Blue blood Posted August 17, 2009 Share Posted August 17, 2009 Well despite playing Sunderland what seemed like every other week last season, a lot has changed since we last met. In fact although it’s the same preview as I did last season, it surprised me at how much things have changed from our last meeting: • For starters whist Rovers beat relegation comfortably looking a competent if unspectacular outfit under Big Sam, Sunderland only just scraped clear of relegation, arguably by the presence of three teams that were worse then them rather than ability. • Consequently there has been another managerial change at Sunderland, with Steve Bruce becoming manager. • Added to which, Sunderland now have significant funds due to the investment of Ellis Short. Although it is nowhere near the financial muscle of Man City or Chelsea, it does allow them to compete financially on a par with the likes of Aston Villa and Tottenham. • Both teams have added a raft of new talent over the summer, although on very different budgets. Sunderland have brought in 5 new players for a total cost of £21.5 million (recouping £9m in sales). Rovers have added 6 players for £10 million (counting Kalinic at £6m) having made just over £20 million in sales. Different eh? So overall due to the significant changes both teams will feel highly optimistic going into the game. I’ve never seen the big attraction with Bruce as a manger. At the start of his managerial career he managed to get through 5 clubs in 3 years, quite an achievement by anyone’s standards. Granted he then stayed at Birmingham for 4 and a bit seasons, although whether relegation during his third year at Birmingham hindered his chances of a move is debatable. Bruce seems to be back in the swing of moving however, spending under two seasons in charge of Wigan, bringing his average stay at a club back to one and a half seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how long Bruce stays if he is successful with Sunderland and a bigger club comes calling. In terms of managerial ability compared to Big Sam, it seems that the Rover’s boss edges it. Comparing their times at Bolton and Birmingham, who are similar in stature for Premiership clubs, Sam clearly has the advantage. Bruce has won promotion from the championship twice with Birmingham – and both times at first attempt - as oppose to Sam’s once with Bolton, on his second attempt. However, Big Sam never got Bolton relegated from the premiership, unlike Bruce, despite not spending anywhere near as much as Bruce (around 35 million before their relegation). During this time Sam also managed to get Bolton to the league cup final, and gain a place in the UEFA cup with a 6th place finish. Comparing their times at Wigan and Blackburn is also interesting, as both clubs were in trouble when the pair took over, and are of a similar size in terms of fan base, resources etc. Interestingly Wigan finished 14th, as oppose to our 15th, although Wigan finished only 4 points above the drop and collected 40 points that season as oppose to our 41 points which was 6 clear of relegation. Clearly on past record then Sam appears the superior manager, here’s hoping that this is borne out on Saturday. Stephen a Sunderland supporting friend kindly agreed to answer a few questions, on his take of the new season and the game. 1) There's been quite a bit of managerial change since last time we met. What went wrong with Sabriga? And how happy are you with Bruce? A) I suppose nothing really went wrong with Sbragia, he was just never the right man. A victim of his own fortune really, he only got the job after a couple of good results against some of the worst teams in the division (WBA and Hull). A few of us have the theory we had an agreement in place with Bruce that he'd take the job if we stayed up, meaning all Ricky had to do was keep us up, knowing Quinn had promised a 'job for life' to him. I'm very happy with Bruce, it's been a long time (arguably since Reid, if not longer) since we had a good top division manager. I fully expect us to steer well clear of relegation this year, at best, making a Fulham-type push for Europe. 2) Early days still, but from pre season, past history etc. what do you make of the new signings? A) The signings are all good, for once. Da Silva will be a welcomed, experienced leader at the back, proven for his country. Campbell seems to have a point to prove after having his time wasted by Spurs last season, and with that much pace, I'm looking forward to seeing a truly hungry young English forward getting a few games. Cana is pure quality, feisty midfield general who was wanted for roughly £15m by Arsenal last year...says it all really. Cattermole is an interesting one...I liked him when he was first at Boro, but he became less of a talent, more of a thug under the wing of Boateng. Then again, he had a very mixed season at Wigan, full of both quality and thuggery. But overall, Bruce seems to get the best out of him, and seems to liken him to a certain Roy Keane, so he can't be all that bad. And of course we have Darren Bent, who has just scored his first goal within 5mins of his debut. £10m is fine for him, rising to £17 may be pushing it, but the man's one of the top English goal scorers of the last few seasons, and was treated very poorly by Spurs. In all honesty, I can see Bent getting close to 20 goals this season, as he seems to have a great partnership with Malbranque. 3) Who should rovers look out for? Who are the players who could win you the game? A) In terms of attacking threat, there's obviously Bent, and if Jones can rediscover the elusive ability to jump, he's definitely a threat. Add to that Richardson, Malbranque and even Cana, who all have a decent record of cropping up with goals, not to mention a great deal of assists. Then you have the back four, of which Collins, Ferdinand and Bardsley seem to have cleaned their act up and stop leaking daft goals, add to that Da Silva, and the potential signings of John Mensah and Lucas Neill and you've got a very solid defence. 4) How do you view rovers? Would be interesting to get a neutral oppinion. Who in our team do you think will cause you problems? How do you think we'll do this season? A) I like Blackburn, always strike me as a proper football club, playing football with a rough edge. And I certainly like Big Sam, who willl at the very least stabilise you to the point that Paul Ince is a long lost memory once more. Roberts is always a handful for most defences, as is McCarthy if he can regain his form of yesteryear. But the loss of Santa Cruz and Derbyshire (was quite surprised by that one) might mean you're suffering up front, so hopefully Kalinic will deliver. Despite the like of a proven, in form striker, I can still see you finishing a very worst of 15th. Furthermore, El Radji himself will probably be more of a physical threat to Anton Ferdinand if nothing else, going by his form whilst he was with us! 5) How well do you think you'll do this season - hoping for and realistic please. A) I seriously think the lowest we could expect from this season is 12th. We have the backing and the fans, as always, but this time we have a proven decent top flight boss with a team that has had that extra touch of class added to it. Best I can imagine would be to sneak 7th, but that would require a lot of luck with regards to the bigger boys like Villa and Everton, etc, worst would be 12th, so I would say around 9th-10th would be about right. 6) Finally can I trouble you for probable line up and a prediction? A) Probable line up...discounting potential signings: Fulop, Collins, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Bardsley, Richardson, Cana, Cattermole, Malbranque, Jones, Bent. Prediction....2-1 Sunderland...another goal for Darren Bent too! My own thoughts, after seeing the City game, are that it is imperative that we keep Bent quiet. Pace is the key thing we struggle against, so “Mr Anticipation” Gael Givet, must be on top of his game to keep the guy quiet. Once again, I look at the opposition and see they have a much stronger centre mid then us – so long ball negating their prowess seems a sensible option for me. At the back other than Da Silva, the likes of Ferdinand and Bardsley don’t seem the type to be able to withstand a bombardment of high balls into the box, so Sam’s percentage play has a good chance of paying dividends. Sunderland have the momentum; from the win, the new manager, and the new funds, and Rovers will have to be aware of this from the start. If we can weather the initial enthusiasm of Sunderland, and play like we did (bar the first three minutes) in the first half against City a win is not out of the question. I feel Rovers will score, that Sunderland will struggle with our style of play, but I wonder if the back 4 will get enough protection. With this in mind, due to the superior quality in the midfield and Bent’s pace, I can see this being a hard fought draw. Prediction 1-1 McCarthy to score. 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