Soapbox: crestfallen at Craven Cottage


You have been warned. Pete Sixsmith has been in better moods. Sunderland-supporting readers of a sensitive disposition may wish to lock themselves into a small padded room and listen to the collected works of Jedward. If you’re built of stronger stuff, this is Pete’s verdict on a Sunday by the Thames made so dismal by Steve Bruce’s dunces that he wishes he’d stayed in the White Horse and ordered a £9 pint of Thomas Hardy ale. What on earth did Niall Quinn’s guest, Martina Navratilova, make of it? …

As I
dragged myself from a warm bed this morning, still groggy after a long journey back from the latest away shambles, I heard the BBC newsreader say that the Government were worried about an increase in depression and anxiety.

One way to prevent this malaise among the red and white army, I snorted, would be to teach defenders to attack the ball when it is punted into the penalty box.

It was that basic error that led to the only goal of the game at Craven Cottage. Pantsil’s high ball was left by Bardsley, Turner and Fulop, allowing Zamora to head it into the net. Even Mike Dean looked surprised that Premier League defenders had given away such a sloppy and careless goal. Not as surprised or as shocked as we were, Mike!!

If you thought that Wigan was bad and decided not to make the trip to west London, you made a wise choice. The first half was as bad as anything produced last season and has sent alarm bells ringing as we look at a run of games where we have taken four points out of the last 18.

That is relegation form and as Portsmouth and Wolves pick up points and Fulham and Birmingham move above us, the optimism of late summer and early autumn is disappearing as quickly as steelworkers jobs’ on Teesside. Anxiety beckons.

Fulham are a decent side, well drilled and well organised. They do their homework and knew that if Reid was stopped, Sunderland’s creative juices ceased to flow. How right they were. Double cover on the Irishmen meant that we created precisely nothing from midfield until Zenden appeared late in the game. He did force a save out of the impressive Mark Schwarzer, which was more than Henderson, Cana, Malbranque and Reid managed. So far, our midfielders have contributed three league goals this season. Depressing.

The defending was poor throughout. Ferdinand was awful, Nosworthy no better when he came on. His first act was to grab the shirt of a passing Fulham player, nearly giving away a penalty before he had broken sweat. Turner was indecisive, Bardsley did OK, but is not a Premier League full back and Richardson was identified as the weak link and the ball was persistently played over his head. Stressful to watch.

The Brucester is still a long way from sorting out his back four, but he needs to make decisions and make them quickly and well. I get the feeling that he sees Mensah as a long term project, if he can get him fit. Ferdinand should be allowed to leave in January and I don’t imagine that McCartney is especially keen on staying much longer. On this performance, Nyron should stick to fashion shows. Brave yes, composed no. Worrying.

Not much better up front, but if the service is so poor, what can they do.? We have a centre forward in Jones who can, if given the right ball, open up defences. Two years ago, he made Hangeland look like a Norwegian novice as he took him apart. Yesterday, the Scandinavians mastered the Trinidadian, while our England hopeful looked for scraps elsewhere. None was forthcoming. Misery


Fulham is an enjoyable ground to visit, with a plethora of decent pubs, good transport links and the redolence of times past. A jolly hour on the Tube was followed up by some good craic in the White Horse at Parsons Green, where all the beers appeared to be strong enough to put you to sleep. Maybe Turner, Bardsley and Fulop had been partaking of the Robinson’s Old Tom pre match. Hopeless.

Portsmouth up next and this suddenly takes on a whole new meaning: lose this one and we are looking at the beginnings of a relegation scrap. That’s not what were promised back in August. Time for action, Steve and Eric; Give us something to look forward to, please or my therapist may well be working overtime.

9 thoughts on “Soapbox: crestfallen at Craven Cottage”

  1. Hi good article about the worldcup in Sout Africa. I can’t wait the Socceroos to win a few matches. Go the best team in the world, Australia(or New Zealand second choice) !!!

  2. Relegation scrap does seem a bit OTT in all honesty.

    Our form reminds me of Man City last season, another work in progress team.

    I think teams have got our gameplan sussed and it’s all to easy for them to close the game down. Time to ring the changes Stevey Boy. Also I may be wrong but when SB was at Wigan did they not go on a 5-8 game run of bad’uns then a run of good results then back to a run of bad.

    In short I don’t subscribe to this relegation panic idea, maybe the good start to the season gave us a false impression. I still think eighth has Sunderlands name on it!

  3. You are right Bill, it does swing from one extreme to another. But the away performances recently have been so poor that there is some cause for concern and all I do is make my feelings known. I wrote this piece at work on Monday after spending 12 hours on a coach and dashing around London, so my brain may well have been a little frazzled.
    But I am beginning to have some fears. We have not created a goal in the last four games and have not kept a clean sheet away from home since Bolton in August. Maybe victories earlier in the season painted a false picture. This is the time of year when the season you are going to have becomes reality. Two wins at home against Villa and Portsmouth, followed by points from Manchester City, Everton and Blackburn would make things look better, but the paucity of the first half on Sunday, and the improvement from awful to poor in the second half, does not give me a lot of optimism.
    Maybe Wenger was right. We play well when we can stop the other team from playing, but we do not create a great deal. We shall see; watch this space for more male menopausal mood swings!!!!

  4. As both Pete and Colin know, I have the highest regard for Pete as a football writer (and social commentator) and I’d love to see his collected thoughts given far wider currency.
    That said, I’m beginning to detect a seesaw effect in his weekly assessment of Sunderland. When they pull off a good result, especially against a top team, everything in the garden is lovely and great things are in the offing. When they lose, then suddenly thoughts of relegation intrude.
    It’s all a bit — perish the thought! — black and white. Admittedly, without possessing Pete’s knowledge, expertise and insight, I see it more in shades of grey. And we knew going in that Fulham’s a tough team to beat on their home turf.
    Yes, Sunderland do indeed need to find some consistency of form. With all due respect, I wish Pete would show a little more balance in his reactions and less of a manic-depressive approach.

  5. Pete: You misunderstand. Access to the comments field has been widened as part of a conscious attempt at positive discrimination in favour of the hard of thinking.

  6. So nice to get such a reasoned and valued comment from the Toon Army, once again showing all of their intellectual power. It must be great to be beating the likes of Swansea and Watford. I bet Mike Ashley is having the time of his life sniggering at them.

  7. Hahahaaaa! idiots-only one direction ya goin and its not higher sunshine-does yoyo club (by quinns admission) ring any bells? Geordies! Geordies! Top of the League! X

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