Soapbox: 48 years on


Desperately disappointing as it was to surrender a lead so late, and desperately bad as Phil Dowd’s refereeing was, we were probably the cause of our own misfortune against Spurs. We failed in so many respects that ‘Arry was doubtless correct to say it would be been beyond belief for them to leave the SoL pointless. Pete Sixsmith‘s analysis of the game covers all these points and draws gloomy historical comparisons, without quite echoing the Ricky Sbragia verdict: “I didn’t bollock them. I just state the facts. We were f****** s***. I told Steed Malbranque to take that late corner short and he said, ‘Yes.’ Then didn’t. Our left-back George McCartney’s in the box for it too. Why, I don’t know.”…

Forty eight years ago, Tottenham Hotspur came to Sunderland en route to the first double of the 20th century.

They came with a team made up of quality footballers and quality men like Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay and John White and were managed by a manager in Bill Nicholson who let his team do the talking on the field and who never had to bother with the gentlemen of the press. He created a team that won with style and showed respect towards opponents and referees.

This may well seem like going back beyond the birth of civilisation, because as we are constantly being told, football began in 1992 with the Sky takeover.

The Blanchflowers and Nicholsons of this world would shudder at a game where players fall over as soon as they are touched, where managers are in cahoots with the press and who patronise other clubs (“Sunderland were pleased that someone wanted to spend £15m on one of their players” – Nicholson or Redknapp?) and where referees and their assistants are subject to a non stop verbal barrage both on and off the field.

I would dare bet that Danny Blanchflower didn’t speak to a referee as many times in a whole season than his 2009 counterpart Robbie Keane did in 90 minutes on Saturday.

Phil Dowd had a wretched afternoon, awarding free kicks if a Sunderland player as much as looked at a Spurs one and turning down a very, very strong penalty claim in the last minute. The quality of refereeing must chip away at the confidence of our players as we have now seen shocking decisions rob us of wins at Fulham and Newcastle and deprive us of a point at home to Villa. Dowd’s non-decision was not as poor as the others but he gave us nothing throughout the game and was constantly being harangued by Keane – any connection?

Having said all this, Spurs did enough to claim a point, although we should have seen the game out.

Sbragia was very critical of the corner at the end, which we should have used as a means of winding the game down instead of throwing it into the box and then not getting a penalty.

It allowed Spurs to sweep to the other end of the pitch and for Keane to stop moaning for a couple of seconds and do what he is paid to do, ie put the ball in the net.

We failed to capitalise on an excellent start and Spurs missed chances to put an end to their fading relegation fears, but that is down to them.

Under Sbragia, we are playing a tighter game and players know what they are supposed to be doing.

The back four looked tight for the majority of the game and the midfield worked hard, if without inspiration. The problems are upfront, where the Cisse/Jones combination seems about as well matched as Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques.

I get the feeling that the tattooed one will not be with us next season. Quinny’s words this week about the problems with the exchange rate (another excellent reason for abandoning sterling and joining the euro) and the financial squeeze, coupled with Djibril’s look of complete astonishment as he was withdrawn for Darryl Murphy, suggest that another set of Premier League fans will be singing the Cisse Song next year.

As for Kenwyne – well, this is not the man who ran himself into the ground in umpteen games last season. Gary Bennett thinks that he has not fully recovered from that horrendous injury last summer and I am tempted to agree with him. Whatever the reason, Kenwyne does not look anywhere near as effective as he was 12 months ago. We need him back to that level.

When Willie McPheat equalised in 1961, there was a huge outpouring of emotion. Danny Blanchflower described the Roker Roar as the greatest sound he had ever heard at a football ground.

On Saturday, it was booing – in frustration and at the hapless Dowd as we saw another two points slide away. 1961 seems light years away as we contemplate another vital game against Wigan Athletic – who were bumbling along in the Cheshire League when Nicholson, Blanchflower et al came calling.

2 thoughts on “Soapbox: 48 years on”

  1. Good point, Malcolm……we were close to 2-0 at least twice, and would have been laughing at ‘Arry’s attempts to say they’d been robbed.
    Mike Allcock at the Blackcats forum put it similarly, like this, talking about the strength of the Spurs squad:
    “In fact I’d go as far as saying they have the strongest squad on paper outside the top 4 (I think they have a stronger one than Villa or Wigan).
    The form of Cisse and Jones is worrying. Yes, Whitehead skied one but otherwise didn’t have a bad game. And the referring was dreadful, probably only surpassed by Chelsea away in terms of wink-nudge erm… I think cheating is the word. We were missing Ferdinand and they had, you have to remember, 2 central defenders who if fit would be 2 and 3 on the team sheet for England.
    I think it depends on perception.. I see Hull at home as a should win irrespective of their good away results, I don’t see Spurs as one
    irrespective of their bad ones. And while we could, and arguably should, have been much better I still think we were pretty unlucky not to win it.”

  2. Bad refereeing aside – and it has doubtless cost us points this season – we have seen the team miss great chances to render the refs’ mistakes irrelevant and our league position more comfortable.
    I’m thinking Chopra v the Mags, Cisse’s weak header against the Villa just before their pelanty (as Chris Waddle would say) and yesterday if the same man had got his foot to the ball when it flashed across the open goal, 2-0 would surely have secured the points.
    I didn’t think we played well yesterday and had Spurs scored in the 2nd minute and Richardson equalised in the 89th we would have felt relieved to be off the hook and grateful for a point won rather than disappointed at the two lost.
    The Cisse/Jones partnership didn’t look at all effective yesterday but where was the midfield support? We seemed static all afternoon and either they should stop watering the pitch or Andy Reid should invest in some longer studs.

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