Sixer’s Soapbox: Spurs add to an already cruel February

It may be a taxing time for Harry Redknapp, but Pete Sixsmith sees his Spurs team show Sunderland exactly what you need to be a Champions League team.

T S Eliot (not a renowned football fan) wrote that “April is the cruellest month”. For Sunderland fans, replace April with February and you have a truism if ever there was one.

February sorts out the teams who will and the teams who won’t. Go into March top of the League, be it FA Premier or Northern, and the chances are that you will finish the season there. Ditto at the bottom.

Hit a slump in February and you can wave goodbye to a top six finish – it happened in 2000 with 2 points out of 9 and again in 2001 with a similar return and with an FA Cup exit thrown in.

This year we have played three games in February and have lost all three. We have scored some good goals, played some neat and tidy football – and have defended like Stockport County on a bad day.

The Spurs game was a great example of all that is promising and all that is disappointing. We played some lively one touch football and had a good Spurs side on the back foot early on. Gyan scored an excellent goal; good ball by Malbranque to Richardson (who had made a superb run), neat pass to Gyan, who turned the defender and shot across Gomes. For the third game in a row we were a goal ahead early on. You know what happens next.

We continued to move the ball around well, with Muntari playing the Dwight Yorke role. Pick the ball up, lay it off, put pressure on a shaky Spurs defence. Henderson ran around to left and right to collect it and give it to Muntari while Sessegnon, Malbranque and Richardson probed and looked for gaps that Gyan could exploit.

But the killer ball was not played and the second goal did not come. Instead, we gave away two avoidable goals.

I am sure that Gordon will be castigated by some because the ball went through his legs, but let’s ask about the marking of Dawson from the corner. Non-existent. He is the tallest player on the field and not one of our defenders went to him. His downward header was a strong one and it came at Gordon through a crowded goalmouth. It looked like Gallas had positioned himself in front of the keeper, blocking his vision.

The second one was a hat trick of defensive blunders. Sandro was allowed to gallop down the right hand side and when Mensah headed his cross away, it went straight to the unmarked Krancjar. His volley was a low and hard and left Gordon with no chance. But, two unmarked players and a poor header and you are 2-1 down and chasing the game.

We weren’t up to it. The midfield ran out of steam, just like it did at Stoke. Muntari was allowed less room than he had had at the Kick and Rush Stadium and was forced further and further back. Consequently, Henderson had to play deeper and that made it difficult for the ball to be played forward. Sessegnon tired as did Malbranque and Richardson got involved in a squabble with Corluka. End of game for us.

It wasn’t a bad game though. Both sides are a cut above the hoi-polloi in the middle of the league and I was impressed with the Spurs’ work ethic. Krancjar was excellent. He ran hard, passed well and took his goal brilliantly. Modric and Bale must be good if they can keep him out. I would love to see him in a red and white shirt next season.

Defensively, they looked sound once Gallas had sorted his footwear out. He and Dawson did well and looked a very solid partnership. Dawson is similar to Michael Turner – big, strong and willing and you only realise how important he is when he isn’t there. All credit to their fans as well. This was an excellent turn out for a late kick off. I hope they do well against AC Milan next week.

We now go into another difficult group of four and these will decide whether we are battling it out with the Bar Codes for the vitally important Cock Of The North Championship. The new players have a little bit of time to bed in and there is the possibility that one of Campbell or Turner may be available for our trip back to the 60s at Goodison Park.

Hopefully, we can work on these defensive frailties in that time. Mistakes and errors have cost us dearly in the last few games and have shown us that we are still well short of challenging for a European place. If people are to sacrifice Greek TV and several pints of John Smiths Smooth, the players on the field and the coaching staff need to convince them that The Stadium of Light is a better bet than The Willow Pond or the Mountain Daisy.

13 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: Spurs add to an already cruel February”

  1. Thanks for all of the positive postings lads. You’ve cheered me up. I was feeling very low after Saturday. I’m going to go along with the majority view this week which is far more upbeat than I expected!

  2. Three losses in a row isn’t a good thing but, like Martin, I’m not depressed. We’re playing good football and, when the injury list clears up, we’ll play better football. We’re still well-placed, we’re still solid.

  3. Martin , I agree to some extent about Henderson – he has a great engine – will run non-stop – but the comment about improving on set pieces – if he can’t kick the ball past the first defender now , at set pieces – he never will !!!!
    Malbranque and Sess were superb first half – but why WHY – do all our midfielders when having a shot – hit the ball straight to the goalkeeper – Steed 2nd half’s effort was a perfect example of that – try aiming for the post – the goals will come . Do they never have shooting practise in training – I’m begininning to think not !
    I was really frsutrated on Saturday because we really should have won that game – a 2nd goal would have seen Spurs off – as for marking at corners etc – I can’t wait for Turner to return .
    All that said – it’s great to see some of the football we are playing – at times in the first half it was almost like watching Brazil – defensive frailities included !!

