WHEN asked which Sunderland position most needed strengthening in the close season – attack, midfield, defence or goal – no-one in our entire survey ticked the section saying ‘goal’.
Now that might sound like stating the obvious, given that Simon Mignolet has proven himself one of the best keepers in the Premier League on his way to winning the Player of the Season award from fans and the North East Football Writers’ Player of the Year award.
Especially when you add to the mix that behind Mignolet, Sunderland’s number two is Republic of Ireland international Keiren Westwood – a keeper who arrived on Wearside with a reputation as the best shot-stopper outside the Premier League.
But, it should be pointed out that, remarkably, every other single box was ticked in the Echo 2013 survey, by at least one fan – no matter how extreme the view might be.
And that suggests that EVERY single Sunderland fan is happy with Simon Mignolet as the club’s number one and Westwood as his deputy – giving the lie to the claim that you can’t please all the people all the time!
With goalkeeping sorted, Sunderland fans turned their attention elsewhere and found plenty of deficiencies to be addressed.
While the goalkeeping department was regarded as flawless, there were plenty of critics on the defence generally.
“Some shocking defending over the course of the season, we need youth and pace,” said Dominic Oliver of Low Fell.
“Two full-backs are a necessity,” said Dan Ward, of Marsden Lane, South Shields.
“Two new full-backs and a world-class centre-back,” ventured Tommy Boyd of Renfrew, Scotland, hopefully.
But midfield was reckoned by Sunderland fans in our survey as an even more pressing concern for Paolo Di Canio and Ellis Short to address than the defence.
“A very poor midfield – no creativity,” said Joe Taylor, of Hylton Castle, Sunderland.
Gary Penty of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, said: “We need a lot of creativity here.
“We can’t rely on the inconsistencies of Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson.
“They need support.
“How is Danny Graham, on his own up front, expected to score?
“Had he not come to Sunderland and stayed at Swansea, do you think he would not have scored?
“Even Messi would struggle to score with our midfield!”
Most pressing of all though for improvement, was attack.
Sunderland fans feel that if there is one area that most needs improving, it is attack.
And that is understandable, with Steven Fletcher expected to still be sidelined going into next season, Danny Graham still without a goal to his name in Sunderland colours, Stephane Sessegnon inconsistent and Connor Wickham still to prove himself.
“Goals win games,” said Grant Richardson, of Fulwell, Sunderland, putting it simply.
“We desperately need more goals,” said Kevin Wilde of New Herrington, Houghton-le-Spring.
Ron Peacock of Harrogate, North Yorkshire said; “We need a 20-goal striker.”