This is a post written for The News Hub a couple of weeks before the football season started. Shares, likes, comments – all are more than welcome!
David Moyes has been appointed the new boss at Sunderland, and with the 2016/17 football season just around the corner, his new club have spent the summer much like they have spent large portions of the last few seasons – wondering what on earth is going on in the dugout.
Sam Allardyce arrived on Wearside in October 2015, and guided Sunderland to yet another successful survival campaign. Things were looking rosy – the signings Allardyce had brought in during the January transfer window had, after a couple of early games finding their feet, settled in well, and the Red and White army finally looked to have a squad shaping up with enough quality to match that of the support from the stands.
Then the Euros happened. England performed below expectations – though arguably those expectations are getting so low it’s difficult to see how the Lions can manage to limbo right under them, but that’s another discussion for another day – and Roy Hodgson resigned minutes after their defeat to Iceland with a worryingly pre-prepared statement, and speculation about Allardyce started up.
It took a while, but the 61-year-old was finally rewarded with his dream job, and Sunderland were forced to look for their seventh manager in less than five years. Before long, David Moyes was appointed on a four year deal, and while opinion was divided, with many fans lamenting the loss of Allardyce from the dugout, the general consensus seemed to be “yeah, fairly happy with that – let’s see how he does.”
There was one problem though – the timing of the managerial change made it incredibly difficult for the Black Cats to get anything done transfer-wise, as it would be nigh impossible to convince a player to commit to a club with no manager and thus no guarantees.
Moyes, then, has to go somewhat against his own convention and act quick. Sunderland survived last season, yes, but only just – and they haven’t massively strengthened yet. OK, the likes of Khazri, Kirchoff, Kone and co look great, but Big Sam proved he could get the best out of them – and while Moyes has certainly proved more than capable in the past – primarily during his time at Everton – some new faces would help freshen up and give some promise to the long suffering supporters that things can get better.
He has brought in £8m man Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea, as well as £5m duo Paddy McNair and Donald Love from Man Utd, but the fans are crying out for some established Premier League talent to be brought in.
Deals for all players would of course seem unlikely, as three of this lot are midfielders, but individually there have been some murmurings, with the exception of one, so let’s take a look at some of the new names Moyes could look to get on his teamsheet next season.
The former Wigan and Aston Villa man has been training with Sunderland during the summer after leaving Villa Park following relegation to the Championship, and has undergone a trial at the club. Feedback has been positive, with fans seeming impressed by his effort and contribution – if there is one thing the faithful at the club like, it is a player with a good work ethic.
That said, his time at Aston Villa was a bit of a struggle at times, and makes for uncomfortable reading. Four goals in 80 games, with only two of those appearances coming in Villa’s relegation campaign, means there may well be question marks over his arrival, though his fitness at least has looked top notch so far.
His past connection with rivals Newcastle United doesn’t seem to have put too many people off either. Often, players have found it difficult featuring for both clubs with few exceptions, but N’Zogbia is an experienced Premier League player with two caps for France as well – there is definitely something there, and if Moyes can get that out of him then he can certainly offer genuine competition to fellow midfielders at the club.
While work rate and desire is clearly there, he is ultimately at the club owing to someone other than Moyes, as Allardyce brought him in before departing for England. Based on his pre-season performances, however, there certainly seems to be interest on both sides, so this one could well be done and dusted before too long.
Peter Crouch (Stoke City)
OK, so there hasn’t really been a hint of this move happening, but Sunderland could do worse than Crouch.
He struggled for game time at Stoke last season, notching up just 18 appearances, with nine of those being as a substitute. His only goals were against lower league opposition in the cups too, so it could be argued that this deal wouldn’t be the best.
However, with Jermain Defoe up front (as long as he can keep fit), Sunderland could re-unite the former Spurs team-mates and also hark back to the early 2000s with the big man, little man combination that worked so well for golden boot winner Kevin Phillips and future chairman Niall Quinn.
With those two, Sunderland finished seventh under the guidance of Peter Reid for two consecutive seasons, and while there is of course no guarantee that Crouch and Defoe could rekindle the magic of the past, it may well be worth a pop. Fabio Borini works hard but didn’t find the net at a great rate last season, and while Duncan Watmore’s passion and enthusiasm is a great sign for the future he still has work to do on his finishing.
Crouch and Defoe aren’t the youngest of players, but their presence for a couple of seasons at least could give Watmore time to grow into the forward role and learn from two of the best English strikers since Shearer and Sheringham.
The signing of Crouch would definitely be one with a lot of connotations, most of which could be very, very good for Moyes’ new club.
Marouane Fellaini (Man Utd)
Another favourite of the new Sunderland boss, Fellaini was signed by him at Everton, where he justified his £15m transfer fee, and again at United – though this time, the move arguably didn’t work out quite as well.
Moyes was derided for waiting to sign the midfielder when he knew Fellaini had a release clause in his contract, and paid some £5m more than he would have needed to by waiting until the end of the transfer window.
A recognisable presence in the United side, Fellaini never quite won around the Old Trafford faithful the way he did at Goodison, and a third link up with Moyes in the north east could help rejuvenate his career. He had a decent outing at Euro 2016, but struggled to set the world alight as Belgium fell to Wales in the quarter final stages.
New United manager Jose Mourinho has already added star power to the Red Devils’ midfield, and so Fellaini looks likely to face even stiffer competition for a place in a lineup that already includes the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera. The addition of Henrik Mkhitaryan and world record signing Paul Pogba, mean the Belgian’s place could be all but untenable.
He would probably be available for around £13m, but Moyes has since cooled the rumours of signing his former charge – at least for the moment.
Yann M’Vila (Rubin Kazan)
Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was a bright young French footballer called Yann, and he was heralded as the next big thing – a potentially world class star of international football. He played for Rennes, and for his national side as well – things looked great.
He later moved to Russia, and things got tough. He was derided for his attitude, and failure to turn up to a pre-season training camp led to a falling out with his manager, and was loaned out to European giants Internazionale in the summer. Things could have been worse!
Things didn’t go to plan, however, and he didn’t get a contract at the San Siro. Following a spell training with Dynamo Moscow, he went on to join Premier League strugglers Sunderland on loan in the hopes of finding a new home.
And boy – he found one.
The fans loved him, and he enjoyed his time in the north east of England. His loan ended at the climax of the 2015-16 season, and fans wanted more – they wanted him back. Moreover, he has publicly stated that he wants to go back to the Stadium of Light.
With a new manager of course comes change, and whether or not David Moyes harbours an interest in bringing him back remains to be seen – though reports did surface that the Scot had tried to sign M’Vila while he was manager at Everton, so there certainly seems to be some admiration there.
Whether or not he will return to English shores as a Premier League player any time soon remains to be seen, but the fans loved him last season, and he loved the fans – it’s difficult to say whether or not a deal is likely, but all the boxes seem to be ticked.