The Newcastle Soapbox: demolition derby diminishes Bruce

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.

19 thoughts on “The Newcastle Soapbox: demolition derby diminishes Bruce”

  1. Known Pete for a lot of years and the comments must have been hard to write. However, he seems to have summed up the day. Had to watch again on MOTD and didn’t realise first time around how many other chances went begging. The consolation for SAFC fans is that it can’t be any worse than that, and from a performance perspective, it might help change things. Why buy a class act from the world cup and leave him on the bench. What has Catermole done to deserve the capt armband other than kick people upside down – summed up when SB took him off before ref sent him off. SAFC have often been at their best when they got about teams – not trying to bore teams into submission. One swallow doesn’t make a summer and a visit to Arsenal will surely bring us back down to earth but SB needs to change things before he loses the fans.

  2. Fair comment Monsieur Salut.
    I knew that Pete would be more accurate – and we did come close early on. However, the marker had been laid down by Newcastle straight from the kick-off. Unusually for me, my glass has been half-empty ever since.
    I was certainly very positive about many aspects of the Villa game.

  3. I just got an email from Alan Sims (a close friend in spite of his unreasoning love of all things black-and-white): “Clocks went back yesterday. I almost forgot about it until someone reminded me it was five past Sunderland.” I laughed in spite of myself.

    Almuhammadi has had his moments since he came to Sunderland. But Welbeck? January’s only two months away…

  4. Maybe it is just clutching at straws, Geoff, but I thought we had moderately bright moments in the first 10 minutes, maybe 15 as Pete says. The Henderson shot was desperately close and we at least looked as if we were from the same division.

  5. I said most of my piece on another thread – just to add that I disagree with Pete on only 1 thing. I don’t think it was after 15 mins as Newcastle set the tone from the very start – we didn’t touch the ball throughout the first minute (from memory) and it sort of went downhill from there.
    I thought the ref had an excellent game and tried hard not to send anyone off – all credit to him as we deserved none.
    Bardsley was terrific and I’m sure Bent would have been given half a chance.
    Getting beat is bad enough. Getting beat in a Derby is the pits but getting beat like that is frankly appalling. Respect to Newcastle, they were excellent and even I felt proud for Hughton who seems to be a decent bloke.
    I remember Barton coming on at the Sol a couple of years back and getting deserved grief – but looking like their best player. He did it again this game but had lots of other similar ones around him.
    I think the fat lady is now gargling.
    Strange no-one has mentioned O’Neill??

  6. Martin’s post has summed it up perfectly for me. The only good thing about this for the likes of Martin, Bill and me is that we are fortunate enough to be thousands of miles away. Today that is something to be grateful for.

    If we see the ‘Egyptian Beckham’ wheeled out for the next game together with the ridiculous Welbeck who short of the hole in his arse disappearing is never going to be any use whatsoever, let alone get on the scoresheet. This is a rude awakening for Bruce. Let’s hope that he heeds it. The best two centre halves (maybe apart from Per Mertesacker) at the World Cup sitting on the bench and our record signing sitting alongside them.

    The fat lady may not be singing for Bruce yet, but she’s sucking a lozenge.

  7. Teams are weird things. We’ve all known or played with great players who either shine when one nil (or two nil or three nil) down or collapse under the same circumstances. Yesterday we saw a wholesale collapse. Hardly any of them stepped up under pressure and definitely not after the first goal went in. The fact that we lost so badly (and continue to lose away again and again) speaks to on-field character not ability. These are different but equally important contributors to football team success. Steve Bruce needs to get to grips with this issue or else all the good work and the money that Mr Short is providing will go to waste. Note that winning vs Stoke won’t do it. Even the flakiest can step up at home. we need to get after people away from home.
    In the meantime, I will suffer a continuing dismal Monday afternoon in the depths of Newcastle.

  8. After my journey from Durham to Canada the day before the game left me so jet-lagged that I was suffering hallucinations, I still dragged my sorry backside up at 5am to watch what I believed would be a very close encounter, but hoping that our perceived superior class, and recent superb performances would tip the scales in our favour.

    I had three nagging concerns in the shape of Nolan, Barton and especially Andy Carroll. I thought there was a chance that their power and never-say-die style might cause the likes of Welbeck, Henderson and Elmo a few “problems”. Stone me if I wasn’t right! Not only did they cause them a few probs, they tore them up similar to how a lion dismantles a wilderbeast.

    Frankly, that performance and result hurt me more than any other. Even more than the play-off final against Charlton! After such a gutless capitulation, from a fans perspective, graciousness becomes the only option of response, and Sixer’s intellegent, pride-swallowing, courageous report is an apt reflection of how we played. They steam-rollered us off the park, and Barton and Nolan were undeniably magnificent. Tiotte was up there too. Phil Bardsley is the only one of our players who can hold up his head. The only one to “get it”.

    As I was watching, on the back of 9 cups of strong coffee, I recalled those famous Peter Reid words after being muscled out of it by Wimbledon. “Men against boys”. How ironical that SB used the term post match!!

    It looked to me like some of ours, notably Welbeck, Turner, Elmo, didn’t realize what they were involved in. At least, that’s how they played. Our opposition, on the other hand, played exactly how fans hope for on these occasions, especially when so much is at stake.

