Sunderland column: Tony Gillan’s View From The Bridge

DECENT SUMMER: Gus Poyet
DECENT SUMMER: Gus Poyet
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AMID the general joie de vivre that accompanies the return of the season, there is the eternally accompanying nay-saying among sections of football supporters.

This tends to stem from online attention seekers, mischief makers and the terminally pessimistic.

The latter group can be heard predicting that they can see the club going down this season. But as the same people have mistakenly predicted such an outcome for seven consecutive seasons, the rest of us can evaluate their opinions accordingly.

The last season to commence for which they did not predict relegation was in 2006-07; which was when they said that Sunderland would fail be promoted. They were wrong then too.

Long experience has, understandably, cultivated pessimism among Sunderland’s following. Even the most optimistic fans are infused with a steely realism. But times are not so hard.

According to Brand Finance, a consultancy firm specialising in boring statistics, Sunderland is the 31st most valuable football club in the world. Not bad when considering that only nine years ago, they were attempting to stay in the Premier League by spending the paltry transfer funds available on Jonathan Stead, Kelvin Davis, Andy Gray and others we prefer to forget.

Never does a season begin – at any club – with supporters entirely satisfied with the summer’s transfer activities and now is no different. But Gus Poyet has not finished buying yet.

The manager has made mistakes during his ten months on Wearside, but his work on the whole at Sunderland has so far been excellent. Since taking over from the stiff-armed duffer who preceded him, Poyet has taken an average of 1.2 points per game. Over the whole of last season this would have given his team 45 points – and 11th place.

Poyet also led the club to a rare cup final. Most importantly, he prevented what appeared to be certain relegation.

Excluding last season’s top seven, there is no team in the league that will definitely finish above Sunderland. True, it is unlikely that the club will finish as high as eighth, but not completely infeasible.

Did anyone place bets a year ago on ending 2013-14 above Aston Villa but below Crystal Palace? Anything can happen.

Well not anything. It is unlikely that the cleaning staff at the Stadium of Light will be expending much elbow grease on a trophy collection next May. But there is more to keep the faithful going than the blind hope of years gone by.

Either cheer up or drink more.

IT is worthwhile taking this opportunity to dispel a few myths that are insouciantly re-peddled every close season.

(1) It is simply not true that “everyone else just goes out and buys players while Sunderland have to drag it out.”

The ease with which buyers and vendors operate varies with every deal. No Premier League club does its business any faster or slower than Sunderland.

Attempts to sign Fabio Borini seem to have been going for longer than The Archers. But this type of story is hardly exclusive to Sunderland. It goes on everywhere.

When are Newcastle going to sign or give up on Loïc Rémy? Why did Hull City take six months to sign Tom Ince? Why did it take Aston Villa six months to not sign Wes Hoolahan? What is the hold up at Southampton as they attempt to sell their three remaining players?

Conversely, Sunderland had little trouble in recruiting fourteen new players last summer, but as you may recall, this was not a runaway success.

That said, the acquisitions of Costel Pantilimon, Jack Rodwell, Jordi Gómez, Will Buckley and Billy Jones have been relatively straightforward.

(2) The likelihood is that Poyet, Ellis Short, Margaret Byrne and others have been working assiduously to bring in new players. They don’t just sit playing Angry Birds all day while waiting for the phone to ring.

Of course, I can’t prove this, but I defy anyone, particularly taxi drivers and the patrons of the Museum Vaults, to disprove it.

(3) Regardless of whether he comes to Sunderland or not – and regardless of the annoying procrastination – Borini actually IS worth £14m.

He may only be a decent, rather than brilliant Premier League forward, but that is what decent, rather than brilliant Premier League forwards are going for. We can only accept the reality, if not the morality of this.

Borini became more confident as last season wore on and provided some of the best memories of recent years.

Romelu Lukaku is a better player than Borini, which is why he cost Everton £28m.

Meanwhile, Ross McCormack was bought by Fulham for £11m, Shane Long by Southampton for £12m, while honest ‘Arry is ‘awking Loïc Rémy for £20m. All three of these players are 27; four years older than Borini.

It is possible to buy strikers for a few million, but if you pay peanuts you get Danny Grahams.

It is pleasant to reminisce about the extraordinarily modest fee that landed the great Kevin Phillips in 1997. But the drawback to once-in-a-lifetime events is that they don’t happen twice.

