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Moneyball in the North-East:
Taking Sunderland back to the Premier League
What's going wrong at Sunderland? The big question.
From starting up and having a quick browse I can see some mismanagement already. Looking at my first XI, only three of them are in the top 10 earners at the club. The club is healthy financially however the £10m annual wage bill will quickly eat into the £15m bank balance.

I'm happy with the squad size as the focus will be on promotion. Cup competitions will be for back-up and youth players due to the demands of a 46 game league season. The squad should be good enough to see us out League 1 but I am missing a playmaker and unless there is someone coming through it will be my first purchase.

I have decided to go down the Moneyball route to sort this mess out. I took Alex Stewart's 10 commandments from his The Set Pieces blog that he derived from Soccernomics. In italics is my take on them and how I'll implement it.

Moneyball in the North-East
  1. Net wage spend is more important than net transfer spend (pp. 14-21) – This means that a £1m 28 y.o. winger might not be the bargain you assume if they want £80k p/w over 3 years. The time you add it up with bonuses etc. you are north of £15m. The better option might be the 23 y.o. prospect with two good seasons under his belt for £4.5m but only commands a wage of £18k p/w. This will set the club back less than £8m after 3 years and you should have a sellable asset.
  2. Don’t needlessly splash out on new players or sell old ones when you take over a club – the New Manager Syndrome (pp. 21-22) – Avoid new manager syndrome by disabling transfers in the first window. Max of 3 signings in summer and 2 in January, 1 if top of the table/overperforming.
  3. Don’t buy players who impressed at international tournaments: they’re likely to be overvalued and past performance is no indication of future performance, especially when they’re playing with a different team (pp. 22-24) – There are different incentives and a different tactical set-up at tournaments, and it’s a super small sample size. – Not quite sure how I translate this into FM as it is probably not as erratic as IRL.
  4. Some nationalities are overrated, like Holland, Brazil, and England (pp. 24-25) – It’ll be difficult to stick to this managing Sunderland, I suppose the key is to avoid overpaying. Use the transfer list and bosman deals.
  5. Sell your players at the right time: when they’re around 30 years old, goalkeepers aside (p. 29) – The current first-team squad has 5 players around this age that I will look to replace by the start of next season.
  6. Use the wisdom of crowds: ask all your scouts and a Director of Football if you have one (pp. 43-44) – Take full advantage of the new staff roles and have recruitment team do the work for me. However, I will take control of negotiations to keep things as tight as possible.
  7. Buy players in their early twenties, which avoids the problems with not developing properly, and means previous statistics have greater value (pp. 45-47) – Easy to do, set the scouts to look for players 20-25 don’t sign anyone over or under for a fee.
  8. Centre-forwards cost more than they should (p. 47) – Go strikerless, retrain, look for loans/frees? Not sure how to attack this yet. I’ll get 2/3 seasons out Will Grigg so I should probably get looking at the end of the season as there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the u23s or u19s.
  9. Sell any player if a club offers more than they are worth and try to replace them before they are sold (pp. 48-49) – This is obviously subjective. How much is your forward worth if he has scored 20 league goals in January and you are on track for promotion? If a player becomes unhappy, we find a replacement and sell. I might need to come up with a formula here to make the decision quantitative.
  10. Don’t buy players if you don’t need to: develop a youth network and try to develop your own players (pp. 49-51) – My limit on signings policy should help here. Max of 3 in the summer and 2 in January. As for youth players, I will look to bring in some promising youngsters <£250k to fill in the gaps.
As chance would have it my vison and the club's vision appear to line up. Going forward I will set up with an intense attacking 4-5-1. I want goals, and I want lots of them. Currently, we have the right squad for it at this level. The only thing missing is a playmaker. That will be my one January target, providing I don't sell anyone. Like I said I want to keep squad disruption to a minimum.

Luckily we have a very good youth squad. I have promoted two to the first team from the u23s to see if they suit my idea of the type of playmaker I want. One of them looks like they could fit the mould. Most of them look like they could step in January if I was to offload some of the higher earners.

