ONE OF Dick Advocaat’s criticisms of the Sunderland players after the Palace game was a lack of muscle and physical presence.
When Paolo Di Canio arrived, he identified a lack of fitness in the squad, and Gus Poyet often complained that he wanted to play a passing game, but the squad he inherited couldn’t keep the ball.
All these criticisms were valid, and while I’m sure every manager since Steve Bruce has tried to improve things, the fact is, Sunderland are no better than four years ago, as every season has seen the same battle to avoid the drop.
Whatever the reasons for Sunderland’s struggles – and there have been many – the club’s recruitment record has got to be one of the major failures.
Southampton have proved you can lose half your team and still improve, but they only did it thanks to a top class scouting system that identified quality players to replace the high-profile ones that left.
Sunderland desperately need a good transfer window, with signings that improve the starting XI and not just squad fillers.
Until we get the recruitment side of the business right, alongside a clear strategy, Sunderland won’t break the cycle of constant underachievement.