The idea that Sunderland will field a weakened team at Arsenal this weekend will naturally spark up the old debate about whether you’d “rather go down and win a cup” or “concentrate on Premier League survival”. Most fans you speak to say the former, and I’d like to think I’d put myself in that bracket; it’s certainly the most romantic of the options. Imagine experiencing Wembley 2014 all over again, but actually winning?
It’s what being a football fan should be all about.
Yet it’s hard to ignore that factors, such as low attendances, suggest otherwise, and I absolutely get the sense that fans are feeling more relaxed this week without the stresses of a Premier League game to worry about. It’s an interesting debate no matter how recycled, but it’s clearly understandable that Big Sam won’t risk injuries and go all out to try and win one cup game, away from home, against the side who’ve just won the trophy twice off the belt. In only the 3rd round.
You pick and choose your battles, I reckon.
What the situation does allow, is the possible opportunity for us to see some fringe players try and stake a claim for a place. I think we’ve all been encouraged by Vito Mannone’s last couple of performances and it’s key to remember that it was he who went and asked the manager for an opportunity to play.
We need a side with characters in it at present and there’s small mercy in the fact that a so called weakened side will present the chance for some of these players to prove their pro-activeness. It’s high time some started taking their chances. Like Vito has done. It’s all well and good the usual suspects rolling their sleeves up and getting stuck in during these familiar times of need, but we need performances from the less likely candidates now.
Speaking of being proactive, wouldn’t it be great to see some new faces come in sooner rather than later? I think when we heard Sam speak about getting players in early we initially dismissed it as something every manager says. Then we were told we close to getting one player over the line and hopes were very much built – only to then be given the impression it’s possibly broken down. Then it’s back on again.
I hate this transfer rumour silly season. Hate it.
With the power the players now have, you can be sure, as always, most clubs will do their work at the back end of the month once any potential signing has weighed up all of his options. It really is just a case of hoping we can buck the trend.
But this is arguably the most important transfer window Sunderland have had in years (or at least since the last one) and I think we’re all itching more than ever to see just who can come and improve the side. Although considering how disastrous recruitment has been on Wearside since Steve Bruce’s last transfer window as Sunderland manager, there will hardly be a mass holding of breath by all.
*The above article was originally written for The Durham Times.