Teacher turned part-time postman, Gordon Taylor* joins the illustrious band of Salut! Sunderland writers but is given the hardest of first-day-at-school tasks: make SAFC v Colchester sound fun …
Did you see the interview with Ancelotti at the weekend where he was asked why his Chelsea team never seem to ease up towards the end, whoever they are playing, however many they have scored? He said something like “The supporters pay to watch 90 minutes of football, so we play for 90 minutes”! Simple, but brilliant.
Last night, a chance to watch our heroes, and the manager, pit their wits against some allegedly lesser beings at a ‘bargain’ price. ‘Only’ £15 on the door and for a full 90 minutes of ‘football’! At Sunderland we rarely get more than one decent half, if that. Either go off like the clappers, then spend the 2nd half trying to defend whatever sort of lead we might have scratched together, or look surprised there’s a match on, then get a smacking at half-time and give it a bit of a go late on, with limited success.
As we pondered the approaching battle over limitless grub at the Panda Piggery, it seemed a bit of a no-win situation unless we really turned on the style and humiliated our inferior opponents and when was the last time we had a team who seemed capable of doing that. The food, though, WAS a bargain, half-decent, fresh, variety, consistent. I’d give it 8/10 as a ‘value for money’ rating. Result: Always busy. Customers keep coming back.
I had an almost football free weekend at Green Man in South Wales with constant quality entertainment over three (plus) days for £120. No excuses at any time for not being entertained because if you didn’t like what was on this stage, a couple of minutes walk and you could be watching another band/DJ/film/comedian. Value for money, 9/10 and there wasn’t really much the organisers could do about the weather. Result: sold out months ago.
So, what did we get for £15 last night? A relatively strong team, despite 6 changes from Saturday (strength in depth, see?). Pleased to see Welbeck start, though an hour later, I struggled to remember anything he had actually done. A chance for Bent to bash a few goals in and overtake Carroll at the top of the scorers chart, perhaps? Well, he caught him up at least, but with 2 gifts from their keeper rather than the result of our ‘gifted’ midfielders creating anything for him. For much of the time he seemed to be expected to fulfil the Kenwyne role as he battled for optimistic hoofs up the middle (one of which did result in the first goal, to be fair).
Zenden and Cattermole did OK, one golden moment when the latter knocked the tiny little blond lad through the air, quite fairly though, and he produced a couple of ferocious, but well-timed challenges. Richardson, who has the air of a man who has just signed another big fat contract, is probably ‘valued’ at more than the entire assets of Colchester United, should have been relishing the chance to show us his midfield skills against such lowly opposition but …….. The ‘new, improved’ Campbell, despite being turfed out to the wing again should have been running their defenders ragged, but ……. Waghorn did more than those 2 and Welbeck combined during his brief appearance and produced our best shot of the season so far, his 25 yarder coming back off the bar. Missed a simple chance near the end though.
All in all then, very little of interest at the Colchester end of the pitch. Disapponted by the back four announcement, “Why doesn’t he play the defence for Sunday and give them a chance to get to know each other” I protested. “Maybe he is …” suggested the venerable Mr Nichol. So, Milner, Johnson, Tevez and Balotelli up against Bardsley, Bramble, Turner and …….. Ferdinand?!? Further confusion when they start off the wrong way round, and stay there for the whole game, Bardsley – left back, Ferdinand – right?!? They both had decent games, especially Bardsley, but against who? Agger was criticised as a ‘makeshift left back’ against Johnson, do we have better than Bardsley? He can defend and will give 100% wherever he is playing. Alternatives, Richardson, Ferdinand or even Da Silva don’t look any better. And he did get forward, and pinged a decent shot in, cutting in onto his right foot. Scandalous that we’re discussing this, no proper left-back in the entire club.
Good to have Turner back, no nonsense, commitment, him and Bramble could work together, I think/hope/pray. However, our most impressive player was Mignolet, several good saves, came off his line and caught the ball, very quickly out to the edge of the box more than once BUT he was certainly the busier of the two keepers. Against Colchester United. What? Me, worry?!?
Welcome back Andy Reid, lean, fit, but playing in front of the back four?!? He played for the reserves today, as well, along with Waghorn and Colback (and Riveros, Da Silva and …. Angeleri) though they couldn’t manage a goal between them (another penalty miss for Waghorn!)
All in all, then, pretty poor entertainment for the somewhat-derided 13,500 crowd, no better than 5/10 really. Comfortable win, still in the hat, but is that really enough, even for £15? I don’t think so, but, see you at the next one, eh?
Footnote: My personal value for money rating took a bit of a battering when I lost me car park ticket and had to pay £12 to get out. Think it will be the bus on Sunday.
* Gordon Taylor on Gordon Taylor: former teacher (28 years), now part-time postie. First match: Sunderland – 5 v Benfica – 3 (1963 – canny start!). Best match: Newcastle – 1 v Sunderland – 4 (1979). Worst match: Sunderland – 0 v Norwich – 1 (Wembley 1985). Currently watching from the West Stand.
The photo was taken in my wife’s village in North East Thailand
(Baan Nong Po). As it is customary during the Thai new year to ‘make merit’ with Buddha by performing random acts of kindness, I decided to kit out the village team in an appropriate manner. The entire team including the keeper cost me £25! Although it was taken a while ago (the two little ‘uns in the squad are now both 6 foot season ticket holders at the SOL!) some of the shirts can still be spotted around the village. Apparently my next life should be a big improvement (so, at least a Champions League place?).