Pete Sixsmith scoured the recesses of his mind for something positive to say about the abysmal defeat at Stoke. He finally came up with one consoling thought: the gloriously optimistic suggestion that we may lose at Chelsea by only one goal..
What a disappointment! We’re all pumped up after defeating the Mags for the first time since the old King was on the throne, and then we go and play, as Keano put it, our worst football of the season so far, in the Potteries.
You can’t say we weren’t warned. Everyone knows what to expect from Stoke – long throws, ball played up quickly, fierce tackling and an in your face attitude that is unpleasant but perfectly legal.
At first, we absorbed their up and at ’em attitude. Ferdinand and Collins were pressurised but were able to cope and the full backs successfully tried to stop the ball from being slung in. Fulop was not unduly tested but we hardly threatened Tommy Sorensen and, as the game progressed, the pace and thrust that Cisse showed on Saturday was sadly missing.
Steed was ineffective and Richardson and Whitehead kept running into large midfield players and even larger defenders.
With hindsight the selection of Yorke was a poor one. It passed the impetus to the Potters and with a team as one dimensional as they are, you cannot afford to let them impose their version of football on you. We failed badly on this count.
A positive change at half time bringing Kenwyne on, but he is still short of match fitness and against two strong defenders in Shawcross and Faye, he struggled. Mind, he was the only Sunderland player to have a shot on target and had he hit it a little harder, Tommy would have been picking the ball out of the net and blaming his defenders.
But they come at you and never stop. They nag away, get in your face and keep on pushing you back. The crowd are noisy and hostile and sing that ridiculous version of Delilah – more Sensational Alex Harvey Band than Tom Jones – but they are at one with their players and they may just get them through the season. The likes of Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle will not enjoy their afternoons at the Britannia.
So, a real disappointment and it suggests that we have got a little bit carried away this week and we are back to earth with a resounding bump. Fair play to Stoke, but there are few clubs’ fans who would put up with the style of anti-football that they play. We just couldn’t cope with it and that is a problem for us.
Stamford Bridge on Saturday may be a lot less intimidating, but don’t bet on the result being any different.