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The greening of Sunderland

Roy Keane’s successful tenure at the Stadium of Light has possibly positioned the club as the new Celtic.

Tony Cascarino, 19 Apr 2007

I don’t think that either Niall Quinn or Roy Keane intended it to be an Irish club in exile, but that’s what Sunderland’s fast becoming.

Roy’s gone for players that he knows and trusts, and a lot of them just happen to be from here!

With Boyle Sports sponsoring them to the tune of £10 million over the next four years, it makes sense for Sunderland to play up the Irish angle and steal some of the support that’s traditionally gone to Celtic.

I know from playing there just how magical a packed Parkhead can be, but there are only so many 4-0 tonkings of Dunfermline and St. Mirren you can watch before thinking, “Hang on, I want more from my expensive day-out!”

What’s impressed me about Roy at Sunderland is that he hasn’t gone in chequebook blazing like Fulham did a few years ago when they won promotion from the Championship with a squad full of Premiership players whose motivation for dropping down a division was the huge sums of money that Mohammed Al Fayed was prepared to pay them.

Whether known quantities like David Connolly or Liam Miller or the two youngsters he got on loan from Manchester United, Roy’s proved himself adept at bringing in exactly the type of player that Sunderland need in their bid to return to the top flight, which I’m convinced they will do as champions.

He deserves great credit for how aggressive their playing style is, and their ability to conjure goals up out of nothing.

Even when he gets handed the £25 million that Niall Quinn’s promised him, I think Keano will be extremely careful with his spending – an ethos they could do with up the road in Newcastle where they seem to specialise in expensive foreign flops. If there’s any splashing of the cash, it’ll be on players like Joey Barton who has the physical ability to go with his technique.

Roy’s got his critics in Ireland, but there’s an aura of mystique about him, which people find fascinating and want to buy into as supporters.

Come next season, you’ll see a lot of Irish kids walking around in Sunderland shirts, and badgering their parents to take them to the Stadium of Light.

Great players don’t always make great managers, but Roy has that same desire and ability to win standing in front of the dugout as he used to have racing round the pitch.

I doubt if it’s top of the concerns at Stamford Bridge at the moment, but it’d be a terrible shame if there was no Jose Mourinho there next season for Keano to lock horns with.

Sacking him at the end of the season would be the most idiotic decision Roman Abramovich has ever made, and trigger a mass exodus of star players who’d regard whoever takes over from him as being second best.

It’d be an especially big blow for John Terry who I know sees himself as being Chelsea manager one day and wants Mourinho to groom him. Whether he’d automatically leave if Jose does I don’t know, but it’d certainly lessen his reasons for staying there when virtually every other major club in Europe wants him.

A large part of Chelsea’s success is down to them having people like Terry and Frank Lampard who foreign players arriving at the Bridge only have to look at to realise what the club’s all about.

There’s been a lot of talk about Mourinho being a shoo-in for the Real Madrid job, but he’s not going to want to be at a club where there are half a dozen untouchables that the President won’t allow him to drop. Even if he was given assurances regarding team selection, I’m not sure how well Madrid supporters would take to his style of play, which is about getting the job done rather than fancy flicks and bicycle kicks.

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