Wise Men Say: Sunderland’s priority must be getting it right on the park

Wise Men Say
Wise Men Say
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So, apparently Sunderland are looking to make a capital gain (pardon the poor pun) with the possibility of a training base in London.

It’s a hard one to balance.

You can see the benefits if it means that it attracts a higher calibre of players, who would otherwise turn down a chance to sign for the Wearsiders, because they don’t want to be based in the North East.

You can see the pros for players from outside the area or even outside the country.

London is a massive metropolis with the biggest shops, different cultures from all over the world, and the chance to fade into anonymity away from the football spotlight.

And anyone who doesn’t think that geographical issues or shopping or cultural diversity doesn’t play their part is kidding themselves.

I remember many years ago when as a fledgling sports writer I covered Middlesbrough FC.

Boro were trying to sign a player from Roma and the story was that instead of taking the player to the beautiful training ground just outside Hurworth, they drove him through Boro town centre to the Riverside Stadium and what he saw on the drive in was enough to send him scarpering for the next flight back to Rome.

The club always denied it, but, at the time, the sources making the noise about the situation were good ones.

Boro did, of course, attract a number of top Brazilian stars back in those days, but what people from outside the area might not have known was that Boro had (and may still have) a little Brazilian community in its midst, and the likes of Juninho, Emerson and Carlos Marinelli often spent time there – a home away from home if you will.

Now I was born in Sunderland, grew up in the city, and. while I haven’t always worked in my home town, I have always lived there.

I’m proud of where I come from, but I’m not blinkered enough to think that it doesn’t have its faults or that it might not appeal to international superstars or even run-of-the-mill foreign footballers.

Whatever, the pluses and minuses of our city centre, the surrounding countryside and areas nearby are absolutely beautiful, and should hold enough attraction for millionaire players to want to live there.

I guess the point I’m making is that, while I can understand the thinking behind it, and I applaud the club for looking at new ways of making Sunderland attractive, other things should take priority.

To me, getting things right on the pitch would be a far bigger step in the right direction than relocation.

Personally, I didn’t worry too much about the team jetting off to New York after a humbling against Southampton.

But then to announce the possible redundancies just after the trip only serves to further distance the club for the working man and woman, the people who are their core support.

And I think moving, or having a second training base, would add to that disconnect.

Fair play to the club for their opening training session this week.

But in an age when the gap between the multi-millionaire players and the hard working souls who back them from the stands has never been greater, admitting that their hometown isn’t good enough for the people who they support with their hearts and souls might just be a step too far, well at least in this Sunderland lad’s opinion.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from David Moyes. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes