Q: Who would you name as Sunderland’s next captain, and why?
James Nickels says...
We used to employ a club captain and team captain system a while back. Bally is probably considered one of our best captains of the last 30 years, and in both interviews and podcasts he’s spoken about the importance of the job on and off the pitch.
Although they need to be a natural leader on the pitch, the captain also plays such a massive role around the whole club - from ambassadorial roles all the way down to organising and monitoring inter-personal relationships in the squad.
For this reason, I’d like to see Grant Leadbitter named as club captain. He’s captained the Lads before, and was captain at Boro for years. He’s experienced and a great role model to the other Lads.
Whether or not Leadbitter is a guaranteed starter, however, is up for debate. Personally I feel that he’s fourth choice at centre midfield (behind Robson, Dobson and McGeouch) as he is clearly coming to the twilight of his career.
As a result, I’d like to see a regular starter named as team captain for when Leadbitter isn’t playing - and preferably someone who will lineup for just about all 46 games. Jordan Willis, Jon McLaughlin and Aiden McGeady are just about the only guaranteed regular starters right now, and can all provide a plethora of different reasons as to why they should lead the lads.
Willis would be my choice here. He’s a fresh face but also quite a commanding personality around the academy according to those inside the club, and he already has been a successful captain at Coventry for a couple of years now.
David Holloway says...
Having a designated captain has always been something that I have been uncomfortable with. Look at the circus which comes around the England captain, whether it is David Beckham using it to enhance his image or John Terry using the position to exert undue dominance in the dressing room - it just feels wrong.
Of course at Sunderland we don’t have such concerns. But George Honeyman I felt was a good front for the team, was media friendly and seemed a good lad. But the appointment wasn't enthusiastically welcomed by fans and put a target on his back as there was the impression that his place in the team was guaranteed.
So I think the solution is to appoint an experienced pro, the obvious one being Grant Leadbitter as club captain. He can be the media focus and be the link between players and management.
Then pick the team and choose a captain from that, be it Leadbitter if selected or a younger vocal player such as Willis who can control things from the back.
Phil West says...
I would go for Jordan Willis as the skipper.
From what I’ve seen of him, he strikes me as a very motivated, dedicated, no-nonsense player, and I get the feeling that, as a new player, he would relish the chance to captain the team and to really make a serious impact during his first season.
Centre-backs are often perfect captaincy material. They read the game, can organise, cajole, and set a standard for the other players to follow. There will be much onus on the defence to keep it tight and organised. Willis will be key to this, so it seems like a natural fit to empower him with what can be a challenging and turbulent role.
I don’t think the captain needs to have an affinity with Sunderland in order to lead the team. Honeyman’s story, of a local lad wearing the armband, would not necessarily need to be repeated. Leadership is leadership, regardless of whether you’re ‘Sunderland through and through’ and I see absolutely no reason why Willis couldn’t become the totem at the heart of our team.
Chris Wynn says...
It’s a tough one from the outside. There are a number of different angles to come at it from it will be interesting to see who Ross hands it to.
I’ve read stories in various ex-footballers biographies where the captain can fracture a dressing room with their behaviour.
One story described how the players had an issue with the club and were collectively together and displaying this through a refusal to participate in the traditional summer photocall.
The captain however had other ideas and strode out in full kit to where the photographer expected them to go and waited for other players to join.
Some followed, some didn’t and the rest were confused. This lead to resentment of the manager as the captain was “his man”.
The captain’s role comes into play off the field more than on it. They need to be a communication link between players and backroom staff as well as trying to back up game plans during training or feedback that it’s not working.
For me the first name that springs to mind for club captain is Leadbitter.
He may not play every game but I can imagine his reaction to that, whilst being captain, would no doubt send a message to the rest of the squad.
I would defy anyone to doubt his dedication and professionalism considering his actions throughout the play-offs despite the grief he was suffering.
I can’t imagine anyone not having respect for the man after what he’s been through.
On the pitch I think we have multiple captains and plenty of experience to take care of that so it’s not as vital, off the field I think there’s only one man for the job.