Sports Desk,Daily Mail HQ
June 2, 2009
Dear Steve,I know you are on holiday with the missus for a few more days before you come 'home' to Wearside, but I just wanted to drop you a line, wish you well in the new job before we are properly introduced.
Who would have believed it? Years you've spent talking about your Geordie roots and being linked with the Newcastle United job and now, here you are, on the verge of joining Sunderland. What will they say back in Corbridge?
You and Niall might be worried about the reaction among the Mackem faithful - and let's be honest they have never been complimentary about your weight and your black-and-white background when you've visited the Stadium of Light - but win a few matches and they will forgive.
Ball boy: Wigan Athletic manager Steve Bruce is on the verge of becoming boss at Sunderland
I even heard them sing Howard Wilkinson's name once without a single swear word in the same verse.
Your old pal Roy will have told you what a good crowd they can be, but you do need to win a few matches first, which even Roy found beyond his super powers in the end.
He may have spent £90 million putting most of the squad you will be inheriting together, but that does not mean he bought a good team.
That's your job.
As you will know already, you are once again going to be working for one of the best chairmen in the business.
More from Colin Young. Ashley calls for patience as he works on Shearer's demands at Newcastle28/05/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Being the North-East's No 1 could crush Sunderland's spirit - it did last time the Black Cats were kings of the region26/05/09 Quinn ready to stay at Sunderland despite threat of relegation 20/05/09 Former Bolton boss Todd to take charge at League Two side Darlington19/05/09 Short at Sunderland for the long haul: Horror show does not scare tycoon19/05/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: It's saying something when Sunderland are the side with most to look forward to - but this is the 'Relegation Region'19/05/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Championship will make or break Boro but Southgate needs to bolster to bounce back up12/05/09 Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Middlebrough face a date with destiny in Monday's Tyne-Tees derby05/05/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE The fact Niall Quinn has been there, seen it and done it, and for some reason has Sunderland running through his veins will undoubtedly help. And, as Ricky Sbragia will testify, he enjoys working with a manager he can actually talk to.
I don't know a great about the new owner Ellis Short, other than Roy didn't like him much - or at least the questions he was asking.
Such as, 'why on earth did we spend £6million and 40 grand a week on him, him and him?'. Perfectly reasonable questions for any businessman/millionaire to ask about his investments, unless they are to Roy Keane, of course.
The good thing is that the money hasn't dried up yet, Short is looking to make an impression on the desperate Wearside public, and the rest of the Barclays Premier League. These could indeed be exciting times.
You've been to the Stadium of Light, so that needs no introduction, although it will take a little more work from yourself and the magic words from Niall to fill the place again.
Money has never been awash in these parts, and even with some of the league's cheapest season tickets on offer, thousands are reluctant to spend their cash on a football team which has let them down so many times in the past.
Reasons for cheer: Danny Collins (left) and Kenwyne Jones (right)
Everything a manager and his players could wish for is on offer at the Academy of Light, the club's training ground base for senior pros and the impressive group of youngsters assembled by Kevin Ball and Ged McNamee.
Jack Colback is one of many to look out for, and Sunderland have now caught up with Middlesbrough in their Academy prowess.
The youngsters just need senior games now and the hope the first team is not beyond reach.
And why should it be? As Niall has no doubt told you, with the exception of one or two, no one within the Sunderland first team squad should feel that his place is safe. But if Paul Scharner and Lee Cattermole do fancy coming with you, sign them up now.
You've got Britain's most expensive goalkeeper, not that you would know it, but perseverance could be the key to Craig Gordon's happiness and form.
He is still only 26, he is not short of confidence, despite some performances to the contrary, and with guidance he could be a very good No 1.
Black Cats: Sunderland's Dean Whitehead (right) and Andy Reid
Marton Fulop is a reasonable stand-in, but Panathinaikos are interested, so that would allow you to bring in fresh competition to keep Gordon on his toes. Which is where the rest of the squad needs to be too.
They didn't respond to Roy's unique style of man-management, but the other extreme, which was Ricky's matey approach, didn't really work either.
Don't forget, for all the euphoria surrounding Sunderland's survival and Newcastle's demise, if Alan Shearer had won at Villa Park on the last day, Newcastle would have finished above Sunderland.
Danny Collins was deservedly player of the season, and was just one of Mick McCarthy's many shrewd buys. Even Roy liked him, so he must be safe.
Phil Bardsley is under-rated but erratic, Anton Ferdinand is not renowned for being in 'the zone' yet and Nyron Nosworthy and George McCartney have struggled for form and fitness.
I'm sure with your contacts you'll be looking to strengthen in all positions across the back.
The midfield is well-stocked but under-achieved last year. The club captain Dean Whitehead looks like a man in need of a new challenge, and will no doubt have plenty of admirers.
Steed Malbranque flatters to deceive, Teemu Tainio has also struggled with injuries but has a calming influence, Grant Leadbitter is slowly developing, with the emphasis on slowly, while Carlos Edwards still looks a decent Championship player.
Andy Reid has had better years, but is Sunderland's most talented player.
Like Kieran Richardson he blows hot or very cold, but he can change matches and has an eye for a pass very few possess.
Like your boy Alex, he has a job convincing Giovanni Trapattoni he should be in the Ireland squad, but with the right guidance can re-discover the form which would see him on the plane to South Africa next summer.
As for Richardson, he is typical of the modern Sunderland player who has won fans' adoration by achieving so little, and yet has the ability to become a Wearside legend if he could apply himself. He's another one who needs an arm round his shoulder, and occasional boot up the backside. And if that doesn't work; sell him.
On Board: Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn (left) with new club owner Ellis Short
I wouldn't give your strikers much consideration, and I am sure there are plenty of irons in the fire to strengthen that department already.
More from Colin Young. Ashley calls for patience as he works on Shearer's demands at Newcastle28/05/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Being the North-East's No 1 could crush Sunderland's spirit - it did last time the Black Cats were kings of the region26/05/09 Quinn ready to stay at Sunderland despite threat of relegation 20/05/09 Former Bolton boss Todd to take charge at League Two side Darlington19/05/09 Short at Sunderland for the long haul: Horror show does not scare tycoon19/05/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: It's saying something when Sunderland are the side with most to look forward to - but this is the 'Relegation Region'19/05/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Championship will make or break Boro but Southgate needs to bolster to bounce back up12/05/09 Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Middlebrough face a date with destiny in Monday's Tyne-Tees derby05/05/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE But you are inheriting one of the real gems in the Premier League in Kenwyne Jones. But after he signed an improved contract in January, Jones looked half the player and suddenly the offer turned down from Tottenham looked like an opportunity and £16m missed.
If he can replicate the display against John Terry on the final day, Sunderland have a real player again, and more offers of that magnitude might come pouring in. And at least you know this time you have a chairman who will fight with you to keep his best players rather than cash in.
You just need to find Jones a strike partner, but clearly not someone like Djibril Cisse, as if that would be possible.
So there you have it, Steve. Sunderland in a nutshell, nothing there I'm sure Niall and Ellis haven't already talked through over the last week.
It is possible you can make Roy eat his words and achieve success at Sunderland of all places.
Newcastle fans might not forgive you if that happens, but any doubters among the Sunderland fans will and you will never hear those insults on Wearside again. (Until Newcastle visit, that is).
See you after your hols, yours sincerely,Colin