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Roker Roundup: Zenden, Joel Lynch and Robbin Ruiter all comment on life after Sunderland

In today’s news roundup: a trio of former Sunderland players have been pondering on what life was like before, during and after their spells on Wearside.

Roker Roundup 20/21
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Lynch discusses lower league struggle

Ex-Sunderland defender Joel Lynch is still a free agent after his release earlier in the summer, and has spoken to Planet Football about the difficulties playing lower league football.

Lynch explains that abuse at the top level of the game may be easier to ignore due to the wages on offer in the Premier League but receiving that same abuse on a wet night on the Wirral may make a player think twice.

The 32-year-old also discusses the struggles he has personally gone through and revealed that it’s difficult going from such a high pressure situation at Sunderland to being unemployed but feels lucky to have people around him who encouraged him to save money from a young age:

The money side of the game can become an additional pressure outside of the Premier League, if you’re earning £100,000-a-week and someone says something about you, it might be easier to not care.

But when you’re at somewhere like Tranmere on a Tuesday night, it’s pissing it down with rain and someone calls you shit, maybe even one of your own fans, you think to yourself, ‘Christ, what am I even doing here?’

I’ve always looked at the Premier League boys, and I’ve always thought there’s no way they could ever have to worry about money – but you hear stories of some of them still blowing all of their earnings, and it’s all down to what kind of guidance they get.

I’ve been really lucky I’ve had the sort of people around me who’ve led me to save and invest, so I’ve managed to get myself in a good position for someone of my age – if I was who I was a decade ago and this had happened, I don’t know what I’d be doing with myself.

It’s a struggle. In the past year we’ve had a kid, I’ve had to move away up to Sunderland, so it’s not easy trying to juggle your life with football.

Sunderland is quite a high-pressure club, I’ve never played somewhere with such fanatical football fans and they absolutely love the game, the club is everything to them and they shouldn’t be where they are. So to come out of that and to now have no team, you have to be strong to fight that self-doubt.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Ruiter on being told he would not get a chance at Sunderland

Former Sunderland goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter came off second best in Europa League qualification against Rangers on Thursday night, as the Scottish side won 4-0.

There had been the opportunity for Ruiter to compete against his former Sunderland counterpart Jon McLaughlin but Steven Gerrard opted to select Allan McGregor in goal for the tie.

Speaking to the Daily Record ahead of the game, Ruiter explained how Jack Ross had a meeting with the Dutchman after being appointed Sunderland boss and told the current Willem II number one that he would not be getting a chance in the first team due to McLaughlin’s arrival:

We were competitors at Sunderland. But when Jack came in, we had a meeting and from the start he told me I wouldn’t play.

He said he had brought his own goalie in Jon and I wasn’t going to get a chance. That was tough.

Of course, I challenged him for the shirt but I knew I wasn’t going to play.

Despite that setback to his Sunderland career, Ruiter had nothing but good things to say about McLaughlin:

Honestly, my relationship with Jon was great, he’s a good lad.

The year we were together, Jon played really well. At no point did it look like I could get him out of the team.

He’s a really decent goalie. He doesn’t make many mistakes as he’s showing now for Rangers.

From what I’ve seen, they’re playing really well. For a goalkeeper, if you don’t concede many goals – it’s normal that you keep your spot between the sticks.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Zenden on the surprise end to his playing career

Bolo Zenden is currently attacking coach at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, after starting his coaching career shortly after departing Sunderland as a player.

Speaking to So Foot, Zenden explained that he never intended to retire as a player when he did, and had hoped to continue his playing career somewhere other than Sunderland.

Hoping for a new opportunity elsewhere, the midfielder was training with Bayer Leverkusen when he received a phone call from former Newcastle United manager Rafa Benite about an opportunity at the top end of the Premier League:

It happened to me suddenly. I finished in Sunderland, where I could sign a contract for another year, but wanted to try something else.

I had a few options, but nothing that suited me. I trained alone for a year. Then I spent two, three months at Bayer Leverkusen. My friend Sami Hyypiä, who was a coach there, told me that I can train with them as long as I don’t have a team.

I have always been in contact with Rafa Benítez, whom I knew in Liverpool. And then one day he called me. He asked me what I was doing, if I would like to become his assistant. I answer him: “Well, I never asked myself that question. Maybe yes.”

It also depended on the location. I didn’t want to go anywhere because it had to suit my family situation: my wife had just given birth. He told me that if I joined him, it was in a top 4 team in the Premier League. At that point, I knew it could be Manchester City or Chelsea, because they were having coaching issues. Two days later, he called me back to tell me: “Bolo, you have to be in London tomorrow because we’re going to start at Chelsea.”

In November 2012, a year and two months after refusing to sign my new contract at Sunderland, I had a new job, a new career, I crossed another milestone. Until then, I still thought I was going to play somewhere.

I was thinking of becoming a coach someday, but it wasn’t expected to be that fast. Without Benítez’s call, maybe I would have waited two or three years.

Sunderland’s Dutch midfielder Boudewijn Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images