    For months in advance we anticipate this game. It means everything. To a lot of folk it’s more significant than anything else in life. I have never been able to understand the extent of the ferocious hate and loathing between two sets of fans, borne out of geographic proximity, but as a matter of instinct I covet a victory and a performance in this game, more than any other. The magnitude of this fixture was only understood by the team not wearing red. The players get to drive home to their palace in their Bentley, Range Rover or Porsche to the warmth of a gorgeous wag’s bottom. We get to return to a shack with an outside nettie to lick wounds that will probably never heal until we give it back to them. It’s a hard life.

    The fact is lads and girls, our players bent over and said “kick me and be sure to put some stink on it man”. As fans, we have to have the sack to take the oh-so-familiar smugness in the aftermath, because this time, we were so badly outdone I have nothing to come back with.

    Let’s try not to knee jerk though. Although some giant-sized holes have been exposed, we have to remember that Brucie has given us a team that on it’s day can produce stuff never seen before on Wearside. Of course he’ll be judged on this result, but he’s hurting like we are. Keep the faith in what we have.

    Lastly, I have been surprised to see some almost human comments from some Mags and that takes a bit of class. Whilst I hope that I never have to say this again in my lifetime – Well played Newcastle.

  9. As I said yesterday, it’s only one game and I don’t believe it sets the tone for the rest of the season. But I hope Malcolm’s right and that Ellis Short has Bruce on the carpet this week. With a broom handle to reinforce his backbone.
    As Pete says of Hughton: “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.”
    Why the hell couldn’t SB have selected a team of men and told them to go out and overrun the boys in black and white? Quite clearly, he didn’t. And, under the very dubious leadership of Cattermole, they couldn’t figure it out for themselves. Instead of playing from the outset to win, they play not to lose. I’m becoming more and more convinced that Bruce really would be happy to come away from every game with a single point.
    Is Hughton really now unsackable? Given Newcastle’s track record of dubious managerial choices, who knows? But if he is shown the door, Short and Quinn should maybe be waiting for him in the carpark with a chequebook.

  10. Not a lot to add really except to say that it would seem that (unlike recent seasons) there is not much difference in quality between the teams outside the top three or four. We were totally outplayed yesterday. Ignoring Chelski, Manure and the Arse I believe that on their day any of the other teams could overwhelm one of the others who don’t perform. It’s our misfortune that the Mags turned up yesterday and we have to live with that until we can turn them over.

    But a big worry for me is that we don’t seem to have a midfielder who will get in the box and threaten the opposition the way that Nolan did yesterday. Welbeck isn’t doing it. Before his injury Campbell looked like he might be able to play that role and I had hoped Riveros might have done too.

    Just a thought but of SB’s many signings, Mignolet and Bramble apart, all those getting regular starts are the loan signings. Angeleri, Riveros, Gyan, Da Silva rarely feature. I think Ellis Short will be asking questions of the manager sooner rather than later.

  11. great piece,:) very truthfull.

    toon fan here, thought i would come on to read how things where so unfair,, but , how wrong could i be,,,

    if any fan out there tells the truth,, we all expected a close, game they normally are, but to win 5-1 ,, well it was never on anyones cards,,

    2 players from your team can hold there heads up, bardsly,and bent, the rest, didnt impress on the day,,,

    from my point ov view, i think we played ok all season so far,, but houton only played 1 up front, and expected nolan to play midfield and up front,, he dont have the lags for that,,

    when we play 2 up top, there is so much more space,

    i think it was a huge mistake to play bramble, this was a masive game,, and thats when he makes mistakes,, i thinkk the boy does have quality,, for a defender he can spray the ball about better than most, but big ocasions get to him,,

    keep your chins up

    it will only last a few weeks,

    ps i think we will be in europe next season.. lmao,, really ifwe finish between 8-15 il be happy,, we are all about the same , but there are 3 worse teams than us and you’s

  12. Surprised? Definately! From my immediate thoughts at 6.45am yesterday morning when I didn’t really want to wake up but did through to deciding where to go to watch the match (I was supposed to be on duty but it was cancelled on Friday) it was a horrid, horrid time up until kick off.
    For all the bluster from us NUFC fans about the result, not one of us, hand on heart, can say we expected that. I had us down for a draw as both teams are hardly pulling up trees. We will enjoy it, of course we will, but it’s tinged with reality that this is only 3 points and we still have a long slog till the end of the season.
    So yes, a great result for us B&W’s and as I’ve said, one we’ll savour for a long time, but very, very unexpected. Oh and Hughton won’t be sacked, new contract signed by the end of the week and the rumours started by Alan Oliver and grabbed on by Brian ‘Bison head’ Woolnough will soon be forgotten.

  13. As always, comments from Sunderland and non-Sunderland fans alike are welcome, subject to ordinary rules of decency – and also subject to the simple anti-spam device of a short delay for moderation if you haven’t posted previously.

  14. A very good report I am a dyed in the wool Geodie & Toon supporter living down south. The result was unexpected and was so comprehensive that at the end I was almost feeling sorry for the Mackems but then again I soon got over that & just enjoyed our biggest derby win since 1956

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