One piece of transfer business that may just have travelled under the radar of the wider media was that of Glenn Loovens, who signed for Sunderland on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract at Sheffield Wednesday.
The central defender - who turns 35 in September - is a man and a player that intrigues me immensely. If you google his name then you might perhaps understand what I mean - there’s just something about him that fans of the clubs that he’s played for love, and as someone that doesn’t watch a great deal of Celtic or Sheffield Wednesday I’m not entirely sure why he’s so revered.
So, as per usual, I went on the hunt for someone that knows him a lot better than I do to give the dear readers of Roker Report the lowdown on what we can expect.
We reached out to Chris Holt - a sports journalist that writes for the Sheffield Star - to find out more about Sunderland’s newest defensive signing and to try and gain some perspective on what he could offer us ahead of the forthcoming League One season.
RR: So, Glenn Loovens - is he any good?
CH: He is, especially at this level. Glenn was never blessed with pace in his career but he reads the game superbly. His experience will prove invaluable to Sunderland and he could quite easily still cut it in the Championship, in my opinion.
RR: Sunderland still haven’t named a new captain and some supporters think Loovens would be a good fit for the upcoming season. Would you agree?
CH: I think so. I don’t know what type of captain the new manager likes to have but while Loovens isn’t a ‘shouter’ he commands respect. His laid-back manner is a calming influence on the squad and every player looked up to him at Wednesday.
Carlos Carvalhal described him as the best captain he’d ever worked with, at a time when there was some fall-out from Forestieri refusing to join the squad for a match two seasons ago. Carvalhal reiterated that in a tweet this week.
Loovens is never one to shy away when times are tough, he’ll front up on behalf of the squad when things aren’t going well and allow others to take the praise when results are good. He also did a lot of work in the community, he took to the city and got involved in everything which isn’t a trait that many footballers have these days.
RR: Just what is it about Loovens that has made him so popular at so many of his previous clubs?
CH: You couldn’t dislike him. He’s a really nice bloke off the pitch and gives his all on it. Like I said before, he throws himself into the club and shows a genuine pride in representing it. Fans see that immediately and that’s why he’s so popular.
RR: One thing Sunderland lack throughout the team are big, physical players. Do you think Loovens still has something to offer in that respect?
CH: He’s a big lad and is still very good in the air. Loovens is not a big, ugly central defender in the old-fashioned sense, but he’ll not be knocked off the ball easily.
RR: What would you say his main strengths as a player are?
CH: His experience means he reads things so well; he’s unflappable, a great organiser and that composure he has really is of benefit to those around him. Tom Lees, in my opinion, became one of the best central defenders in the Championship a couple of seasons ago because of the influence of Loovens beside him.
RR: And his weaknesses - what about him should we be wary of?
CH: The pace, or lack thereof, is something to be somewhat worried about. Twice last season he was sent off because he’d been beaten by someone quicker than he and I think that amplified the issue.
RR: Do you think that, at his age, Loovens will be able to cope with the demands of playing League One football?
CH: He’s picked up a few knocks over the past two seasons and I’d expect there will be short periods throughout the season where he will be missing, but he’s still in good nick physically and, barring anything serious, he should play a lot more than not.
RR: Just to round off - what would you say to any Sunderland supporters that might be sceptical about the decision to hand Loovens a contract?
CH: I understand why some might be, but I was pleased to see this move come about. Sunderland get a hugely committed footballer who will truly give his all, coming off the back of a time at the club when dedication wasn’t exactly pouring off the pitch at SoL.
He’s more than capable of playing at this level, he will be a great help to younger players coming through and he’s played for some very, very big clubs. From his perspective, he gets the chance to remain playing in front of big crowds in important games and be part of rebuilding job that will give him a great sense of fulfillment when he does eventually knock it all on the head. I really do hope he’s a big success there.