USUALLY we like to open the first View From The Bridge of the new season by denigrating other sports and saying how dull and pointless they are when compared to the Greatest Game on Earth – football.

However, after a few years you begin to run out of original ways to imaginatively disparage the waste of time that is golf, rugby, judo, basketball, ice hockey, running, jumping, swimming, anything involving an engine, anything involving a horse and so on.

In fairness, this summer’s Commonwealth Games were very successful. But they also provided the usual supercilious football haters (weirdoes) with ammunition for their predictable rant against God’s game. In case you missed it;

“Those Commonwealth athletes do what they do because they love their sport; not for money.

“I’d like to see those so-called Premier League stars get up half-an-hour before they go to bed, swim 14 miles, ride a bike to Penzance and back, then plough six fields before breakfast.

“You don’t see the Namibian angling team fighting in night clubs” etc.

We are not obliged to approve of all the participants of football, but all right thinking people are glad to see them back.

Admittedly, this feeling has a habit of conking out before the first dawn of September, so enjoy the gladness for as long as you can maintain it.

THOSE among you whose idea of entertainment is listening to adverts will no doubt be aware of a radio station called Talksport.

However, broadcasting rules stipulate that commercials should be interspersed with the occasional conversation. It’s just something that we have to have to put up with.

One “broadcaster” that the station keeps in inexplicable employment is Alan Brazil, a former Ipswich striker, but very much a current nincompoop. Between six and ten on weekday mornings he presents the breakfast show.

One would have thought that four hours would be considerably more than the required allocation of time for any man to complete his breakfast. But recent photographic evidence suggests that most of Mr Brazil’s waking hours are dedicated to some meal or other.

Like most former footballers who have nosed their way into the media, he is not especially articulate or insightful. Nor does he proffer any thoughts on the game that had not occurred to the listener anyway.

It would therefore seem unwise for him to discuss issues he obviously knows nothing about, if his blabbering on football provides so little enlightenment. But it takes more than undiluted ignorance on a given subject to prevent some folk from holding court.

On Wednesday morning Mr Brazil presented a waiting world with his views on mental health. As expected, his expertise turned out to be somewhat limited.

Bestowing us with his wisdom on the death of Robin Williams, the sage of medium wave said he had “no sympathy” for the late comedian and that committing suicide was a “diabolical” thing to do.

A man had taken his own life, but as this was as a result of mental illness, only a true ignoramus could be really annoyed about that.

“I’m really annoyed about that” said Alan Brazil.

Mr Brazil added that he has initially misheard the news and had thought that Robbie Williams was dead.

He said: “It didn’t hit me hard like it would if it had been Robbie. Thank God it wasn’t.”

Somehow this failed to provide any amelioration.

Quite how crass and empty-headed a presenter has to be before he is given the boot is yet to be established.

All the station has done so far is issue a weedy: “Talksport apologises for any offence caused. Alan’s comments do not reflect the views of the station.”

Mr Brazil has remained implacable, saying that he is entitled to his opinion – no matter how half-witted.

Despite all this, I for one will not be boycotting Talksport. To do that I would need to listen to it in the first place.

Those still keen on hearing to Alan Brazil can tune in on Monday when – as well as mental health – he may elucidate upon the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, macroscopic quantum phenomena and a whole gamut of other topics upon which he clearly knows zip.

OOOOOH. Predictions. Predictions.

Most of us make them at this time of year, including me. But I have no intention of committing mine to print. I only ever get off the fence to go and hedge my bets and other clichés.

What I will forecast is the continued media sycophancy towards the ludicrously overrated Goodold ‘Arry Redknapp, whose “genius” will be discussed at length every time Queen’s Park Rangers manage not to lose.

Goodold has only spent the best part of two seasons and racked up a £177m club debt to take them back to where he found them. A stunning achievement.

Rarely has a promotion been anywhere near as jammy as QPR’s last season (although the good fortune since required by Celtic to remain in the Champions League will take some beating).

My other prediction is that after three agonising months of no one paying him the attention he craves, José Mourinho will say something needlessly nasty and offensive to keep his smug little mush in media.

He may well reopen his mouth for this sort of business after Chelsea’s visit to Burnley on Monday. At the very latest it will follow his side’s first defeat.

These are my only predictions for now. Sticking my neck out or what?

SUNDERLAND’S signing of Will Buckley from Brighton is probably the most interesting among the new arrivals. Very interesting.

I say interesting because I know next to nothing about him and am trying to sound knowledgeable.