Source: SAFC at Facaebook

Salut! Reflections has developed into a corner of Salut! Sunderland for outsiders, not usually supporters of SAFC. The contributions range from blandly stating the obvious to offering interesting or pertinent points about the progress or lack of it of our club. Even after heavy editing, those in the former category struggle to shine.

This is at the higher end, more imaginatively written, up to date and opinionated. Since we are assured the author, William Sundin, is a media production graduate from Sunderland University, there may be a good reason for that. What we certainly hope to be true is that his failure to see the qualities of Lewis Grabban reflects his shortcomings, not the player’s …

Source: Sunderland AFC via Facebook

You’ll often hear the Championship
described as one of the most competitive – nay, one of the finest – leagues in Europe.

People making such utterances don’t generally support teams mired in the lower middle of the table and below.

Admittedly, England’s second tier is competitive although you sense that as Reading bid £10m to sign Nakhi Wells, the divide between the rich and the frugal will erode some of that competition. But is it one of the best leagues?

It certainly isn’t pretty. For example, take a look at Ipswich, who are essentially the custodians of the Championship.

Seventeen years have passed since Ipswich finished admirably in fifth position in the Premier League under George Burley, who won the manager of the year award and a place in the Uefa Cup; sadly relegation followed a year later and not a lot has happened since to bring end-of-season smiles to Portman Road faces.

Joe Royle guided them to the playoffs (twice) within the first three seasons in the second tier, only to be thwarted each time by West Ham. Jim Magilton brought attacking football that flirted with the playoffs, but paid the price for falling short.

Roy Keane then brought his own inimitable management style, before Paul Jewell arrived with a nicer demeanour, a raft of on-loan players – and no real quality.

Then came the saviour in the form of former Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy, a man generally appreciated wherever he goes because of his straight talking and scrupulous behaviour. McCarthy took Ipswich back to the playoffs, with huge thanks to Sunderland legend (ahem) Daryl Murphy, but of course it had to be Norwich who got in the way.

Since then, Ipswich fans have accepted that McCarthy’s brand of not-pretty football is probably enough to avoid relegation and probably not enough to get back into the playoffs.

Sixteen summers out the top flight – 17 once this one is over – and it may be an oversight on the part of the authorities to have not renamed it the Ipswich League Featuring 23 Others.

So how does all of this tie in to Sunderland?

Well, Sunderland are not widely fancied to bounce straight back up, as I’m sure fans are well aware. There is a reason that Sunderland are ninth favourite to take the title – you can decide yourself if they are worth backing at a price of 14/1 with Sportsbet – while the squad still has undoubted quality, it looks like one that belongs firmly in the chasing pack for the playoffs.

Teams are roughly divided into those who are probably spending too much and those who aren’t spending enough.

Sunderland could do with more reinforcements if they are to be battle-ready for the Championship. James Vaughan and Aiden McGeady are talented, but their talent looks insufficient when Middlesbrough go out and spend half a Pogba on an array of attacking options including the clinical Britt Assombalonga. Meanwhile, I feel compelled to say that former Norwich striker Lewis Grabban is absolute garbage, but you probably should disregard that – and will naturally hope his form for Sunderland makes me eat my words.

Jeremain Lens will probably end up leaving, but you never know in the Championship. Source: Sunderland AFC via Facebook

Simon Grayson is an astute manager at this level, a McCarthyesque figure who is well liked by neutrals.

If only he could retain the flair of Wahbi Khazri and Jeremain Lens then there’s plenty to worry Championship defences, most of which include at least one centre-back with the turning circle of a combine harvester. Another advantage for Sunderland is that other than Middlesbrough (sorry), there are no real candidates for taking the league by storm.

But therein lies another problem; you never know what is going to happen. In 2011, Ipswich lost 5-2 to Southampton and 7-1 to Peterborough in consecutive matches, a season in which Town later went on to beat Barnsley 5-3 and West Ham 5-1.

Sunderland are just as likely to win the league as they are to finish bottom, but then so is everyone else. The big spenders aren’t guaranteed success, shown by Derby’s inability to go anywhere, and the smaller clubs like Huddersfield can thrive on morale and chemistry.

So ultimately, who knows what will happen. Welcome to the Championship.

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

5 Responses to “Sunderland’s Championship prospects – and a controversial view of Grabban” Subscribe

  1. Sam August 2, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    Bournemouth fan here with my opinion on Grabban, for what it’s worth. I’d say he’s a decent Championship level striker who’s deceptively strong, holds the ball up well and is good at linking the play, and when his confidence is up he’s capable of scoring a few goals as he showed in his first season in the Championship with us when he scored 22 goals. Hasn’t quite got enough about his game for the Premier League, maybe if he had an extra yard of pace or was better in the air then he’d have cut it.

  2. rob wells August 2, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    I don’t pretend to fully understand your article, having just skimmed it after being redirected here. But – as an AFCB fan, I just wanted to say that Grabban was fantastic for us a few years ago (in the Championship), our most important & consistent performer. he is NOT a traditional striker – I wouldn’t describe him as particularly clinical. he is a converted winger – eddie howe managed to find a system whereby he was the lone striker, and his work-rate, skill & attitude was spot-on. If, and its a massive if, your manager and perhaps fans give him the proper backing, maybe he could reach those heights again – he honestly was fantastic for a couple of seasons. good luck….

  3. jimmythemoonlight August 2, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

    I cant see sunderland doing anything this season than be an average mid table team.No money to buy good players but will win enough games at home to keep them mid table.They need to stop all the spending on big players for awhile,get the dept down,get rid of Short and Bain,find a new owner who loves football and has a football brain as well as a business brain.Lets get this club running on an even keel,then take it from there.

  4. Tom, Sunderland August 2, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    I only have one game to go on, but I don’t recognise the description of Grabban as ‘garbage’. That’s pretty damming by any measure. To me, the descriptions offered by Sam and Rob look far more accurate. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I’ll back my judgement. Grabban to be a very decent acquisition this season.

    • malcolm August 2, 2017 at 11:06 pm #

      I think you’ll find the author is a Tractor Boy having a pop at an ex Canary. He does say we should probably disregard that comment.

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