The mere mention of the name Titus Bramble used to have Sunderland fans in stitches. The former Newcastle United man produced more comedy gold than Geordie funsters Ant and Dec could ever dream of. However, the Black Cats boss Steve Bruce has changed all that by bringing the former Ipswich Town defender back to the north east from Wigan Athletic for £1 million. Now the Sunderland fans literally don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Titus Bramble has made more mistakes than Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, Kerry Katona and Joey Barton combined but he has come a long way since his disastrous time at St James'. Unfortunately his reputation as being a bit of a liable still precedes him.
Like most Sunderland fans, season ticket holder Tony Ratton freely admits that he has struggled to come to terms with the arrival of Bramble but insists he is right behind the manager’s decision.
“It’s taken me a while to get my head around the Titus Bramble signing but the bottom line is the fans have got to support Brucie on this one and trust his judgement. As our manager says Titus Bramble has been player of the season on two occasions for Wigan in the Premiership, has 10 years of top flight experience and wanted to come to the SOL which involved taking a pay cut.
“The worst period of Bramble’s football career was at Newcastle but hopefully we will see a very different ‘mature' and developed footballer at the SOL this season. This signing may be a source of amusement to Newcastle fans at this point but it will be a sweet feeling for Sunderland fans if Bramble turns out to be an inspired signing.”
At St James’ Park, Bramble, alongside his partner in crime Boumsong, produced some of the worst defending ever witnessed on a football park. From spectacular own goals, suicidal lapses of concentration and hashed clearances, Bramble soon earned the monikers Titus Bungle and Titus Shambles from rival fans.
However, when he was placed under the wing of former defender Steve Bruce at Wigan Athletic we saw a much more composed Bramble. The former England Under-21 became braver, more assured in his own ability and thrived on the responsibility of being the main man in Wigan’s defence. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to cut out all of his stupid errors – his sensational slack backpass against Everton and his near post headed own goal against Sunderland instantly spring to mind – but fans were starting to praise the transformation in the 28-year-old.
Bruce was a formidable defender in his day. He may not have been the quickest on the deck but he knew how to make the most of his talents. The former Manchester United ace has already proved that he can get the best out of Bramble and, with the manager’s full support and understanding, he will be hoping to raise his game again when he pulls on the famous red and white shirt.
But the build up to the new campaign isn’t going quite to plan for the manager. Bruce has to plan for the new season without his number one goalkeeper Craig Gordon after the Scotland international broke an arm in training and has been ruled out for a number of weeks. Back up keeper Marton Fulop is a reported transfer target of former Sunderland boss Roy Keane at Ipswich while reports in the Press over the past few days claim England international David James could be joining Bramble at the Stadium of Light. Tony admits that he is a bit concerned about the goalkeeping situation at the club.
“The goalkeping issue is a complex one with arguably one of the Premier League's top goalkeepers Craig Gordon out injured and young keepers Trever Carson and Simon Mignolet not having played a Premier League game between them Sunderland are looking to bring an experienced keeper in. David James fits the bill perfectly, but what happens when Gordon returns to fitness? Would James be happy to be the number two keeper at this point in his career? It’s a very difficult call for the manager.”
Sunderland’s hopes of building on last season were dealt a hammer blow earlier this month following the departure of captain Lorik Cana. The Albanian international only arrived on Wearside 12 months earlier and with his no-nonsense displays in the heart of midfield he soon became a solid hit with the fans. Unfortunately Turkish giants Galatasary turned his head with the opportunity of playing Champions League football and Bruce couldn’t deny him the chance to fulfil his dream. And while all Sunderland fans were sad to see him go the majority of them agree with the gaffer. And Tony believes the impressive form shown by a few of the youngsters near the end of the campaign may have made Bruce’s decision easier to sanction.
“The departure of Lorik Cana was a disappointing one for SAFC fans to take but given it meant that he would be getting the opportunity to play Champions League football with Galatasary and would be closer to his family it was an understandable move. While Cana was a popular player with Sunderland fans towards the end of last season he was getting yellow carded early in games and was then walking a tightrope for the rest of matches.
“Indeed in the later games Cana was not starting matches as a result of top form being shown by youngsters David Meyler (now out with a long term injury) and Jordan Henderson. Talking of young players this season could be a big for the careers of young Black Cats Jack Colback, Michael Liddle and Martyn Waghorn who have all being getting valuable games in during pre-season friendlies.”
The transfer window remains open for a few more weeks yet and Tony says that he is confident of the season ahead provided Bruce can add “an experienced keeper, a left back and another forward to the squad”. The former Wigan boss has spent very wisely at the Stadium of Light and you can’t really argue with his signings so far. Titus Bramble will be desperate not to let him down.
· Calling all Sunderland fans. How do you feel about the arrival of Titus Bramble? What do you think he will bring the squad? How confident are you that Bruce will be able to get the best out of him again? What do you think the new season will bring for Sunderland? Who would you like to see Bruce bring to the club before the end of the transfer window? Whatever your view I’d love to hear from you.
Fantasy football: Do you think you could spend £100 million better than Roberto Mancini? Do you think you could do a better job than Steve Bruce? Well here’s your chance to prove it. We at squarefootball are inviting you to join our fantasy football league. Simply visit fantasy.premierleague.com, pick your team, choose your strip, and when asked if you want to join a league enter: 148305-43452. Let battle commence!