Soapbox: Wigan, Sunderland and a sobering history of bouncebacks


How much of a beating do you have to take before it can be called a thrashing? Four, five, six? Nothing to do with the headmaster’s study of old; we’re talking about goals conceded. Pete Sixsmith worries about the backlash that sometimes awaits the walloped side’s next opponents after such drubbings as Spurs 9 Wigan 1 …

We Sunderland fans are very pleased to have Steve Bruce as our manager. He has made an excellent start. He has brought in good players and moved on players who had gone past their time at the Stadium of Light. He looks a winner.

Imagine my surprise then, to read that he was to blame for Wigan Athletic’s 9-1 defeat at Tottenham. It was his entire fault, according to Dave Whelan. He had left the club with a poor selection of players which new manager Roberto Martinez was desperately trying to sort out. Bruce should take the blame, Martinez was faultless.

Of course, it’s all a load of old rubbish. I am exaggerating and hope that Uncle Dave Whelan is trying to divert attention from what must have been a horrible afternoon for those connected with the Wigan club. Were I Kirkland, Melchiot, Boyce, N’Zogbia or any other player brought to the JJB/DW stadium by The Brucester, I would be asking Dave Whelan who exactly he was referring to.

Heavy defeats like this are the exception rather than the norm in senior football (unless you are Durham City). I ran a Youth Club side many years ago and in our first season, we would have been delighted to lose 9-1. It meant we had kept the opposition to single figures and that we had scored a goal, both a call for “Cherryades all round”. Four years later, many of that same team were winning trophies as we grew and developed and others fell back.

The automatic reaction to a crushing defeat like this is to say “Whoopee, we’re playing them next week. Let’s see how many we can get”, closely followed by “But they will want to make up for it and they could beat us”.

As I listened in the car, I was quite satisfied with a 4-1 win for ‘Arry’s Boys, but as the goals continued to rain in, I began to have fears about the effect it would have on the Latics in their clash with us.

So, I did a bit of research. In the 40 odd years I have been watching Sunderland, we have had three thrashings. Now a thrashing by my book has to be more than six. Conceding five or six is a hammering and a four is a good beating.

In some ways a thrashing is preferable to a beating (something that Max Moseley would probably agree with) as it means that things are so bloody awful, you should be able to do something about it. A beating means that you may struggle to put your finger on the precise problem(s).

Anyway, I digress. In 1968, we were thrashed by West Ham, thanks to that well known cheat and wide boy Geoff Hurst punching the first of the eight into the net. The week after, at Roker Park, we beat Coventry City 3-0 with a little changed side.

In 1982 we went to Vicarage Road and conceded eight yet again, this time to Watford. Alan Durban made a couple of changes for the next game and we had a comfortable 4-1 win over Norwich City, a game notable for a rare goal from The Great Survivor (aka Kit Man John Cooke).

Two years ago we slumped to a 7-1 loss at Everton (Ian Harte must come out in a cold sweat at the mention of Mikel Arteta) ,a game so upsetting that Mr Horan and myself had to drink vast amounts of ale in Liverpool and Southport to blot it out of our memories.

The next game was one of The Stadium Of Light’s all time classics, a 1-0 win over that record breaking Derby County side. Who could ever forget that wonderful scrambled goal by Anthony Stokes in the dying seconds – probably most of the 37,000 there, I would think.

So as far as we are concerned, a thrashing leads to a win in the next game. As Marx so succinctly put it: “The thesis becomes the antithesis.” Mind you, his knowledge of football was not great as I seem to remember him being part of a team beaten by a bunch of Greeks, or was it Long John Silver impersonators?

Here’s hoping that Wigan follow in the footsteps of fellow “niners” Ipswich Town, who lost the next three games after their whupping at Old Trafford in 1995. If that happens, Uncle Dave can blame Chris Hutchings, Paul Jewell and probably Brian Hamilton and Harry McNally as well as Steve.

And what of my prediction? Well, I reckon that neither side will concede nine. If we do, the man to blame is former manager Tom Watson, who left us in the lurch in 1896 with a bunch of players who were not quite up to it, and we have struggled ever since. Dave Whelan will be nodding in agreement.

5 thoughts on “Soapbox: Wigan, Sunderland and a sobering history of bouncebacks”

  1. I’ll never make a proof reader will I, Bill. It should, of course, say THREE thrashings, not the gobbledygook that is written above. Apologies.

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