As expected, Pete Sixsmith found plenty to say about last night’s big, OK biggish, match – including his dismay at Sunderland AFC’s apparent determination to play most of this season’s second-string home games with the public barred …
An agreeable start to Sunderland’s competitive season saw the Reserves (never again to be referred to as “The Stiffs”) win the Tote Cup in a decent game against the mighty, mighty Walsall at a quiet and rather damp Eppleton CW.
For the princely sum of £3, I was able to watch some very promising young players from both teams tussle for early season silverware. For us, Trevor Carson (a venerable 24-year-old now), Jordan Cook, Liam Bagnall and Louis Laing stood out, while Walsall had an accomplished central defender in Manny Smith and boasted the wonderfully named Jamie Tank.
Both sides tried to pass the ball and there was a refreshing lack of kick and rush, typified by two very impressive long balls from Laing to left winger Adam Mitchell. There does seem to be a policy within the club of passing the ball rather than hoofing it.
Jordan Cook put us ahead from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Lee Beevers (not that he would agree with that) and Carson made three very good saves to keep the Saddlers at bay. He is a good keeper and should be playing in the Football League regularly, either as a loanee or permanently.
The other two came near the end from Oumare Tounkara, the first being a very well taken effort after he had been put through by centre half John Egan’s excellent pass. The Frenchman had a quiet game, but it’s the sign of a good player that they can score after having appeared to have done very little. He is a good outlet and may well get a place on the bench before the season is far in.
There are some good players at this level, but it’s a bit of a lottery trying to work out who will make it and who won’t. Laing looked very accomplished; he reads the game well and glides into position – more of a Johnny Evans than a Steve Hetzke, while Liam Bagnall at right back continues to impress me. He clearly watches Phil Bardsley carefully and has the same attributes as Wee Shugghie, although he can cross a ball.
I can’t see either Cook or Tounkara lining up at Anfield yet. In fact, there must still be doubts about the game going ahead after the troubles of this week. I gather that the PL have until tomorrow (Friday) to make up their minds, which is a bit late for those intending to travel from a distance (all our fans and 60 per cent of Liverpool’s). We shall see.
Pleased to see George McCartney got himself fixed up at West Ham. Clearly the maxim “Never go back” is one that he intends to ignore so we can expect to see him returning to Sunderland in 2013. I’m sure that Pop Robson went from West Ham to us three times in all.
It would be good to see Nyron and Matt Killgallon get fixed up as well. Both are decent pros who really cannot afford to waste a season doing nothing. Reserve team football is now for the Development Squad so nothing for those two or for any others who drop out of the first team picture.
It looks as if a fair proportion of the Reserves’ fixtures are going to be played at The Academy, on a Tuesday afternoon, behind closed doors. That’s a shame as it is enjoyable to watch the developing players er, develop. Hopefully the club can sort something out with its insurers and let in those fans who are looking for a football rush on midweek afternoons.