Long years, decades even, of disappointment and underachievement have made most Sunderland fans realists. Painful as it may be to face up to this, we were outclassed on the day by a Newcastle United team that deserved its massive win as much as we deserved (again, we hope, on the day) to have our quality – and yes, Steve Bruce’s tactics – exposed as woeful. A forlorn Pete Sixsmith gets it off his chest as an alternative to trying in vain to sleep …
Well, I didn’t see that coming. I thought there was a chance of us losing but not like that. Two average sides, one lightweight but with a sound defence and the other rather slow and ponderous with a tendency to concede goals at home; it looked like a 1-1 or 2-1 to me.
But 5-1? The result did not flatter them. There are no excuses to be made – we can’t say that the ref was useless, the goals were offside, they got lucky bounces. They were streets, miles, light years ahead of us in tactical nous, determination and ability.
Hughton is surely unsackable after this. He got everything right. He selected a team of men and told them to go out and overrun the boys in red and white. And that is what they did: they overran us from the 15th minute onwards.
By this time, Elmohamady had been firmly placed in Enrique’s pocket, Welbeck had flinched away from at least two challenges and our hopes of getting at them down the wings had evaporated.
The three players in the middle were outclassed by Nolan and Barton who must have sat in the dressing room at half time laughing their heads off at Cattermole, our “enforcer”.
He put one great tackle in on Nolan, but failed dismally to show any signs of leadership or set any kind of example. Running around a lot, waving his arms in the air and squabbling with the referee does not make a captain.
Three quarters of the back four were dismal. I thought Bardsley had a decent game in the context of this disaster, but the other three were shocking.
Turner struggled last week against Heskey. On Sunday, he was destroyed by Carroll, a player I have likened to Kevin Kyle. How wrong can you be? He pulled Turner and Bramble all over the place and along with Ameobi, created the space for the first two goals.
How did we let those in? Why did nobody pick up Nolan? Did anyone on the pitch take any responsibility or were they unaware that Nolan feeds off the two forwards?
Two forwards – that’s something we rarely see. Bent was left alone again, with absolutely no support. The idea that Malbranque and Henderson will get behind him is redundant; they don’t. Instead, he is left there, isolated, looking for scraps and being made to look an ordinary player when he is exceptionally good in the box.
This was a humiliation and one which will take a lot of getting over. For Bruce, it may well be terminal. He has been given large amounts of money by the owner but at the first sign of pressure, the team crumbles.
The owner may retain some faith in him, but many fans won’t. Last season’s slide was bad enough, but to lose your first derby 5-1 and to play in such a clueless and limpid manner is, in the eyes of many, unforgivable.
I am sure that he is hurting. I am sure that the players are embarrassed and ashamed. But they don’t have to go into pubs and clubs and workplaces to be met by crowing black and whites. They live a gilded life, away from the fans and protected from the harsh realities of life.
We now have to face weeks and months of sniggering and taunting from their fans. They will enjoy it. We have to put a brave face on and accept that our manager and our players were shown up as men of straw on Sunday. But the hurt is going to be there for a long, long time and it will take a lot more than a win in the return in January to restore trust between the manager and fans.