  4. 3 losses in a row following the exit of Bent. He was a goalscorer and was probably the best we have had for many a year, but his departure has not stopped us scoring we seem capable of scoring everytime we go forward. How can losing a top class stiker make what was at one time the best defence in the EPL fall apart and start conceding goals. I believe the fullbacks have been encouraged to get forward to make up for our lack of attacking options ( Bardsleys goals stand testament to this) Richardson has obviously abandoned his defensive responsibilitys and they have been transferred to Henderson who is not suited to the role, Muntari who is built like a heavy weight boxer does not impose himself on the midfield and Sessegnon is an out and out offensive player. We have put our defence under pressure and they are not really coping. Stoke at no time during the game got behind or defence and depended on long throws etc which rewarded them with a win. Some fine tuning is required to make up for Bents departure not the sacking of Bruce, anyone suggesting such a move does not have the interests of the club at heart but what worries me is such sentiments can spread very quickly and need to be stamped out NOW.

  5. Agreed again Pete. Bramble looks better alongside Turner. He’s been a rock in most of the games he’s played in, but has been unconvincing recently. Mensah – when fitter is one of the best CB’c in theb world, but looks to be cooking on half steam.

    I agree with Alan and BB as regards Henderson, but I believe any weaknesses he has will be rectified in time. He is so comfortable on the ball, he has an the engine of a 747, a great footballing brain (as my dad used to say!) and he has belief in his ability. There’s a bit of a cocky edge to him, and in the modern game you need that. It’s true that he sucks at set pieces, but he’ll get better with practice. He’s going to be another Beckham – if he works hard, and fromm what I know of him, he’s a hard worker, so it’s a matter of time. Give him time lads, and I think you’ll see him flourish.

    As for yesterdays defeat, I don’t know about anyone else, but when we play at that level, and the football is that good – despite the obvious frailties, I feel less gutted than I do when we are hopeless! I still think we’ll end up having a great season.

  6. We’ve lost three games in succession from winning positions. That’s not good enough. You’d think that this happening once would be a wake up call but it hasn’t been.

    Zenden was introduced far too late in the game for me as there was a woeful lack of supply in to the box which he provided with his first touch.

    Mr Hedley. You made me smile sir with your comments about young Henderson. Henderson and the supporters perception of his has become the ultimate puzzle wrapped up in an enigma. It seems that the worse that he plays, the better a player he was. He has contributed very little in terms of goals even when he was playing well and had been providing no service at all.

    Muntari is clearly not match fit. Sessegnon looks a real live wire, but for some reason we seemed to want to play across about 18 yards of the pitch. We had no width at all with a central midfield that were more of a hazard to each other than any of the Spurs midfielders. I was almost relieved to see the introduction of Elmo (Yes, I am only kidding). With his crossing we should ask the groundsman to mark out some tramlines down the sides like they do in tennis.

  7. I’m not getting paid, Martin. Put some pressure on M. Salut for me, please.
    Sometimes we think football is an exact science but it isn’t. Players are men who lose their concentration, forget their instructions, make mistakes. I do all of those at work, but it’s not in front of 40,000 people and millions on TV. We need a central defender who will take responsibility as Bruce did when he played. That could be Turner if he returns soon. In the meantime, we need to keep playing football and hope that Everton and Arsenal can be outpassed by us. Neither seem to favour the high ball.

  8. Does anyone remember Mr Angry from Steve Wright in the afternoon? You thought he’d disappeared for good right? Wrong. He’s back in the shape of Tony D!! That outrageously ridiculous post is typical of a bloke who stays away from the stadium coz they won’t let him smoke!! All those ‘tabs’ have gone to your brain mate. Do you snip the filters off your Woodbines! I’m not even going to respond to your comments about Steve Bruce, because I have faith that people will treat them with the contempt they so richly deserve. You’re not a Sunderland supporter, you’re a village fool, with no ability to discriminate!

    Conversely, Pete Sixsmith is a master of reporting a game accurately. If you’re not making any money out of this mate, then you should be.

    Considering Spurs were without Bale, Van de Vaart and Modric, I thought they were excellent. Tough to break down, used the ball well on the break, and their midfield was well organised.

