Review of Sunderland’s season – Part 2 (e)

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CHRIS YOUNG and GRAEME ANDERSON continue their views on Sunderland’s incredible campaign – and the way ahead.


CY: Director of football seems to be a dirty phrase in English football (understandably so on Wearside after Roberto De Fanti’s ill-fated six month spell).

But sharing the load when it comes to coordinating the club’s scouting and recruitment operations is a necessary step when looking at talent across the globe.

The caveat is whether the man in the hotseat is up to scratch.

De Fanti clearly wasn’t. Both his signings and fudged policy over those in the final years of their contracts was testament to that.

Lee Congerton comes with a far more positive reputation and is thought to share many of Poyet’s views, but the acid test comes with what he can achieve this summer.

GA: As is the case in so many other walks of life, the success or failure of a system is often not down to the system itself but the calibre of the people chosen to operate it.

If you were looking for a template of how not to be a successful director of football, I would suggest you would start with Roberto De Fanti. He was hopeless.

How much blame should be also be attached to Ellis Short and Paolo Di Canio, we’ll probably never know.

But new director of football Lee Congerton looks to be a different prospect – good reputation, deeply knowledgeable and steeped in football, he comes with a good pedigree.

By all accounts, he and Poyet have the start of a good working relationship and so we should not pre-judge a system which is largely alien to English football.

If run correctly, there’s no reason why it can’t be very successful.

Recruitment is a huge job and any help, support and information Poyet can get the better. The danger is when the tail tries to wag the dog and there is the risk of signings being imposed.

I think the director of football should be based on the model of Jeeves the butler – supremely knowledgeable but also subservient.


CY: On paper, a 14th-placed finish, a cup final and a double over Newcastle United would have been fine and dandy.

But after surviving by the skin of their teeth, it would be foolhardy for Sunderland to believe that the immediate goal next season was anything other than survival.

However, in a distinctly mediocre bunch of sides outside the top eight this season, those sides with stability and continuity have tellingly avoided the worst of the relegation dogfight.

Providing there is no big schism between Poyet and Sunderland’s hierarchy, mid-table can be set as a realistic target.

GA: I’ll start next season the same way I started the season just gone – hoping for a top-10 finish for Sunderland – I think that’s within the club’s grasp if they have a good summer.

That would also be Gus Poyet’s vision and when he meets chairman Ellis Short next week he will be challenging him to match it.

“I have done what I was asked to do – which is keep Sunderland in the Premier League,” Poyet reflected on the last day of the season.

“Now we have to decide what the next goal is – are we simply one of those sides which strive to finish between 17th and 12th every season.”

There will be plenty of ins and outs at Sunderland in the next few months and that amount of change might limit Poyet’s hopes of making instant progress.

But Short’s not daft. He knows he has a good manager on his hands and he won’t want to lose him.

I think the American will eventually opt to give Poyet the maximum budget he can under fair play, allow him to use any of the transfer money generated by sales and also give him latitude in how the internal structure of the club is ordered.

That should be enough to keep Poyet at the club and enough to give the Uruguayan hope he can finish above this season’s bottom eight teams who were all much of a muchness.