Welcome to a new feature on the RTG site. In all honesty I am not 100% sure what form this new feature will be, but basically its going to be me rambling about anything and everything to do with Sunderland AFC, football, gambling, drink, drugs and rock and roll. Well maybe not the drink, drugs and rock and roll, but I’ll not discount it just yet. Since it’s the first article though, I will start with our very fine football club, and for a change I know that its something that the supporters are wanting to read and talk about as we appear to finally be showing the sort of ambition that the fans expect and deserve.
Its three weeks now since Roy Keane was officially named as our manager, and its three games under the belt already with seven points in the bag, with an additional three points from Niall Quinn’s last game as manager when Keane was sitting “glaring” from the stands so it could be argued that its ten points from twelve available since he became involved with our club in one form or another. Lets face it, that sudden improvement in performance against West Brom obviously had a lot to do with impressing the watching heir to the throne rather than Niall having suddenly found a winning formula, and that’s not meant as a sleight on the name of our chairman, but his brief time as manager showed little sign of steadying the ship let alone of him doing an about turn and pointing us back in the direction of the Premiership.
There are many thoughts on what the problems have been at our football club over the last 5 years, and despite the apparent repair job that Mick McCarthy admirably performed, he suffered from the age-old problem under the previous regime. As soon as we needed to move from repairs to development he was not provided with the tools for the job and as a result he was forced to take a gamble with limited funds which unfortunately went disastrously wrong as he steered the ship full on into an iceberg a la Titanic. Some might say that we should forget about that era now and move on, but if anything it is more relevant now than ever before, and something that Niall should keep to the forefront of his mind at all times, especially since he has now had the hands on experience of dealing with a squad of players that have been asked to perform duties that are well beyond them. Its certainly not easy trying to lift the spirits of inexperienced men who are gasping for breath on a sinking ship, and Niall should certainly be aware of that now.
The morality of football has been thrown back into the spotlight again with the recent airing of the Panorama investigation, and whether or not anyone is guilty is not for me to ascertain, but the one thing that is very apparent is that the game is awash with too much money, and that is possibly where our problems have arose with previous managers such as Peter Reid and Mick McCarthy, and where possibly Roy Keane will be so different for the club. As much as I am sure Roy Keane wouldn’t thank me for likening him to Mick McCarthy, there is a similarity amongst all three of the those names in that they have all had a reputation of being “no nonsense” football players who would put themselves about on the football field, but the one big difference may just be the bank balances of the three and as a result of this their willingness to put themselves about off the football pitch.
Reid and McCarthy both finished their careers long before Rupert Murdoch starting throwing money into the hyped Premier League in an effort to get his Sky dishes onto the brickwork of as many UK houses as possible, and even though they both had international careers their bank balances would’ve been a long way behind the modern international players when they came to manage Sunderland AFC. Even though McCarthy never reached the dizzy heights enjoyed by Peter Reid with the club, they both hit the same problem as each other known as the Bob Murray Gates, and it appears as if both men were prepared to sacrifice their long term careers in order to pass through those gates and accept the fairly generous terms on offer on the other side. Neither of them gave any real indications that they felt the boardroom was restricting their ambitions as if they were quite happy to accept the seemingly relative safety of their managerial seat. In fact this is something that Roy Keane himself questioned with Mick McCarthy during the infamous Saipan incident in the preparations for the 2002 World Cup. Keane himself questioned why McCarthy wouldn’t do anything to improve the facilities that the Irish squad were expected to train in, and so strong were Keane’s beliefs that he was prepared to walk away from the biggest stage in World Cup knowing it was his last chance to do so.
That is the big difference between Roy Keane and the likes of Peter Reid and Mick McCarthy. That will to succeed and that desire for the best appears to far outweigh the need for self-preservation. Keane has been handsomely rewarded for his time with Manchester United and he could most likely live a peaceful life from here on in, but his motivation has never been money but for the never ending thirst to win at all costs on a football field. If he feels that he is not being supported in his quest to win then you can rest assured that he won’t quietly accept his lot and settle for mediocrity, which is exactly what Niall Quinn and Sunderland AFC need at this moment in time.
Much has been written and said about the supposed mind of Keane, and a lot of journalists will continue to hover around the club as they feel that he is simply a time bomb waiting to go off. My feeling however is that this is almost the perfect marriage at this moment in time for Roy Keane and Sunderland AFC under Niall Quinn and the Drumaville consortium. Keane has had a great schooling and experience under Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson (if this was breeding of racehorses then this would be the sort of top quality bloodline that you would fancy to sire a good quality racehorse) to stand him in good stead as a manager, and Quinn himself has openly stated on his return that he felt like he was destined to return as he could see the things that were going wrong under Bob Murray. We’re left with a situation whereby we have two former international footballers who are desperate to prove themselves in their new “careers” and who are both going to be pushing each other to get results in the long term.
Short term, we appear to already be reaping the benefits of this partnership. We’ve ten points on the board and have moved swiftly away from the foot of the league table and are now sitting nicely placed to mount a promotion challenge over the coming six months. Despite Keane saying that we need to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away, as supporters it is hard not to given what we’ve endured. The one major obstacle that had to be hurdled in the short term was the lethargy that was prevalent amongst the majority of supporters and that has been cleared as easily as the great Istabraaq used to do so round Cheltenham. Those first 3 games of Keane’s tenure have shown that the supporters believe again, and as a result the club finally has a heartbeat again.