Sunderland still lacking firepower at the start of the season, believes ex-Black Cat

Former Sunderland footballer Richard Ord (standing centre) now in charge of Eppleton Cricket Club Football Team
Former Sunderland footballer Richard Ord (standing centre) now in charge of Eppleton Cricket Club Football Team
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The week before the season is always flooded by those forecasts of how the Premier League table will look on May 15.

The majority of tipsters in the national spotlight have again predicted a season of struggle for Sunderland; many suggesting that this year may finally be the year that the Black Cats’ luck runs out in their annual flirtation with relegation.

I hope they can spend that money on a striker who can get us some goals

Dickie Ord

It’s understandable. Going on recent history, Sunderland are not going to be challenging in the upper echelons of the top flight.

Among Sunderland supporters themselves, there seems to be a mixed opinion.

Some have been encouraged by the steps to improve the defence and midfield in the transfer market this summer, while Dick Advocaat’s return to the Stadium of Light promises a greater degree of stability.

Advocaat might actually become the first Sunderland manager since Steve Bruce to complete a whole season.

But until Sunderland can demonstrate consistent progress on the field, many fear another ‘here we go again’ season of struggle, including ex-Black Cats defender Dickie Ord.

While Sunderland have splashed out almost £20million to bring in five new signings, their spending has not matched some of their rivals in the bottom half and is certainly on a more modest scale than at earlier stages of Ellis Short’s stewardship.

And crucially winger Jeremain Lens remains the only addition to Advocaat’s front three after relegated Burnley were the only side to score fewer Premier League goals than Sunderland last season.

For Ord, the goal threat - or lack of it – in Sunderland’s ranks remains the overwhelming concern.

“The only bright spark at the moment is Lens, who seems to be a good signing - he looks sharp and he can get a goal as well,” said Ord, who made 253 appearances during his nine-year Sunderland career.

“But the other sides around us seem to have spent a lot more money over the last few years and I think we’ve stagnated.

“I think we definitely needed two new centre-halves and they’re not bad in (Sebastian) Coates and (Younes) Kaboul.

“But we still need to improve in central midfield and up front.

“We’ve let Connor (Wickham) go, which is a good deal for both parties really.

“There were questions about his attitude, and even if you’ve got the tools to be a top player, you struggle if your attitude isn’t right.

“But I hope they can spend that money on a striker who can get us some goals.”

Ord hopes Sunderland’s trump card proves to be Advocaat after the U-turn over extending his Black Cats tenure, following his survival-sealing nine-game tenure at the end of last season.

But Ord believes the key for the former Holland manager will be to break the pattern of Sunderland’s struggles at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland have won just 14 top flight games on home soil over the last three seasons, with their pedestrian build-up play proving a regular hindrance in breaking down visiting sides.

“I think that was a tremendous boost for Advocaat to come back after keeping us up,” said Ord.

“He’s obviously got loads of experience all over the world, and I think he knows what’s wrong.

“I think he’s given them that kick up the backside and hopefully the players realise they can’t go through that again.

“The fans want to see attacking football like there was in the (Peter Reid) Reidy era.

“It might be old-fashioned, but that’s what the fans want to see – attacking football, especially at home.

“You’ve got to get the crowd behind you at home.

“The atmosphere hasn’t been there in the last few years, because the fans want to see players getting stuck in and getting the ball into the box.

“But too often, it’s been a slow build-up, going backwards and sideways.

“You go to games now and there’s two or three chances created per game, so it’s no wonder we’ve not been scoring goals.”

Ex-Durham City boss Ord has returned to management himself after taking charge of newly-formed Eppleton Cricket Club football team, who will play their maiden season in the Durham and District Sunday League Fourth Division this season.

“My son has played up there for the last few years and it’s a way of bringing revenue into the cricket club during the winter,” added Ord.

“It was an idea from one of the committee men.

“I was asked to get involved and it’s taken off. We had our first friendly last weekend and there was a lot of interest.

“We’ve had about 40 people signed on and the interest has been phenomenal to be honest.

“Obviously you’ve got to start at the bottom, in the Durham and District Fourth Division.

“But you just work your way up, don’t you?

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s football at the end of the day and I’m still mad about it.”