Season Review: August

by Stuart Vose

We head back to first month of campaign.

Sunderland could hardly have been handed a tougher start to their sixth consecutive campaign in the Barclays Premier League. 

A trip to Arsenal awaited the Black Cats, who had warmed up for the start of the season with games in South Korea and Sweden as well as the UK.

The Gunners had been shorn of the services of Robin van Persie during the summer as the Dutch striker completed a move to Manchester United, with whom he would go on to win the title.

But Arsene Wenger's side were still tough opponents having added the likes of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski during the close season.

One of Sunderland's new faces, Carlos Cuellar, played a key role as the Black Cats began the campaign on a positive note, securing a 0-0 draw in North London.

Fellow new boy Louis Saha also featured off the bench as Sunderland absorbed pressure to come away with a share of the spoils.

James McClean and Jack Colback came closest for Sunderland in a game played in searing heat at the Emirates Stadium.

Defender John O’Shea said afterwards: “The point was hard earned and I think in the first half we had the better chances.

“It’s one of those things coming to the Emirates, you know with Arsenal, if you can limit them to one or two opportunities, you have a chance.”

Manager Martin O'Neill moved to boost his squad following the opening-day draw by tying up two big transfer deals.

Wolves striker Steven Fletcher made the move north for an undisclosed fee, signing a four-year contract having been a constant thorn in Sunderland's side whilst with the Midlands club.

"It's taken a while but I'm glad it's finally done,” the frontman said just after putting pen to paper.

"When you come to the training ground and the Stadium of Light it obviously shows how big the club is. I've played here a few times, and the atmosphere is always good; I can't fault it.

"It's obviously one of the main things for me, playing Premier League football, especially at a big club like Sunderland.”

But the Black Cats weren't done and completed a second signing on the same day by securing the signature of Manchester City winger Adam Johnson.

However, they would have to wait for a debut as Sunderland's first home game of the season against Reading was called off due to a waterlogged pitch following a deluge in the hours leading up to kick-off.

Both Fletcher and Johnson played from the start in the next game, against League Two side Morecambe in the Capital One Cup at the Stadium of Light.

But it was James McClean who grabbed the headlines with a pair of well-taken goals to tee up a tie at MK Dons in the next round.

Johnson laid on the opener after 24 minutes, swinging in a corner for McClean to power a header beyond Barry Roche, who led the resistance with an impressive display in the Morecambe goal.

And the pair combined again to seal victory in the second half; McClean seizing on Johnson's half-intercepted square ball to convert with his weaker right foot.

Manager O'Neill was pleased with a professional performance, adding: “I thought we played some really lovely football, particularly in the first half.

“Morecambe played very well. They came here and tried to play – not only that, they were competitive throughout the night.

“I was really glad we got that second goal to take any anxious moments away. I’m just delighted we’ve won and James scored two well-taken goals.”

The end of August brought the closure of the transfer window, with only one move in either direction.

Kieran Richardson left the Stadium of Light for Fulham, while England U21 man Danny Rose arrived on loan from Tottenham Hotspur until the end of the campaign to fill the left-back position.

Rose, who went on to have a successful spell on Wearside, rated the switch as an important chance to get first-team games under his belt.