Season Review: January

Published:
by Ashley Houghton

New faces as Sunderland kick off 2013.

As always the transfer window reopened in January, and the Black Cats’ first move of the window was to allow young South Korean striker Ji Dong-Won to move to Augsburg for the remainder of the season.

Sunderland’s opening game of 2013 was a trip to Merseyside to face Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool at Anfield.

A Luis Suarez double, as well as a Raheem Sterling strike, helped the Reds on their way to a 3-0 victory as a battling Black Cats side came up against Liverpool at their best.

Midfielder Craig Gardner was frustrated by the loss, labelling an inability to convert chances as the reason behind the defeat.

“They had control of the game. We had two or three chances to score but we never took them - and that was the difference – Liverpool took their chances,” the 26-year-old said.

Three days after the Liverpool defeat, the Black Cats began their FA Cup with Budweiser campaign with a trip to Bolton Wanderers.

Connor Wickham and Gardner earned the visitors a replay after Chung Young Lee and Marvin Sordell had given the Trotters the lead.

Wickham, who was making his sixth appearance of the season, was full of praise for the 5,000 fans that travelled down from Wearside for the 2-2 draw with Wanderers.

“I think our fans dominated their fans - they didn’t stop the whole way through,” the England U21 international said.

“It was a big stand they were in; with over 5,000 there it was amazing support. It really does help when you hear them cheering you on.”

Following the draw in Lancashire, both Blair Adams and Billy Knott extended their loans with Coventry City and Woking respectively whilst David Meyler made his loan move to Hull City permanent.

After four departures in the first week of January, Sunderland bought their first player of the window with French youth international Alfred N’Diaye joining from Turkish side Bursaspor.

N’Diaye would go straight into the squad to face West Ham three days later whilst, prior to the clash with the Hammers, Belgian stopper Simon Mignolet was named the North East Football Writers’ Association’s Player of the Year.

Sebastian Larsson’s screamer, along with goals from Adam Johnson and James McClean sent the Black Cats on their way to their joint biggest home win of the season.

On his goal, Swedish international Larsson said: “I caught the ball beautifully and was just happy to see it go in - there haven’t been many of them with my left foot but it was a nice goal.”

Kader Mangane became Sunderland’s second addition of the January window when he joined on loan from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.

Next up was the visit of Bolton for the FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round replay; Sordell scored twice for the Trotters as they ended any Sunderland hopes of a repeat of their 1973 cup success with a 2-0 victory, 40 years on since one of the Black Cats’ finest hours.

Boss Martin O’Neill was ‘bitterly disappointed’ with his side after the defeat to Dougie Freedman’s side.

After the game O’Neill conceded: “It’s bitterly disappointing. We’ve gone out of a competition we did so well in last season very meekly.”

Prior to the trip to Wigan, Adams made his loan switch to Coventry permanent whilst N’Diaye was set for his first start in a Sunderland shirt as the Black Cats looked to make amends for their cup defeat with a win at the DW Stadium.

O’Neill’s side duly delivered as they came from a goal down to win 3-2 against the Latics with Steven Fletcher scoring twice after Gardner had earlier levelled.

David Vaughan’s unfortunate own goal had given Roberto Martinez’s side the lead before Angelo Henriquez scored a late consolation for the hosts.

O’Neill was quick to praise his leading scorer after the Scottish international bagged his tenth goal of the season.

“Steven Fletcher has been fantastic and he’s scored some fantastic goals for us,” O’Neill said. “That’s his 10th goal of the season. He’s been an excellent centre forward for us.”

Striker Fraizer Campbell left Wearside to join Cardiff City as the Bluebirds bolstered their attacking options ahead of their promotion run-in.

Under-21 midfielder Adam Reed left the club on loan to gain first-team experience on the south coast with Portsmouth whilst under-18 stopper Johnny Maddison joined Crawley.

In the final game of January, the Black Cats played out a goalless stalemate with Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City.

Danny Graham played his final game for the Swans before joining Sunderland days later.

John O’Shea was disappointed with the draw with the Welsh outfit as the hosts failed to create many clear-cut chances despite their dominance.

“We were the home side and should have had a lot more shots on goal, especially as we’ve been playing well,” O’Shea told safc.com

On transfer deadline day Sunderland announced their final activity in the window with the signing of Graham.

And the 27-year-old was delighted to join up with the Black Cats ahead of what he described as an ‘exciting future’.

“I'm excited about playing for a club as big as this,” he said.

“I'm really excited about the future – this is a new phase of my career and I can't wait to get started.”