Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Happy Players Are Helping Results - Dean

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Happy Players Are Helping Results - Dean

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK DOUGLAS

DEAN Whitehead believes that dialogue between the Sunderland squad and the management is behind the club's recent upturn in fortunes - after revealing that previous boss Roy Keane didn't listen to his players, writes MARK DOUGLAS.

Along with the club's senior professional Dwight Yorke, Sunderland skipper Whitehead has been assigned the unofficial title of dressing room spokesman - and he has been presenting any issues that the players have to boss Ricky Sbragia.

That has led to a steep improvement in morale and a steady boost to the club's playing fortunes. Indeed, Whitehead believes it has also given the club a unity that was missing in the final months of the Keane era.

His words continue the theme of Sunderland exorcising the ghosts of their former manager, who gave his first interview since leaving the Wearside club over the weekend.

While it would be overstating matters to say Keane's revelations have prompted a backlash from players and management in favour of the Sbragia approach, it has certainly led to the most revealing explanations yet of the failings that undermined his final few months.

Whitehead's own relationship with Keane was always assumed to be rocky but the midfielder insists he retains respect for his former boss and will not criticise him.

But he is clearly reveling in the increased responsibility that has been handed to him by Sbragia, who is a much more relaxed and open boss to work for.

"Things haven't changed a drastic amount since Ricky took over it's just little things he's done differently that have had a big impact," Whitehead said.

"Each week he brings in slight changes or new stuff to try and I think the lads are really plugging in to it - and it's showing the benefit on the pitch, which is what really matters.

"We've worked a lot on setpieces and ways to break the opposition down and I think when you look at how we competed with Arsenal, it seems to be working. …

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