Chris Emmerson @bullyroo sent us some thoughts on The Lads and Boro ahead of this weekend’s clash. It promises to be a lively affair, but who finds themselves in better shape?
Playing a promoted team early in the season always results in the cliché that they’ll be up to make an impression. I’m sure whenever Boro would have visited us they would be up for it. But playing Boro early on allows us to consider which club is in better shape for the season ahead. It would be easy to suggest we should be given the years of feasting on premiership riches with the big boys. Yet by simply scratching the surface the clubs aren’t miles apart from each other, and in a few areas Boro are in better shape.
Middlesbrough were relegated from the Premier League in the 2008-09 season and after working through several managers Karanka gained promotion in his second full season in charge; winning 26 league games in the process. Karanka has steadily built his team and aside from a little wobble during the push for promotion has provided stability. In contrast we haven’t had a manager complete a full season since Steve Bruce. We only won nine league games last season and in fact it has taken us three seasons to win the same number of league games as they achieved last season. Of course it is a different league but winning is winning as a fan, right? Moyes is our seventh manager in five years and it will take time to shape the team in his image and provide that much sort after stability. Thankfully Moyes appears, so far, to have taken up where Big Sam left off.
Boro have also moved quickly and efficiently in the transfer market to add to their hard working squad. Strengthening with players across the park with different levels of experience, most notably former Man City forward Negredo on loan from Valencia. Although we have had a chequered history with former Man City players, he looks to have added much needed fire power to their team and is already off the mark. Our transfers, on the other hand, were hampered by the FA and are currently more on the development side as we build on a thin but capable squad. The team showed their ability to play at a consistent level with a strong finish to last season. But bear in mind how many rebuilding jobs our squad has been through since Boro last played in the premier league. It is pretty damning that this is the best squad we have had in several years and we are still notably short in a few areas.
Their fans must also be excited by the season ahead. After years of near misses on promotion, including a playoff final defeat, they’ll have a heart full of optimism and a head aiming for survival. I can’t be the only Sunderland fan a little worn by the last few years of ‘great’ escapes and another summer upheaval at the club. I’m relatively optimistic that we’ll have a decent season but I know full well what a slog it can be with relatively few highs.
Considering this crude comparison with Boro and this season is our ninth consecutive in the Premier League it shows how much Sunderland have stalled in recent years through mismanagement, a carousel of managers and poor recruitment. Boro will be on a high and our clubs aren’t that far apart despite their seven year absence from the Premier League. So don’t be too resentful of those smiling Boro fans on Sunday. Instead, remember the fun of coming up with Keane all those years ago. And take solace in the fact that the soul crushing reality of top division football will bite them soon enough.