The Biggest Reasons to Cheer for Sunderland This Season
Viva la Revolution!
After a season in which Sunderland barely clung to their Premier League place—and during which fans at the Stadium of Light were subjected to some thoroughly drab football under Martin O'Neill—the Black Cats are back with new manager Paolo Di Canio having promised a "revolution."
Sunderland are on the precipice of an entertaining season and their establishment as a top flight team free of relegation worry.
They may not bother the top half of the table, and Di Canio's autocratic regime may implode in flames of his own hotheadedness, but this is a team worth keeping an eye on this campaign. Here's why you should be part of the revolution...
Paolo Di Canio Is Utterly Entertaining
He may have a past riddled with controversial political views and referee shoving, but Paolo Di Canio is clearly going to be the most entertaining manager on Premier League sidelines this season (please don't tell The Special One we said that).
The Italian's complete inability to control his own emotions means he is always one step away from a touchline meltdown, a hot-headed interview or a fight with one of his own players.
At Swindon, it only took three months for Di Canio to punch one of his own players, brawling with Leon Clarke after a touchline spat. He has also proven to be fantastic value in post-match interviews, such as the one where he said his own goalkeeper was "one of the worst players I have ever seen."
The Italian's draconian management style has recently led him to ban tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and ice in Coca-Cola, as well as separating players from their beloved smartphones while at training.
Suffice to say, Di Canio probably isn't letting his players cover themselves in £50 notes on casino floors before big games this season.
Of course, he risks a dressing room mutiny from those who object to drinking warm Coke, which will only add to the drama and tension on the field.
Ultimately, we watch football to be entertained. This quality was severely lacking in Martin O'Neill's team last season, but with such an unpredictable coach on the sidelines, and a team that has been moulded via his "revolution," the Black Cats will surely be an entertaining spectacle in 2013-14.
There Is Plenty of New Talent
Sunderland's squad has been weakened by the loss of Simon Mignolet, who was undoubtedly their best player from last season, but the Black Cats have made room for new talent by shifting plenty of dead wood (Sorry Titus Bramble and Ryan Noble, we mean you).
Ten new faces have been brought in over the summer. While many are under-the-radar free transfers from the continent, two new signings will definitely excite crowds at the Stadium of Light.
Jozy Altidore may have underwhelmed during a loan spell at Hull, but the rejuvenated American striker scored 23 goals for AZ Alkmaar last term, and scored a hat-trick for the USA in a friendly last week. If the Altidore renaissance continues, Sunderland fans are in for a treat.
One of the biggest coups of the entire transfer window, however, has been the acquisition of Emanuele Giaccherini from Juventus. If it's still sinking in for some of you, then we repeat: Sunderland have signed a highly respected Italian international from Juventus.
Giaccherini may be an outcast of Juve's formidable midfield, but he brings with him Champions League experience, a record of back-to-back scudettos and some very impressive stats.
He will stand out at Sunderland just like Italian teammate and Johnny Depp doppelgänger will shine for Southampton.
They Will Be the Fittest Team in the League
While players like Wayne Rooney seem to be much bigger at the start of every season—literally, not figuratively—Paolo Di Canio clearly hasn't tolerated any fat cat nonsense over the summer.
The Italian has made it quite clear that he believes no side in England will be in better shape than his. “You will see the fittest Sunderland team that has ever been. That has to be the base for a footballer,” he explained to The Mirror.
For the past two months, a day of training with the Black Cats has been a 9am-6pm occupation, including a double fitness session in the morning and a football session at 4pm.
During a recent 10-day jaunt to Italy, the regime was too intense to enjoy the surroundings. "We are not here for shopping, we are here to work," Di Canio told The Guardian.
Seeing as most top flight teams will only train in the mornings during the season and take it fairly easy in the summer, it is clear that Sunderland will either be the fittest or the most tired team in the league. The former is more likely, and it will make for entertaining football: If they can't outplay the top teams, they will certainly be able to outrun them over 90 minutes.
They Will Be Much Better Than Last Season
There is little question that Sunderland will be a better team this season. After finishing three points above the relegation zone in 2012-13—a region of the table they are very used to flirting with—it would be difficult for them to be any worse.
The Black Cats will be hurt by the loss of Mignolet, and Di Canio has already complained that owner Ellis Short needs to supply funds to supplement the 10 new players brought in over the summer (via The Guardian). However, the manager's famous motivational skills should be enough to push this group of players towards the middle of the table.
If Giaccherini and Altidore are able to perform to the best of their abilities, we will see an exciting attacking team that will only look at relegation as a distant speck in the rear-view mirror.
Here's to the Wearside revolution!