Going forward there will be a wage structure in place. I worked this out at around £150k p/w using 60% of revenue from annual ticket sales. I'll adjust my estimates as I get more information going forward. November will be a good time to review this.


I also had a clear out of the department heads to bring in my own team. Chris Doig joins as my assistant he's been around the Football League for a few years so should be a useful appointment. The other appointments as follows.


Pre-season went smoothly as we won most of our games. Lynden Gooch and loanee Antoine Semenyo have impressed so far with 5 goals each of the wings. They are both versatile and can play right across the front three. The ideal type of players when trying to keep the squad small and close-knit. Each position in the squad will have three KPI's (key performance indicators) that I'll assess quarterly. What exactly they are is TBC but for wingers the are as follows.

  1. Key passes/90mins
  2. Cross completion % (W) or shots on target/90mins (IF)
  3. Dribbles per game

Signing Criteria

This is the signing criteria for Total Football Sunderland.

For League 1 I expect a minimum of 10 for 12/14 stats. When looking to recruit I will look to push them towards 12. The current squad in relation to the filter we are lacking in central defence. Joel Lynch is the closest - let down by 9s in anticipation, decisions and OTB - however, he is a BPD so that is a positive. He's performing well in the role so far and at 31 has no sell on value really. I'll keep him until his contract expires at the end of the season and re-evaluate.

Tommie Hoban looks like he could be a very promising signing. He looks an improvement on my 2nd choice CB Jordan Willis. His injury history is a concern but if I can get him on a cheap enough deal weighted with appearances until the end of the season I think I will. He is out until December so I will hold off but he is definitely on my radar.


The versatility of the squad is incredible. This was my subs bench for a 2-0 win over Bolton. This is something I will look at when signing players.

Full-backs - should either be capable of playing CM/DM or wingers
Centrebacks - ideally can play in midfield also
Central midfielders - should be competent in a number of roles, possibly even cover CB
Sticker/wingers - they should be able to interchange

This how I want us to line up going forward. We're not that far off it at the moment. There are a few players on high wages that just don't suit and I'll look to ship out in January. I made one signing with Ibrahima Cisse signing a 3-year deal. He fits the profile perfectly in terms of age, low wages, free and has sell on value, and versitlie. He is a midfielder but I'll be using him as BPD.

Our form has been shocking and I'm under quite a bit of pressure now. Will Griggs has gone from a goal every other game to no goals in 8. I was very reluctant to spend in January but I may need to bring in another forward as the back-up players are just not up to it and I'll look to ship out to free up some funds. January is going to be a very big month overall. I brought in Tommie Hoban on a free and shipped out 4 younger players on high wages who would be leaving at the end of the season.




I've been given the month to turn things around...
Being knocked out the FA Cup by Reading may turn out the be a blessing in disguise. 13 points from 15 means we now sit top, though we could drop a place when games on hand are played. It has done wonders for our goal difference. Joel Lynch has been a rock at the back, pairing mostly with Ibrahima Cisse during the run of clean sheets.

Domonic Samuel came in on loan from Blackburn and scored on his debut. He fits the bill on an F9 quite nicely and is on low wages compared to some who left. His arrival also seemed to have spurred Will Griggs to score his first goal in a long time. The big sale of the window was 29 y.o. Tommy Smith to Inter Miami for £900k, which will go through in February. A regular starter who was replaced by more suitable CB's in Tommie Hoban and Cisse. A few others left for less notable fees but It freed up £42k p/w. Massive for a League 1 club.

We currently lose around £1.5m p/m so the reduction in wages should ease that a little.




First I've seen this

As part of my player evaluation, I have made a few handy Exel sheets. Basically, it comes up with a Total Football Sunderland DNA score. Going into next season I have set the following thresholds (based on being in the Championship). GK will be exempt and scored in there own way. This is the way I work out the current squad.

18-21 - 50%
22-24 - 55%
25-27 - 60%
27+ - 65%

I just offered Duncan Watmore mutual termination which he accepted saving the club around £70k over the remainder of his deal.

However, the board are still mad.



Can you hold on? Hope so.
The Man formerly known on SUSIE as Poolie Exile
Give my story a read - Now I would walk 500 miles...

