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Roker Roundtable: Is George Honeyman a suitable captain and starter in Sunderland’s team?

Is George Honeyman a suitable Sunderland captain, and good enough to be starting every week for Jack Ross next season?

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

Q: George Honeyman is Sunderland’s captain and is likely to remain in that role going forward (barring an unexpected move to another club or a change of heart from Jack Ross). That said, some people still can’t make their mind up on Honeyman, both as a player and as a captain. What do you think?

Craig Davies says...

Upon offering Honeyman the captaincy, Jack Ross explained the appointment:

“Displaying grit, determination and leadership every single time he crosses the white line. George’s attitude towards training on a daily basis is absolutely fantastic.

He’s a mature and intelligent young man, so I’m delighted he’s wanted to take on the responsibility.”

George may not be a screamer. He may not be grabbing teammates by the neck and threatening harm if their performances don’t improve. His assets as a captain according to his manager are maturity and intelligence, grit and determination. His humble approach to accepting the responsibility is also key.

Not all leaders have to be brooding menaces or fiery lunatics with bulging eyes and throbbing veins on their foreheads. Some leaders use their innate humility to create a positive environment. This is where Ross may feels he has the right captain at the very right time of our footballing evolution.

Such ‘unsung heroes’ help their teammates build their own self-esteem, to go beyond their expectations, and create a community that channels individual efforts into an organized group that works for the good of the whole. This is why Ross appointed George and he should be commended for taking such a holistic view.

Jack Ross knew George Honeyman was not the most skillful player. He was not appointing the next Ronaldo, or the next Roy Keane. He was looking at the collective group and what Honeyman and this role could do to improve the collaborative approach to changing our footballing destiny, that had in previous years, been falling apart at the seams. So in this regard, Honeyman - the man - is far more important to the positive changes required of this club than Honeyman the player or captain.

To that extent, his starting position is not as significant as his role and influence.

Play every week? For me, no way.

I love the guy. I’m a footballing romantic and can easily get immersed into a tale of a local boy done good. But, just in my opinion, which is by no means expert, George is a fraction too slow to be a winger, not quite big or strong enough to be an all encompassing box to box midfielder. He’s not a natural defensive player either.

But does he have value in the squad? As a player? As a man? Without question.

He’s still a very good player. There is no doubt.

Take away his captaincy? We need many leaders on that pitch and in the dressing room. George would assist in that collaboration whether he has the armband or not. But, equally, perhaps someone else, would grow and benefit from the opportunity to captain this team and I’d support that too if it meant it was for the good of the group.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matty Crichton says...

Whilst I am always thrilled to see Sunderland give local young players a chance to thrive, Jack Ross’ decision to hand George Honeyman the captaincy has not proven to be a wise one in my opinion.

Honeyman’s performances last year were mediocre at best. I don’t believe he’ll prosper in League One or any higher level playing as a 10. Jack Ross uses Honeyman to add energy, but his end product is barely existent.

He lacks the pace and creativity to produce goalscoring chances, as his assist record shows having created just 3 goals in 35 League One appearances. He did manage to score 6 goals, I will admit Honeyman does make good runs going forward and finds himself in the right places to score simpler goals.

Having said that, Lee Cattermole outscored him having made less appearances which does prompt myself to believe Honeyman should have achieved double figures. I would much prefer to see Honeyman deployed further back, perhaps as a box to box midfielder. He works hard, recycles the ball well and I would argue this position would ease the pressure on him, so he can retain his place.

I’d personally prefer that the captaincy was handed to a player whose performances lead by example to the rest of the squad. A player who is a 7/10 week in week out, someone who we can rely and is always within the starting eleven.

Honeyman has a tremendous work rate but if you are honest we never need him or miss him. I think both Honeyman and Cattermole will struggle to be regular starters next season with the broad competition in central midfield. We need a tall physical midfielder along with a fast creative 10 which raises the debate into how often those two will play next season. Sunderland would benefit most by having a captain who is adored by the fans, someone who has a presence and creates an atmosphere.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Damian Brown says...

I think Honeyman is - more than anything - a victim of his own relative success. An academy product born just close enough to Sunderland to readily be considered one of our own, it goes without saying that he’s been working towards the spot he holds now for a long old time. I think there’s a reason he’s managed it. I also think the reason it’s so easy to summon up his name in negative terms because of the spotlight shined on him, and under that kind of scrutiny none of our players are worth more than League One, not really.

Statistics can be both soulless and misleading, but we can’t ignore his 6 goals and 3 assists this season, without some of which we arguably wouldn’t have been in a play off spot in the first place. Beyond the numbers though is where I think Honeyman has the most impact, though his position is such that if he does his job properly you should rarely notice him on the pitch - though I’ll happily point out that he goes like a diesel engine and regularly recycles play, even if he didn’t have the best finish to the season.

I think there’s a lot to be said for passion and commitment in the modern game, and particularly when it comes to how we as fans perceive those that represent us all on the pitch. It’s clearly something that matters a great deal to the manager who, from experience, knows the value of having a wise head that can command respect in the dressing room, yet also have the youthful exuberance (and dare I say a degree of naiveté) that can really fire up a group of players running on empty.

We like to think that galvanising the players is a job for the manager, and while I’d agree to a point, it’s logical that players would look around them at their peers and expect an equal to stand up and say what needs to be said. It’s become clear through sheer process of elimination that Honeyman is one of those players.

There’s a great deal we don’t know about the precise reasons Honeyman is captain of the squad. For myself, if you can leave Lee Barry Cattermole as skipper year after year in spite of being distinctly average at best and at worst a liability, merely because he shouts and gets angry a lot, you don’t have to go out of your way to justify giving the armband to someone like George Honeyman. His ability is often on display and his commitment is unquestionable. If the team believes in him, I’ve seen enough of him to feel confident that at the bare minimum he’s as qualified as any to be on that pitch and in that armband.

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