On Sunderland, surrender and a sense of utter despair


It promises to be a busy day at Salut! Sunderland. For many of us, I suppose, it was the mind-numbing meekness of our surrender against a competent Everton side that shocked the most. Not sure the old computer will be able to cope with the venom to be expected from the keyboard of Pete Sixsmith, but the recriminations have already begun to be felt elsewhere. These thoughts, from Gerry Naughton*, one of our Irish supporters (though his allegiance long pre-dates Drumaville/Quinn/Keane), appeared first at that excellent home of wit and wisdom known as the Blackcats list. They merit repetition here …

I’ve supported Sunderland since the late 60s. As a young lad I used to pester my mother to bring me to Dalymount Park in Dublin to watch the Republic of Ireland play “soccer”. My favourite player was Charlie Hurley. He was the difference between Ireland getting trounced or losing by just the one or two goals.

As you all well realise following Sunderland is a roller-coaster ride. We know that when we reach a high it is sure to be followed by the inevitable fall! We can’t seem to escape the yo-yo. The elation of promotion or even seventh place finishes in the Premier League never seems to last long enough to feel a sense of security. Maybe when we stayed up last season there was a sense that we had finally arrived to the promised land of premier league stability. But now, again, we can’t seem to stop the force of the fall!

Being Irish I loved the whole Quinn/Keane/Drumaville magic carpet ride. Suddenly my club was really going somewhere. It became not uncommon to see Sunderland shirts being worn by Irish people- and the club was the talk of Ireland. Promotion, survival back in the Premier – perhaps even Europe beckoned! I can honestly say that Keano gave me two years of bliss as a Sunderland supporter. It was my best high since the 73 cup win.

But now I have reached my lowest low! Even if we are fortunate enough to escape the drop I have to admit that I cannot relate to the present team. Or should I say that I cannot relate to many of the players in the team as being passionate about the club.

The teams that were relegated with 19 points and 15 points had players who were full of honest endeavour. The lack of conviction and commitment by some of the players who wore the shirt today made me feel a total sense of despair. And my feeling was not alone! I could fully empathise with the many SAFC fans who began leaving the stadium after 71 minutes. The team they witnessed playing in red and white was not the traditional Sunderland team who gave their all.

I agree that Ricky Sbragia is a poor manager, but this is primarily Roy Keane’s team. The bottom line is that RK brought in too many players who were/are “suspect” for one reason or another. Keane openly said that he wanted players who had the quality, character and commitment to compete in the Premier League. Yet he brought in an array of players who either lacked the quality or were egotistical and undisciplined.

Keane did a recorded interview for the Late Late Show, which was shown in Ireland on Friday evening. He seems smug with his new job at Ipswich. Here is the link (move the time bar to 1h.02m).

My view is that Keane is intelligent enough to know that he had messed up big time at Sunderland. Why should he blame Ellis Short for his sudden departure? Short was, after all, the man who supplied most of the funds for the purchase of his team? No! Keane knew that he had a squad of too many misfits and too many “mistakes”. And they were his misfits and his mistakes! There were far too many big egos and not enough quality. Ultimately Keane preferred to quit than to fail. Remember that by his own edict he hates to fail.

Sbragia was left with an unenviable task. But he was never the right man for the job. He does not have the experience, nor does he have the aura and assertiveness to control the big egos. Sbragia also seems to lack tactical nous. His insistence, for example, to continually play Jones and Cisse up front together is baffling. They are bad enough without their non-support play making our forward line even worse.

The bottom line is that we have a poor manager and a poor squad (football speak and not financial speak). Qunin must quickly bring in a new manager who will reshape the squad and, hopefully, bring back the feel-good factor.

Right now I want the dread and despair of supporting Sunderland to be replaced with some optimism. I want, at least, to have a Sunderland team that I can relate to.

* Gerry Naughton on Gerry Naughton: Aged 54, born and raised in County Kildare. Lived previously in London and Bucharest. Profession is occupational health and safety, although now work in property administration. I enjoy most sports and previously competed in athletics. Ran a 2.30.04 marathon in London 1983 whilst a member of Queens Park Harriers and was the founding member of Mornington Chasers Running Club (Camden based) in 1986. I’ve supported Sunderland since I was a young lad. The Charlie Hurley factor!

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