Light relief over Italian revolution

31 May 2013 09:32
TEAMtalk guest Michael Graham is ready to embrace Sunderland's Italian revolution in the hope of ending years of tedium on Wearside. A mere matter of hours after seeing Sunderland's Premier League survival confirmed last season, Paolo Di Canio breezed into the media room at the Academy of Light and announced to reporters with trademark brazenness: "The revolution starts now." In a whirlwind two months of Di Canio-isms, ranging from the bonkers to the brilliant, it was probably my favourite. Still, it must be said that seeing our club described as 'a club in transition' has become an annoyingly familiar experience for Sunderland fans. It is true, and that is annoying in itself, but unquestionably the most annoying thing about it is that it isn't even the good kind of transition. It's not the kind of 'transition' that hauls the club off its backside and on the path to some kind of achievement. It is the kind that shamelessly provides an excuse for everything and a solution to nothing. Since arriving back in the Premier League six years ago, Sunderland have essentially just gone from one expensively and hastily assembled team to the next, constantly producing dull football and failing to climb out of a very ordinary bottom half. If us fans are sick of seeing it, you can imagine how Ellis Short feels considering the tens of millions that he has spent on it. This year, however, the annual summer of change does at least feel a little more sincere. The tried-and-trusted plan that has kept us up long enough to look forward to a seventh consecutive season of top flight football - the club's longest spell since the fifties - has been torn up and thrown away. Of course, that plan essentially consisted of treading water while watching a trio of other sides sink. Despite his bluster and the Italian flavour of it, though, the revolution isn't actually all Di Canio. It just seems that way. Everything always does. In fact, it is Short driving the changes at Sunderland having sought advice from Roberto De Fanti, a friend of the Black Cats owner and licensed agent. De Fanti is widely expected to soon assume a director of football role at the club, though not before handing back his agent's license, and he has already set about the task of restructuring and modernising the ailing Wearside club. The first job on that agenda seems to be addressing the failing recruitment policy, with Short understandably tiring of paying over the odds for established under-performers. Chief Scout Bryan 'Pop' Robson paid the price for that some weeks ago, with Valentino Angeloni widely tipped to be on the verge of replacing him and tasked with radically overhauling the way in which Sunderland identify talent. On the face of it, that looks a shrewd appointment given Angeloni's reputation as a key figure behind the success of the famed 'Udinese model'. The system involves sourcing promising young players and developing them themselves to be sold on for huge profits. It isn't exactly the great footballing dream, but it has to be better than watching the likes of Titus Bramble wobbling around the pitch stealing a living from your club. Should those two appointments be confirmed as expected, that would place Italians in all of Sunderland's senior footballing roles, as well as a further four on Di Canio's backroom staff. A quiet revolution - but a rather comprehensive one. The effects of the sweeping changes can already be seen in the summer recruitment, with the Black Cats seriously embracing the Bosman market. Valentine Roberge, Mobido Diakite, Cabral, and El Hadji Ba all appear to be Sunderland-bound this summer, with further players expected to follow. I can't personally profess to be an expert on any of those players, but for a club who have forged a reputation for a wholly unimaginative reliance on the domestic transfer market, it unquestionably represents a significant change in policy. Whether or not all this turns out to be a positive one or yet another false dawn remains to be seen. It could well be an unmitigated disaster - the type of which Sunderland are consistently good at. But after the perpetual stream of tedium that has been served up at the Stadium of Light for the last couple of years, I very much doubt you'll find many fans not welcoming the revolution with open arms. Frankly, anyone who tells you that it's better the devil you know hasn't spent money watching Sunderland lately. By Michael Graham. Follow him on Twitter.

Source: team_talk