Can you hold on? Hope so.

Cheers mate almost there!
I have managed to convince the board to offer me a new two-year-deal. I expect to be challenging for promotion to the Premier League by the end of it. We have just taken the first steps towards making that a reality but securing a Play-Off spot. However 2nd place Oxford look like they have the easier run-in. If we can beat Peterborough in the next fixture I'm confident we can at least secure automatic promotion.



We didn't make it easy for ourselves




The wage bill is going to take a hit this year with Aiden McGeady returning from loan on £20k p/w at 34 meaning he'll be impossible to sell/loan. Grant Leadbitter is on £15k p/w, another that will be impossible to shift. Pretty much anyone highlighted can be sold if a good offer comes in, although I want to minimise the change.

I'm looking to bring in 3 first team players and about the same amount of younger players to act as back-up/step up next season.

I set out at the start to minimise the number of transfers. At first glance, it looks like I haven't, however, I'll break it down. Dominic Samuel was on loan last season so doesn't really count as change, other than him only Stephy Mavididi and former academy graduate George Honeyman were brought in for the first team. Alan Forrest, Calvin Miller and the three from Man Utd were brought in to play in the u23 side with the view of promoting them if and when they are needed. They all look like they could be good Championship players at the very least. The four final signings were brought in on very low wages mainly as tutors but I'll probably play them in the cups too.

I set myself the target of keeping wages below £180k p/w this season but it was impossible. Were spending £216k p/w currently. I'm still contributing £9k p/w to Grand Leadbitter, not great but better than £15k p/w. A lot of contracts are expiring at the end of the season so that will be more manageable.


DNA Score Formula
Average of 9 mental stats divided by 18 + Average (first touch, passing, technique, stamina) divided by 20.

Overall results have been decent considering we just came up and pretty much still have the same XI. The Norwich result was disappointing considering we lead the Premier League side 2-0 at one point, throwing it away in the 2nd half.

The board takeover went through and we have a healthy £16m balance - shame they are going to blow around £10m on two terrible deals. Josh Dasilva is very versatile and young, other than that he had a poor season last season and will be our highest-paid player. Abdou Harroui is another that fails to wow. The outlays far outweigh the benefits. Frustrating.





We should have had the perfect month. We conceded 3 injury time goals - I'll have to address this going forward. Had we not conceded them we would be sitting in the play-off spaces. Overall it was a good month, hopefully, we can kick on from the back-to-back wins.


I have identified a weakness in the squad. Though Conor McLaughlin was one of our top performers last season he only made 3 assists. Compare that to Denver Hume who got 15. He has not been performing with the step up despite taking home close to £10k p/w with bonuses. He's a full international and at 29 this might be my last chance to cash in on as his deal ends in the summer. 

He's valued at £350k so I'm going to set an asking price of around £300k and see if it stirs any interest. I have identified two potential replacements. My first choice is Colin Dagba who has been performing consistently for PSG 2. It's no slight on him that he can't get in the superstar laden first team. His assets look good - this is what is making him my preferred option over Guillermo Cotungo.

I tried to be as statistical as possible when making the decision here as they were both very good potential signings. It came down to it and I had to make the decision. In the end, I went for Colid Dagba. Although he worked out around £500k more over the 3-and-a half-year deal he looked like the best value for money. He has had more assists and has better passing, tackling, fouls etc. stats. He is prime age for singing too. He has two contract life cycles in him before I'd be looking to sell him to recoup some of the investment. I'd likely be looking to sell Gullermo Cotugno during the initial contract.


I managed to sell on Aiden McGeady to Shamrock Rovers. I will still be contributing £7.5k p/w to his wage until the summer. This should still save us over £200k overall so good business for us.

Back after a short break. We seem to be really struggling against the top sides. When you look at the wage budgets you understand why. I don't think we'll land a playoff spot as a result but we are not ready for the Premier League anyway. Another year in the Championship would probably be good for the squad.




All about stability, finish comfortably in mid table. Getting into the play offs would be a massive bonus.
The Man formerly known on SUSIE as Poolie Exile
Give my story a read - Now I would walk 500 miles...

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