Soapbox: reflections on a gloomy Monday


Salut! Sunderland has a duty to find something to say beyond the thoughts of Blackburn Rovers fans, welcome as they are. With Big Sam ushering them disarmingly up the table, Pete Sixsmith considers our current predicament, and offers his predictions on the way the season will proceed for the North East’s Premier clubs…

Yesterday was supposed to be
the gloomiest day of the year: you know, the one when the Visa and MasterCard statements appear and you begin to realise how much you actually spent at Christmas. I mean, did you really need that gold plated golf ball holder and was it really such a good idea to buy that lingerie set for your mum?

It was a gloomy day in the North East as the snow tried to fall and the rain pelted down. Moods were not improved by looking at the newspapers which reported on three crushing defeats for the Big 3 and the distinct possibility that all three could be playing Championship football next season.

So, at this vital stage of the season, let Sixsmith cast his (jaundiced) eye over the three and make some predictions that may (or, more likely may not) help you to relieve the bookies of some excess money.

First of all us. How on earth are we in this position, yet again? Simple. We suffered a crisis of leadership in October and have not yet recovered from it. We have defenders who stand off and who do not attack the ball, enabling the opposition to run at us and expose our lack of pace at the back.

Roy Keane only covered up the cracks here by bringing in the excellent Jonny Evans and while Anton Ferdinand has done well, he is not yet the dominant and brutal centre half that we need. Nyron is out for 5 weeks apparently, so it looks like Sbragia will bring someone in, but I don’t see a lot of quality out there. West Ham seem keen to sell either Davenport or Collins but I don’t rate either.

In midfield, we need to play Reid in the centre from the start. He is the only player we have who cah open up a defence. He does run out of steam, but it has to be better than putting him on when we are chasing the game. My feeling is tht had he been on from the start against Villa, we would have created more chances.

Jones and Cisse were the footballing equivalent of Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson on TV: weak, feeble and rather embarrassing to watch. I would like to see Healy or Chopra given a chance on Saturday. It’s a Cup tie and yes, I would like to win it, but I would happily take 4 points from the next two league games in return for sliding out of the cup.

Relegation chances; possible but situation not irretrievable.

What about the Mags? Clearly they are in chaos and I think that their whole season will turn on the game against us a week on Sunday. Lose that one and the crowd will turn on Kinnear in a way that makes their response to Allardyce look like a polite clearing of throats at Glyndebourne. They may well lose Given and if they had any more decent players I am sure that they would be jumping ship as well.

Relegation chances; Improving daily; all depends on February 1st.

As for the Smoggies, the excellent Robbo who blogs on the BBC Sport website said that he would not shave until the Boro won a game. He said that he expects to look like a refugee from ZZ Top by May and I have to agree with him. I can’t think of one real strength in their line up and I laughed out loud when I saw that they were trying to sell Mido to raise funds to buy a couple of nonentities like Marlon Harewood and Ben Watson.

Who on earth would buy Mido – apart from a lard manufacturer? Southgate has probably run his course, but I think that Gibson will stick with him before appointing someone else to take them to Barnsley, Blackpool and Birmingahm.

Relegation chances; they are on their way down

So, there you are, the Oracle hath spoken. Any comments/observations gratefully received – and here’s hoping that (for the first time in my life) I am right.

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