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June 2016

Is John O’Shea still the right man for the Sunderland captaincy?

There is no doubt that Republic of Ireland international John O’Shea is a leader both on and off the pitch, but is he still the right man to captain Sunderland in the 2016/17 Premier League season?

The January signing of Lamine Kone from FC Lorient paired alongside the in-form Younes Kaboul has kept O’Shea out of the side. In the latter stages of the season, both Kaboul and Kone hadn’t conceded a goal in over 500 minutes of Premier League football.

The question Sam Allardyce will have to ask himself next season, is whether or not O’Shea will be first choice ahead of either Kone or Kaboul. The likely answer to that question is no, purely down to the rock solid partnership the pair had since the end of January last season.

Allardyce will know the Irishman has excellent leadership qualities off the field, and so will have to assess whether or not that warrants the ex-Manchester United defender keeping the armband.

Sunderland v Everton - Barclays Premier League

Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone cuddle into top scorer Jermain Defoe. (Photo: Reuters)

Other options for the armband?

Throughout the Sunderland starting 11, there are a few options for a new club captain. The first option is Lee Cattermole who has a wealth of experience and has also captained the club in previous years. However, it isn’t likely that the 28-year-old will be a first team starter at the start of next season.

Yann M’Vila is looking likely to take a pay cut and re-join the Black Cats from Rubin Kazan on a permanent basis, while Jan Kirchoff will also be first choice over Cattermole after a brilliant half of a season since joining from European giants, Bayern Munich.

Kaboul is the likely candidate to be the player wearing the captain’s armband come the middle of August. The Frenchman has almost 10 years of Premier League experience and captained his previous club Tottenham Hotspur. Allardyce also gave Kaboul the armband on a few occasions last season, when Captain O’Shea and vice-captain Cattermole weren’t in the starting 11.

Kaboul as Spurs captain Kaboul playing for Spurs as their captain. (Photo: Sky Sports)

O’Shea is still likely to play a massive part with squad cohesion within the dressing room and on the training field, even though he may not be the captain from the start of the new season. The Irishman will still feature as back up for the injury prone Kaboul too.

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Would Diafra Sakho be a good signing for Sunderland?

Senegalese striker Diafra Sakho has been linked with a move to Sunderland and an £11 million bid has been made, according to reports, but would he be a good signing for the Black Cats?

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has previously worked with the player at his current club West Ham United and has hinted he could be interested in the 26-year-old.

Just one out-and-out striker in the squad

Sunderland recently released a number of players, including strikers Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham. Dame N’Doye will also return to Trabzonspor after an unsuccessful loan spell, leaving Sunderland with just one out and out striker in Jermain Defoe. Fans have expressed their desire for a target man to partner Defoe, who has had previous success of doing well with a tall striker like Sakho alongside him.

Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has a successful history of doing well with a tall striker alongside him, like Peter Crouch at Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur. (The Telegraph)

Sakho scored five goals in 21 appearances for West Ham in their last campaign and has 19 goals to his name since joining the Hammers from FC Metz in 2014, when he was signed by Allardyce for £3.5 million. However, Sakho has also had a history of injury problems throughout his career, which may be a deciding factor in Sunderland’s pursuit for him.

Sakho’s current club, West Ham United, have shown interest in different strikers in other leagues, including Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette for whom they had a bid rejected. A big money move for someone like Lacazette could push Sakho closer to a move away from the new Olympic Stadium.

Allardyce has named a forward as one of five key areas that need strengthening and Sakho could soon be the first signing of Sunderland’s summer transfer window.

Sam Allardyce critical of long pre-season trips

Sunderland are set to play their pre-season games close to home before kicking off their Premier League campaign in August.

Black Cats manager Sam Allardyce revealed in an interview with the Sunderland Echo that his side would head over to France as well as Austria for a week long training camp, from July 7 to July 16.

Allardyce said he doesn’t want his team travelling thousands of miles like they did last season. “For us, it’s staying in Europe and getting the players as fit as we possibly can, and then the most important thing is who can we sign and how quickly can we do it,” he said.

Last seasons trip across the pond

Sunderland toured America last season, playing sides such as: Sacramento Republic and Pachuca, losing both. They also travelled to Canada, where they played Toronto, and then travelled to Germany just before the 15/16 campaign. Allardyce was critical of the Black Cats’ last pre-season and said it isn’t right for any team to travel to places like America, especially when building up to a new Premier League season.

Allardyce said that his side are still playing catch-up after leaving it late to secure their survival status. “It was either/or – was it for the Championship, was it for the Premier League? So we’re still finishing that off,’’ he said.

15.7.14 VS SAFC 103.jpgLast seasons trip to Sacramento ended in a loss.

Staying close to home

The 61-year-old has had full control of his teams’ pre-season plans and chose France in order to capitalise on improvements made to the training facilities for the European Championships, which start on Friday. The Black Cats will also play a number of friendlies across other parts of Europe.

The former West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers manager said his team would most likely train in Evian, which is where the German national team are currently training.

Just two friendlies have currently been organised, the first away to Hartlepool on July 20 and then to the New York Stadium to play Championship side, Rotherham United on July 23.

Transfer Roundup Week 3 – Steven Fletcher ‘flattered’ by interest from Celtic

The 29-year-old Scottish international is available on a free transfer this summer, what does the future hold for him?

Steven Fletcher signed for Sunderland from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2012 for a fee of £12 million. The Scottish international has made 94 appearances for the Black Cats, scoring 23 goals.

Fletcher, who spent half of this season on loan at French side Marseille, is out of contract this Summer and isn’t likely to be featuring again in a Sunderland shirt. The 29-year-old has been linked with a number of clubs including Scottish champions Celtic, Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua and the newly promoted Championship side Wigan Athletic. The hoops are the supposed front runners for the forward and have been interested for some time, yet this time the deal would be of less cost. Fletcher spoke about how ‘flattering’ it was for him to be linked with Celtic. The appointment of Brendan Rodgers is a ‘great step forward’ according to Fletcher. “The fans want Champions League football and to do well in it and with him it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

Fletcher had scored two goals in 12 appearances for the French side and four in 16 for the Black Cats this season, the best strike being against local rivals Newcastle United in a 3-0 home win back in October.

Fletcher Marseille.jpg

Open to offers?

The former Burnley and Wolves Striker had a good first season for Sunderland back in 2012, scoring 11 goals, but has struggled to find any similar form in the three seasons since. There will still be plenty of interest from clubs around the world, with the Scotsman still having an eye for a goal. A potential suiter would be a team that puts a number of crosses into the box for Fletcher to make full use of his aerial threat and heading accuracy. Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has hinted that the striker is now surplus to requirements after the club survived relegation from the Premier League in their final home game against Everton. Fletcher insisted he didn’t mind where he moved and would be open to different offers in his latest interview with The Scotsman Newspaper. He said: “My wife will be worse than me for wondering where we’re going to be. I’m quite laid back, I’m used to moving around, she isn’t.”

Fletcher is reportedly on over £40,000 a week on Wearside, which may be a problem for certain clubs with an interest in buying him.

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