After the frenzied love fest of the summer, when everything Roy Keane & Sunderland was declared as great, the inevitable backlash has begun.
We were treated last year to a radical turnaround at Sunderpants, when Roy took over to lead them to a remarkable Championship victory, so that henceforth they would be known as "Roy Keane's Sunderland".
Over the summer, various pundits predicted top 8, mid-table, and close survival. Relegation? Only a few dissenting voices. But now, the knives are out. 'Keane needs a new assistant.' 'Why are there 8 ex-Man Utd, Ireland & Celtic players on the books'. 'His scouting must be bad'. 'Look at Sven, all foreigners bought and now a good team'.
So where does the truth lie? I bigged up Roy too, he did a great job last season, and I predicted survival for them, albeit in 16th place. The criticism largely stems from having a load of money (example: £9m spent yesterday) and buying mediocre players. I feel that yes, it is hard to attract players to a newly promoted team (and the city of Sunderland!), Keane or not, so I can see his predicament. And 2, it's probably a bit much to expect extensive contacts & scouting networks in European football from which to sign these 'great players' that Man City have signed, because Sunderland have had no money until recently and it's pretty hard to see the likes of Elano pitch up there.
Firstly, Man City have been in the Premiership for a few years. Secondly, their owner has a load of money. Thirdly, they hired a well-respected manager (outside England) in Erickson, who is well able to wheel and deal, and has ~20 years more experience.
So lets look at is his individual signings. (Every player has been overpriced, so we'll leave that analysis) Chopra - 2 goals so far, not bad. Richardson - poor so far. Paul McShane - good, solid defender. Andy Cole - signed for experience. Danny Higginbotham (decent backup), Kenwyne Jones (unknown) & Ian Harte (can't see him playing much), Craig Gordon - excellent.
His tactics have also been criticised, wrongly in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with the good 442 Keane has implemented, after all, apart from last year, it won Man Utd 8 Premiership titles. His quotes have stressed that he wants players with 'character' who don't worry too much about tactics and will fight to the end. Nothing wrong here, I think. How did tactics help Aidy Boothroyd & Watford last season?
So this season is crucial for Keane, that he is not seen to go the way of Bryan Robson. It is also important for the Drumaville consortium behind the club, £30m spent on transfers, they will want to stay in the Prem. I still think they will do this, 4 points from 4 games is decent, especially as they have played Liverpool & Spurs already. Man Utd at the weekend is tough but
games against Reading & Boro are definitely winnable.
However, it doesn't bother me too much, if they relegated, we won't see any more of those Irish idiots wearing half Sunderland, half Ireland jerseys. That would be a great day.