Peter Sixsmith has been watching Sunderland since the days of Cec Irwin and Ambrose Fogarty. In that time he has witnessed some dross and he now adds Tuesday’s visit of the Premier League’s bottom side to that collection. Much of the pre-match speculation was about the effect Harry Redknapp would have on the game but in truth QPR could have had Louise Redknapp in the technical area and the outcome would probably have been the same – such was the dearth of attacking options provided by Martin O’Neill’s boys. As a contributor to Total Sport said: “The Samaritans were outside the ground handing out leaflets after this one.” We’ll let Sixer talk it through …
Over the years, the number of negative reports I have written for Salut Sunderland have far outweighed the positive. Keane, Sbragia, Bruce have all had me considering a return to the Championship and visits to Barnsley, Bolton and Blackpool in whatever season we are looking at.
We have escaped on every occasion, usually with a bit to spare, although once it was by the skin of our teeth and we owed profuse thanks to Joe Kinnear, Alan Shearer and Fat Mike Ashley.
Twelve months ago, it looked as if we were in serious danger of being dragged into the relegation dogfight. The answer then was to replace a manager who had lost the support of the fans with one who had the backing of the vast majority of red and whites.
So, where are we now? If Tuesday night’s miserable offering was anything to go by, we will be spending a lot of time in Yorkshire next season as we contemplate visits to Barnsley, Huddersfield and Hull.
Tuesday was as dispiriting a night as I have had at the Stadium since the last dispiriting night. I came away seriously worried about where the club, the manager and the season is going.
I have rarely seen such a flat, one paced Sunderland side. Take Rose out of the equation and there is no pace whatsoever.
I have rarely seen a Sunderland side fail to get a grip in midfield as this one did. Once Cattermole limped off, six minutes into the game, we were completely dominated by the bottom side in the league, a team that has not won all season and who have not won away since last summer.
I have rarely seen a Sunderland side so toothless up front, despite having spent £22m on the players who were supposed to move us up a level. Fletcher must be very worried about becoming a Jonah. Should my worst fears be realised, let’s hope Newcastle sign him.
Quite frankly, it was bloody awful. Rose and Kilgallon were the only success stories. Mignolet made a couple of crucial saves and Cuellar was solid.
Other than that, I can’t think of anything positive to say. I suppose McClean looked a bit sharper when he came on, but he was still a shadow of the player who bounded down the touchline last year against these opponents.
The rest were somewhere between ineffective (Fletcher) and dismal (Gardner and Bardsley). Passes went astray, the ball was passed backwards and sideways as it has been all season. Nobody was able to run at a defence that is as leaky as a roomful of politicians. We never threatened to score all night.
The manager cut a forlorn figure as the game went on. It looks as if he knows that the game is up with this current batch of players. He must be hoping to strengthen in January, but he will have difficulty attracting players to a club which could well be languishing in the bottom three.
His judgement must be questioned as well. Cattermole was supposed to have a serious knee injury, but he started. Poor call by the manager to play him.
Off he goes and on comes Jack Colback, a player who has struggled all season and who seems to have lost confidence in his ability to move the ball forward. The crowd were less than impressed and poor Jack had another tortuous 84 minutes as he was brushed aside by Mbia, Taarabt and Mackie – as was the increasingly pedestrian Craig Gardner. I’m afraid he is rapidly turning into another Shaun Cunnington.
Rangers were OK and they worked hard for each other. Redknapp may do to them what O’Neill did to us a year ago and get them playing with confidence. I suspect they may have a busy January window.
A miserable day all round as it was three years since the death of my pal Dave Lish. I have a very good idea of what his caustic but accurate assessment would be of the complete and utter mess that we once again find ourselves in.
Norwich on Sunday and then Chelsea and Reading at home. One point out of that lot and we will be firmly camped in the relegation zone. Then what does the owner do? What do we as supporters do?
Depressing isn’t it?