What a ridiculous article and headline. The type of headline you would read in The Sun – and in fact, I did. The Guardian writing that the he has put all of his squad up for sale implies that Dick Advocaat is making a conscious effort to sell each and every one of them. Has Dick Advocaat ever gone up to Pantilimon and said “listen Costy, I know that lot in front of you aren’t great, and that you kept us in the league last season, but I’m gonna try and get rid of you.” Nonsense. Frankly, I expected better from you, Louise Taylor.
What perhaps should have been reported is that if any of the squad want to leave, and another club offers a fair price for them, then Dick Advocaat should sell them. Indeed, why would Dick Advocaat, or any manager for that matter, want a player that does not want to play for the club? We are stating the obvious now…
There have been countless examples of players wanting to leave clubs, and Sunderland is no exception – Bent, Henderson, Gyan, Colback and Bardsley. Although more could have been done at the time to convince our better former players to stay at the club, and indeed never let it get to the stage where a player ‘wants’ to leave the club, I appreciate that this can be a very arduous task.
There are only four possible motives for a player wanting to leave a club: firstly, retirement, of which there is little to say; the others are much more important and appropriate to the example of Sunderland AFC.
The second reason a player wishes to leave a club is because he is motivated by trophies. Be it Robin Van Persie moving from Arsenal to Manchester Utd, or Jordan Henderson moving to Liverpool from Sunderland, in my opinion, a player cannot be criticised for moving to a club that is significantly higher placed in the league table and with a significantly bigger chance of winning titles, domestic or European competitions. It is almost impossible for any club to hold on to such a player. And look at Jordan now – captain of a resurgent Liverpool, an England regular and a Champions League player last season. Though we can turn to the past for examples, this does not apply to any of our current players.
The third reason is down to a love of money; you cannot be the servant of two masters. Darren Bent claimed his move from Sunderland to Aston Villa was motivated by a desire to play in Europe, or perhaps to secure himself an England place for European Championships in Ukraine and Poland in 2012 after missing out on a seat on the plane to South Africa in 2010 when at Sunderland. However, it was the promise of an extra £20,000 a week from Villa that lured Bent to leave Sunderland and his inspired form, the best of his career, behind him. Asamoah Gyan followed suit with a ridiculous move to UAE, where he quadrupled his previous salary. Money can also be used to convince a player to stay, but if it gets to the stage where a player loves his Bentley more than the fans and is no longer willing to give everything on the pitch for the fans, then giving in to a player’s demands is a bad move.
The fourth reason is due to a lack of will to fight for the club, their teammates and the fans, and is what we have witnessed over the past few seasons. Colback and Bardsley were no longer willing to fight for the club and became disillusioned and so took the easy option of leaving at the end of their contract. Though I’m not questioning their work rate and commitment to the club during their contracts, I am suggesting that somewhere, in the back of their minds, there must have been sown the seeds of doubt about whether they were willing to give everything they had to the cause, especially when other clubs were whispering in their ears for their signature. Though who can blame them for not signing new contracts given that Sunderland had backed Paolo Di Canio as the man to take the club in the right direction?
DA is right in saying that, after the dismal performances against Norwich and Leicester, any player who is not up for the fight, does not believe in himself nor in the players around him and is not willing to give everything to the team is free to leave the club for the right price. Sunderland AFC needs characters in the dressing room that can motivate and and are willing to battle, and I’m talking about more than just the odd player here and there, the captain or a Lee Cattermole-esque presence. I’m talking about fifteen leaders out the pitch on a Saturday afternoon, closing down the opposition, communicating, training hard, getting stuck in, having some bottle going forward, concentrating on their role, giving everything for the cause. I believe that we do have such characters. If we lose, and every player can say that they gave everything for the team, then no one can be blamed. Then and only then can we can start asking the question whether or not the players are actually good enough to play for this club in the Premier League. This is perhaps what Dick Advocaat meant by when he said “any player is can be sold”.
It is clear we need to sign new players, but having already given over £21m for transfers this summer (including the obligatory signing of Santiago Vergini), it would understandable if Ellis Short does not fork out another £20m for signings before the window closes. And if we can’t sell those who are not up for the fight, then I say give a chance to those few who do (perhaps and injection of youth and guts from the U21s) and play a team of fighters against Swansea. From what we saw last season, we all know that Sunderland should not have to be fighting relegation again this season.