    I thought our football in the first half was top six quality, and some of the passing and movement was better then I’ve ever seen from a Sunderland team. This can be attributed to some pretty good coaching! We were just a little impotent in the final third. Defensively, we were found wanting again, and I’m sure Harry picked up on our set piece weakness from the Stoke game, and exploited it.

    When we get Wellbeck and Campbell, and Turner back, and the two outstanding new lads get fit, we will be formidable. We have the best coach in England, and it’s high times for genuine discerning Sunderland fans.

    The ungrateful moronic brigade will have egg on their faces – let me tell yer.

  9. Apologies for the delay in getting comments from first time posters onto the board. I’m standing in for M. Salut who’s driving the 350 miles home, and am a bit slower off the mark than he is. But comments from all supporters are welcome.

  10. I don’t know what it is. Is it a glass ceiling? Is it vertigo? Whenever we get so close to the top 6 (not too often, I know) something seems to say that we are not allowed into this hallowed territory.
    The very top clubs have the simple answer – spend, then spend again, and when you’ve done that, spend again & again…I’m not sure we can do that, and I’m not sure that I would be happy with that policy.
    What is it that we really want? Look at the grief that Wenger/Ancelotti/Mancini et al get when they slip to 4th – or even worse, 5th. Even with Fergie, once you’re at the top, being 2nd becomes a failure.
    Play decent stuff, win more than you lose, score in every game, give your all – is this enough to keep us happy?
    I’m gutted at this loss against Spurs who are clearly stronger than last season at the SoL when they were poor – even with a massive game for them looming this week.
    We even seem to be playing well ourselves – but hitting that glass ceiling.
    I’m trying to be realistic & pragmatic, but I still don’t know what it is that we really want other than just enjoying our footy. What Premier Lge position do we want to finish in – is 6th enough? Would 7th be a failure? After fighting relegation for so many years, this seems like a success to be celebrated.
    I’m shutting up now as the wine is wearing off.

  11. Time I got on my soapbox, lets be honest, we were better than Spurs individually but once again shown to be badly prepared and badly coached, Once again, SB blames the players which I find unsurprising any more, its always the players fault and never his or buddy Erics fault. Has anyone noticed that top managers and coaches make sure never to criticise players but to look to the positives, SB has now spent a small fortune on players who seem to be lacking when you listen to his usual excuses (the players are to blame). The sooner others realise that this bloke is a chancer and a pretty poor manager the better. By the way, Quinny, yes I have a season ticket, I pay for mine, I dont get in for free, and I dont earn a million plus a year for the priviledge.

  12. I watched this game courtesy of Salut and Lady Sue and I had the pleasure of meeting CR to collect our tickets all I can say is that the pain filled climb ( for me ) up into the gods was well worth the trip and the effort so a huge thank you to Salut.

    Your summary is a very erudite view of the game. The legs went, (not mine they had gone before I started), not surprisingly for Malbranque who ran his socks off for the team and the newcomers are not yet match fit. We did see some of the best football I have seen Sunderland play in a long time. This lasted as long as we closed Spurs down, thereafter the passes began to go astray and they then had too much time on the ball.

    Two great goals in terms of the manner in which they were taken and yet another gifted to Spurs by an inept set piece defence by us.

    Two minor additions, just personal opinions, Henderson is not the revelation many give him credit for. He is a young lad who has had a few good games and a lot to learn. Until he does I personally, having watched him in five games squander almost every set piece and corner kick that he has takeny would not let him near a free kick or corner. Harsh? Perhaps but he has not got the ball control to justify such a role he would be better sticking his head in the way of a preferable hard driven accurate ball. It might bring him BACK INTO THE REAL WORLD.

    Roll on the return of our midfield we need them to control a game.

    The second is that nowhere have I read any comment on yet another abysmally one sided display of refereeing. Even Lady Sue, a football viewing novice but an experience sportswoman herself, commented on how one sided the decisions were.

    It is incongruous that the side that had the fewest fouls awarded against them had the most yellow cards. Shoulder to shoulder 50/50 challenges invariably had fouls awarded against Sunderland, small wonder the crowd was howling “you’re not fit to be a referee”.

    A draw might have been a fair result, two penalties could have been awarded to us, about five handballs perpetrated by Spurs were ignored and an attempt by a goalie after a 50/50 ball to get our striker sent off received the approbation it merited. He should have had to tolerate the attention Gordon got last week and perhaps his delayed collapse might have been justified.

    Oh yes Match of The Day does it ever show the real performance by our club?

  13. A very pithy and well informed article Pete,great to see so much flair in the written word.I seem to be making a habit of coming onto this site,and I am a Spurs fan.

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