Never have I wanted a season to begin more than I do now.
I love talking about football but there is only so much transfer talk I can take before it makes me want to gnaw own fingers off and leave them as stumps.
Show me a player holding a shirt up whilst telling everyone they supported that club as a boy and I’m happy. When I’ve read the same headline worded differently every day over the course of three months then I get the equivalent of snow blindness. That transfer ceases to exist.
It’s got to that stage with the eternal chronicles of Jeremain Lens. I’m convinced he was just a figment of my imagination from my days playing Football Manager and never existed in real life.
The good news is that it finally looks as if the cogs in the Sunderland transfer machine and starting to turn and we’re seeing some results. The bad news is that there are just 3 weeks to the start of the season and there’s still so much work to be done.
Through no fault of Simon Grayson’s, the chances of hitting the ground running from day one are stacked against us and with the ins and outs to come, it’s going to take some time for the squad to settle and take shape.
The unresolved situations in two critical departments are a source of worry for me though. In most positions around the pitch you can patch up and make do but when it comes to goalkeepers and strikers, it’s the two areas you will get caught out on should you cut any corners.
I was surprised to hear Vito Mannone say he hadn’t had a conversation with the manager to clarify his situation. Whether Vito would like to stay or not, his position that needs to be addressed very soon.
After his farewell lap of the Stadium of Light with Jermain Defoe, it was natural to assume he’d be on his way and with talk of John Ruddy and Robert Green possibly coming in to replace him, all signs pointed south from Sunderland too.
But if those were the options, I’d hope Vito could be convinced to stay. Despite being odds with some bookies to sign here, Ruddy has since signed for Wolves and whilst him being available on a free might look like a good bit of business to some, I have had my doubts about him for some time.
Ruddy has a chink in his armour where he often gets caught diving slightly backwards when dealing with shots and gives up too many second chances to opposition players following up hoping to capitalise on this.
When he has had a good run in the side, Vito has found the consistency that previously alluded him and now could be his time to cement his place in the side for the foreseeable future. I’d understand if he was given the chance to play back home in Serie A but at 29, Vito only has 115 starts to his name and if he is to look back on his career when he’s retires, he’ll know this is somewhat of a crossroads. If the decision is in his hands, then I think he should stay.
At the opposite end of the pitch, there are still vacancies to be filled, especially centrally but the imminent arrival of Aiden McGeady is the real bright spot of preparations so far.
If there’s something that has been missing from the Stadium of Light lately, it’s exactly what McGeady brings. On song, he can be mercurial and by making him a prominent figure in the starting eleven, Grayson can get the best out of him.
Critics will say that he doesn’t work hard enough or can disappear in games but if you can give him the ball in the right areas then you just have to make sure that those around him work that little bit harder because he can create something out of nothing.
The very first time I saw him was at Celtic Park in 2004 when I was with Aberdeen. I’d come off injured in the first half and was sat behind the dugouts. Aiden had came on from the bench after an hour and was out on the left wing being marked our wide midfielder, Steve Tosh. As the ball was played up to him, Steve knew that he’d be in trouble if he let Aiden run at him with the ball so he went charging in to close him down.
Three seconds later, the ball had been crossed in and a chance had been spurned and Tosh was still stood rooted to the spot, scratching his head wondering what had just happened. Go on YouTube and search “McGeady trick” and it’s the first thing you’ll see.
My sincere apologies to Steve for brining that up here but it’s no disgrace really. That same year, McGeady received his own personal standing ovation from Alessandro Nesta after he had mesmerised his AC Milan defence.
That might be a long time ago now but he’s still only 31 and can become the kind of talisman that’s needed. The type of player to pull a win out of the fire when all it looks like is a point – and that is exactly what we will need this season.