Sunderland winger James McClean is challenged by Kyle Walker
IN the latest skirmish in his continuing PR battle, Steve Bruce again stressed the quality of the signings he made as Sunderland’s manager.
Bruce’s eye for talent is unquestionable. The problem was, he was often too quick to lose faith in it.
By taking a fresh look at the tools he inherited, Martin O’Neill has put them to good use.
Against a Tottenham Hotspur team packed with exciting attacking talent, Sunderland’s man-of-the-match was Matt Kilgallon, written off by Bruce within weeks of putting pen to paper at the Stadium of Light.
It is more than two years since Kilgallon was bought from Sheffield United to strengthen the centre of the Black Cats’ defence.
At Goodison Park he endured a dodgy debut and it took only three more matches for Bruce to decide he had made a mistake. The Yorkshireman was jettisoned to the margins, never to regain Bruce’s trust. He will return to the ageing Merseyside ground today to make only his 12th Premier League appearance for the Black Cats with his confidence restored.
Back in the side since the on-loan Sotirios Krygiakos played himself out of it with a dreadful FA Cup performance, Kilgallon has instantly picked up where he left off when injury cut short his redemption in January.
Well protected by team-mates who understood the value of dropping off and allowing Spurs to play in front of them, he was a tower of strength on the odd occasions they broke through.
His performance was perhaps the best thing about Saturday’s 0-0 draw. The next best was that today Sunderland have another game to wipe it from the memory. The chances are that by 3pm today, it will already have gone.
There was a reasonable level of skill and commitment, but very little by way of attacking intent from either side. It was surprising how comfortable Spurs appeared with a draw, considering the tightness of their league position. Finishing as London’s top side or out of the Champions League places are both perfectly feasible, even at this stage of the season. The former would be a huge feather in their collective cap, the latter a costly miss for the second season running.
For the Black Cats, the remaining weeks are about securing a rare top-half finish – again for a second consecutive year. A point against such high-quality opposition will serve them well.
If the previous weekend’s trip to Eastlands was a demonstration of counter-attacking, this was a triumph for organisation and solidity by a team without John O’Shea, Wes Brown or a recognised left-back. Put those elements together and you have the makings of a good side.