sunderland have had three brief periods of "success" since our move to the Stadium of Light, the first of which was the 1997-2001 era under Peter Reid. The second was the 2003-05 seasons in the Championship under Mick McCarthy, and the final period was the 2006-08 promotion season and subsequent Premier League survival under Roy Keane.

Those three eras had the fans thoroughly onside with the players and management. Yes, we had a decent run under Steve Bruce - he took us to tenth, you know - and we enjoyed some small success under Allardyce, but those three periods were the best we have had at the Stadium of Light.

And what was the common denominator? Squad mentality. On the podcast we looked at our team from the 1999/2000 season and if you list the players, you can see that each and every one of them were grafters; Steve Bould, Micky Gray, Chris Makin, Gavin McCann, Niall Quinn, Super Kev, Alex Rae - the list goes on...

That team had an identity. Hard work, wing-play and group unity. Yes, we had star players, but that team was a group moulded together by a positive team spirit and sheer hard work.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers
Dean Whitehead may have lacked quality, but he was a grafter.
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

And if we move on to the Mick McCarthy era you’ll see the same thing. He brought through British players who had something to prove; Liam Lawrence, Dean Whitehead, Carl Robinson, Danny Collins, Chris Brown, Kevin Kyle, Stephen Elliott and the rest. That was a team that may have lacked quality, but more than made up for it with hard work and determination.

When Roy Keane was our gaffer absolutely nobody was allowed to hide. He signed a mix of exciting youngsters and older, experience heads to create a perfectly balanced squad. We signed Ross Wallace, Carlos Edwards, Stern John, David Connolly, Dwight Yorke, Graham Kavanagh, Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson, and Liam Miller.

That team was again a group of grafters who knitted together well and enjoyed a good rapport with supporters - after a real desperate period for the fans, we finally had an identity and swagger again, and teams genuinely feared playing Sunderland with Keane as our manager.

Keane’s reign wasn’t without fault though, and you can pinpoint exactly where it went wrong - he tried to move us away from players that had a good work-ethics and signed flamboyant characters that didn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the squad. The dressing room became unsettled when we signed Diouf and Chimbonda because those players did not fit the identity what was expected of a Sunderland player at the time.

In recent years we have seen players sign for Sunderland because the money is good, hence why we are currently burdened with such an inflated wage bill.

The identity of the football club lies with the fans and players being united - we need players like Danny Collins and Dean Whitehead, not Lamine Kone and Jack Rodwell.

So, Stewart Donald - let’s rebuild this club properly.

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