Birflatt Boy sees all the summer transfer activity, with more than a few words of gratitude to a former manager, as a potential pivotal point in Black Cat’s history. The Di Canio revolution he argues, backed by, or more likely galvanised by our American owner, can be the catalyst for a change in the way in which the club, its fans and the world perceive Sunderland Association Football Club.

Birflatt Boy adding weight to his argument

Birflatt Boy adding weight to the argument

There’s really only one word to describe the transfer activity at Sunderland this close season, and that’s “breathtaking.” Players seem to be arriving almost on a daily basis. Well, alright, that might be something of an exaggeration but for this summer at least it’s clear that we are able to get a lot of the players we want, when we want. Beneath the headlines which alert us to another new arrival there are probably a good few more that we haven’t quite been able to get to sign, for a host of different reasons. The rumour mill keeps on churning them out, but for once in living memory there does appear to be more than a hint of truth in what we read and hear.

The “comings” and perhaps more importantly the “goings” which naturally receive a lot less attention have been really sweeping. Bramble and Kilgallon were sent packing at the end of their contracts. Elmo’s permanent future has been resolved in a reunion with Cribbins in East Yorkshire. You would have thought that signing this player once would be enough for any manager, even Bruce, but twice, really? Bruce clearly has a conscience, spurred by his failings at Sunderland he seems hell bent on repeating the same failings on Humberside taking Danny Graham on a season long loan. Hull are also being linked with Cattermole and also the B52, although Bruce has been quoted as saying that Mr Bendtner ‘is probably going to cost too much.” That’s not quite a euphemism for “not cheap enough.” Bruce may turn out to be the best manager we ever had managing someone else. Not only is he happy to relieve us of the rubbish he signed for us, but he is happy to take some of the dross acquired by his successor. Long may this continue and we may hope that Graham’s taxi comes straight back for Cattermole, if rumours are to be believed. Dare we hope he returns yet again for McClean? The prospect of that remains a Birflattian dream.

The latest speculation is that a Turkish club have now made a serious offer for the other January acquisition Alfred N’Diaye. West London, and Martin Jol’s Fulham seem contenders to end Phil Bardsley’s stint in rolling around in used bank notes. It’s a disappointing end to a player, who unlike many of his peers never seemed to hide. Not the most gifted of players, he appeared to give his all and was our Player of the Season, not so very long ago. It’s a pity that fact has been forgotten already. Perhaps I am being too charitable about an average footballer who is earning over 30 grand a week. I hope he enjoyed playing with the U21s the other day. (And in a 3-2 win v Darlington at Bishop Auckland yesterday – ed)

Having digressed so completely, from the intention of this article, which was about how “breathtaking” the personnel changes have been, what is most impressive is not only the speed at which dead wood is being cleared, but that the intentions of our management team have been made loud and clear. PDC has wasted no time in marking the cards of players who don’t fit into his plans. There will be more departures in the next few weeks, and quite possibly a few more arrivals. We have never previously signed a current Italian international with two Serie A titles to his name; a player in his prime, yet we have done that. It’s not all down to the manager of course, and without the sheer guile, commitment and conviction of Ellis Short we would be sitting here with O’Neill at the helm and looking forward to trips to Barnsley and Yeovil. There were a significant number of our supporters who were happy to accept our fate, refusing to embrace the required changes back at the end of March. The transfers both in and out over the course of the summer have been rapid and show a real conviction, but it’s really been the behind the scenes events, and the initial recruitment of a well connected scouting team which has made this all possible.

For decade upon decade we have not been taken seriously as a football club, and that has had to change. The persona, the public face and character of Sunderland AFC had to change, and my goodness, has it changed. This is not to say that the season ahead will be without its challenges. There are a lot of new players who are going to have to settle and adjust. The tried and failed methods of old have gone in one fell swoop. The way in which we are perceived by the wider world has changed, and that is long overdue and welcome. That too has been “breathtaking” but perhaps the most significant change is yet to come, and that is in the way that we perceive ourselves and our club. For the first time in most of our lifetimes we look like we are serious about all of this and that’s got to be the most “breathtaking’ of all. We might even stop harping on about 1973.

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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

8 Responses to “Birflatt Boy: comings and goings herald new dawn at Sunderland AFC” Subscribe

  1. Phil Johnson July 21, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Many thanks, I enjoyed reading that and could not agree more with the points being made.

    Bardsley did, indeed, play against Darlington yesterday and I think that, unless my eyes deceived me, was the one who gave away a penalty.

    Extended highlights can be found at the following:

    • Goldy July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      He was indeed. Indecisively backed off from the ball in the air and then shoved his opponent over. Then complained about the decision.

  2. scotter July 21, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Ciao BB.

    I hear that we are getting Minchella from the Sand-Dancers and Notrianni from the Rokerites.

    Big problem with the written press is that they are refusing to give player ratings in hundreds and thousands!

    • malcolm July 21, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      What do you want scotter – monkey’s blood?

  3. Drummer July 21, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Being taken seriously as a team has only happened twice in my lifetime,73 ( I’m not harping on, honest ) and about 3 seasons under Reid when it seemed we might have a chance of establishing ourselves as a top ten team, didn’t happen of course.Would love to see it happen again with something to show for it.Huge changes at the minute and as long as we stay in the division next season ill be happy due to the amount of new players.Not much ambition on my part I agree but if we clear that first hurdle this team could improve, gell together and grow.If this doesn’t work what will? Think I’ve said that more times than I care to remember as well .

  4. Keith Hutton Africa July 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Restistance to change a very English condition is at the heart of it. When I hear manager’s say it will take him a season to settle down I cringe. The European approach will help us as it helped Swansea, and not having it didn’t help Blackpool,Qpr or Stoke. PDC will bring a mindset change something that appears to be obvious to Short after seeing relative fai.ure under British managers. I may of course be wrong and the new dawn will turn into a stormy wet day, but I feel we have changed for the better and will continue to improve.

  5. scotter July 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Good article BB.

    Will the great experiment succeed?

    I don’t care! The fact that it is being undertaken is enough for me.

    Regardless of the consequences, Ellis Short and his management team should be congratulated for trying to break the club out of its spiral of decline.

    Keen,Bruce and O’Neill, who were all good at “soundbites” and righteous indignation, wasted money on a bunch of players who were paid far more than they are worth, (Bardsley on £35k per week!!).

    DeFanti’s remarks suggest that they got the full whack whether they played or not —not exactly an incentives package in the club’s favour!!

    I think the clear out, especially the drinking clique, is long overdue so that we can have the proper discipline.

    I would expect more changes as the full extent of the new plan is rolled out, perhaps a feeder club and more overseas linkages.

    To date my basic aspirations for a season have been, to beat the Mags, kick Arsenal to pieces, have a good cup run and retain Premiership status.

    Now all I really want is attractive football and a top six place——for starters!!

  6. William C July 22, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Excellent piece BB.

    I am excited at the POSSIBILITY of Sunderland actually achieving something. It has been a long time since we could even contemplate anything other than mediocrity.

    The last few years have been deeply depressing. A string of average to useless players on huge wages conspiring to just avoid relegation, whilst playing some of the worst foootball the PL has seen in recent times.

    I think this is a bold move by Ellis Short, and it will be fascinating to see if it will work.

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