Dear Roker Report,
All the England players deserve loads of credit for their performance but it’s natural for us mackems to concentrate on two of our own, two mackems who may have moved on but who are still proud to be mackems.
I cant begin to appreciate what will be going on in their heads, especially Pickford's head. Just a few short seasons ago he was playing at Preston, a young keeper learning his trade and a still young man with the world at his feet. The few doubters who could not wait to turn on him after the Belgium game have been silenced big time and right now Pickford can do no wrong. Against Sweden he had a quiet game with no real saves to make - and then, three world class saves in a row and saves made with no apparent effort, he just makes them.
Henderson has had to battle hard in his career and his Liverpool future looked in doubt for a while, but he dug deep and is now being recognized - and was even called world class from Mr Shearer. Praise indeed.
Of course this rubs a wee bit of salt in our mackem wounds - two of our own are heading upwards in their careers and the club that helped to make them is preparing for life in League One. Add in the ex and even present footballers who are playing in the world cup and the question swirls round in our heads - how did this happen?
Shorts tenure did not help, and blaming Short alone is an easy hit, but the problem is much deeper and long standing that putting it all down to Short. We have been a club in turmoil for years and seemed to live on our sleeping giant big club image, an image that has been strong in Mackem land but untrue everywhere else. The now famous comment of Charlie Methven that Sunderland reputation outside of Sunderland has been of a club to go to to take the piss and, by... have many, many players, agents, directors of football and CEO’s enjoyed taking the piss.
Forget pink seats and players, the most important message from the new owners was that the piss taking days are over.
Selling Henderson for £20m was good business at the time but not re investing that money was bad and was only to be repeated when we got £30m for Pickford. We can’t expect to keep players of this quality until we are a top six Premier League club and that right now is light years way.
We can and should however capitalize on any new stars by demanding top dollar for any sale and then investing any profits in the clubs future and, like it or not, the club’s future will be determined by good financial management yes, good facilities yes, nice new seats yes but the bottom line at any football club will be the right players at the right time with the right attitude giving their all for the club.
Are the present England team the best set of players we have had? No, but they are the best team with the best attitude pulling together for the team.
Many hearts sank when Southgate was named manager, a man who was sacked by Middlesbrough, a man with little indeed no international experience. I don’t hear any complaints now because his man-management and tactics are reaping their rewards. Let’s hope and pray that Jack Ross will do the same for Sunderland - the early indications are positive and encouraging.
The saying is that talk is cheap - Ross, Methven and Donald are talking a good game and good future, and yes talk is cheap but right now talk is all we have... and I like the talk I am hearing.
The world cup feel good factor is, IMO, bringing an unexpected boost to Sunderland and the success of two very passionate mackems can only be a good thing for our club and its future. Pickford and Henderson have shown the footballing world and the younger players in particular that staying and learning your trade at Sunderland is not a backward step but if you are good enough it can be the springboard to bigger and better things, maybe even national hero status.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Very well put Syd. I’ve written a couple of articles about the feelgood factor around England and Sunderland at the minute and, in particular, around seeing success from our young academy products that are doing well elsewhere.
If I was a young player looking to forge a career in the game I’d look at Sunderland’s track record of developing players like Pickford and Henderson and think that this is a great club that can provide you a fantastic platform to do well.
It’s a shame that the club have fallen into League One for many reasons, but one in particular is that there are some young players that aren’t prepared to stick by the club and develop with us. Joel Asoro and Sam Greenwood leaving this summer is pretty sad I think, but on the flip-side we’re likely to see lads like Luke Molyneux, Ethan Robson and Josh Maja become an important part of our first team this season so it’s not all bad.