Sixer’s Soapbox: two points dropped against Fulham and the ‘R’ word looms

Another poor show at The SoL, as we stumble to a draw against opposition we should beat. We have now won 2 out of the last 15 home games. Pete Sixsmith had high hopes of a wonderful weekend but the first of the three events he attended was the only disappointment

You occasionally get weekends which are full of things to do, things that you are looking forward to, things that you really, really want to enjoy.

I knew that two out of the three things I had planned this weekend would be fine. The one I was worried about was the Fulham game. My worries were not unfounded.

Let’s deal briefly with the two successes. Après le match, Martin Simpson was his usual excellent self at the Davy Lamp Folk Club in Washington, while Sunday evening was enlivened by the wonderful Lumière Festival in Durham City.

But I suspect that those who are able to read this couldn’t give the proverbial monkey’s about either. The sole thing that interests them is the loss of two more points to a club who are in a similar position to us – viz. beginning to contemplate a serious relegation battle.

From the Sunderland point of view, this was a wasted opportunity to get the season started – in November, just as the Christmas lights are going up and those of a certain disposition come over all wobbly at the sight of the John Lewis Christmas ad.

We have played 12 games, which is 31.57% of our season. We have won twice, once against a side who have been sidetracked by Europa League fixtures and once against a side who had lost every home game played this season. Should we carry on at this rate, we will end up with 35 points – and we all know what 35 points means; we should, we have been there enough.

We played a side who, to use a hoary old cliché, “don’t travel well”. They are a predictable side. You know exactly what you are going to get with Fulham; neat passing, strong but immobile central defenders, diving from the wretched Andy Johnson, and Bobby Zamora claiming that he has never once committed a foul in his entire professional career.

Good sides will beat them as will most half decent sides. We drew.

So, why was this? Forget the rubbish about the Cottagers being Bruce’s jinx team, as there is no such thing. Instead, look at the team he picked and the way that he set it. He was frightened of losing so he made sure that we played a similar game to Fulham in passing the ball around aimlessly in midfield and then hoping that Sessegnon might just magic something up for us.

We went into a home game with Cattermole and Colback in the centre of midfield. Both played well, but they are limited. They scrap away, win the ball and lay it off tidily. Both can tackle but neither can open up a defence or get behind the forwards to score.

Where was the midfielder who could play that telling ball? Where was the midfielder who could get behind the forwards and bear down on goal? Sitting on the bench for the whole ninety minutes, that’s where they were, while our Egyptian winger ran around a lot and achieved nothing and our first choice left back started well but faded away around the hour mark.

Vaughan and Gardner are spotted as rarely as a funny quip by Ant and Dec or a telling comment by Alan Shearer. Both came with decent reputations. Vaughan was Blackpool’s Player of the Year last year, above Charlie Adam – the same Charlie Adam who starts regularly for Liverpool, that is.

Craig Gardener would, we were told as we stumped up our season ticket money, solve the chronic lack of goals from midfield, leading to the release of Malbranque and Riveros.

Both have had minimal impact, principally because they have not been playing. Vaughan has had a few bumps and bruises (he played 35 times for Blackpool last year!) while Gardner has rarely been played in the forward position that he clearly favours.

There is a feeling that we paid massively over the odds for him and that the manager is not impressed with him. £6m wasted perhaps as he becomes the new Shaun Cunnington – plays well against us, is rubbish for us. But let’s give him a game and play him behind Bendtner.

On the way to the game on Saturday I offered my team selection. Richardson to stay at left back, with Cattermole, Vaughan and Colback strung across the middle, Gardner in front of the 3 but behind Bendtner and Sessegnon looking to pick up whatever came back from the two forwards.

Instead we got a typical Steve Bruce midfield – unimaginative, uninspiring and unable to score. This cautious approach to a game that needed to be won will be the death of us.

The substitutions were even less impressive. Ji Dong-Won sent on after a long trip back from Korea and a less than ringing endorsement from his national coach, replaced Colback, allowing Sessegnon to drop back. That left us with a non-tackling midfield as Cattermole was one slip away from a second yellow and the other three couldn’t tackle Twiggy.

Why not Noble? He would have put himself on the shoulder of the last defender and might just have got into the box and had a pop at goal. Instead we had Ji who plays a long way away from goal and became an auxiliary midfielder.

Like 37,000 others, Vaughan and Gardner had to sit and watch this ill selected team try to put together a move that would give us a winning goal. They were probably as frustrated as we were, but at least they were being handsomely rewarded for shaking their heads at a struggling manager. We had to pay for that dubious privilege.

Wigan up next week and if we lose that one, then the time for the curtain to fall on Bruce’s Sunderland career will come before we are sick of Christmas lights and adverts.. As it is, he surely cannot expect a new contract in June. His pride should dictate that he keeps us up this year – but it’s a tall ask at the moment.

33 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: two points dropped against Fulham and the ‘R’ word looms”

  1. Bruce is nothing but an pitiful excuse himself. If the manager is thinks our expectations are such that we demand more than two wins before the Christmas lights go up, and that draws at home against the likes of Fulham, Villa, and WBA should be fine with us then he just bugger off and go to manager Rotherham or Exeter City or Coventry where his level of capability is in line with aspirations. Actually much as I dislike the bloke’s attitude I’m not sure that I would wish Coventry on him, even though he has become an increasingly pitiful figure in recent weeks.

    Actually how many wins is it since the Christmas lights came down Stevie old chap?

    Going by his results, then we clearly should not expect to beat anyone in this division, and that is being achieved. So far this season we have failed to beat the two newly promoted teams we’ve played and have lost at Brighton. We are such a demanding lot. Some of our fans went down there expecting us to take the field with a recognised forward. Where do they get these ideas. It’s been so long since we’ve seen a recognised left back that we can’t recall what one should look like.

    We may not have had a lot of success over the years but there is one thing that we recognise from a thousand miles and that is failure. It’s stamped through Mrs Doubtfire like Blackpool Rock. The only doubt is about which font they used.

  2. I am getting irritated by Brucies’s reference to supporters “expectations” again after the Fulham game.This is the second time he has used this phrase in the last few weeks.It is a worrying indication of his state of mind, re the pressure he is feeling.It is not a good sign to be honest.He is looking like developing a bunker mentality,which could shortly become outright paranoia.I note Bardsley was echoing similar sentiments this week too.

    When the playing/managing staff start deflecting poor results or performances onto the supporters,the game is up.

    All I would say is Bruce is a big boy(in all senses of the word) and should take it on the chin,though his is starting to look a little fragile.But surely he realises 15th is no-ones “expectation” for this year and as long as we are there or thereabouts he is going to get some flack.

    If you cant stand the heat…….

  3. He’ll be beavering away at his latest riposte in his bedroom in Peterlee even as I write, doubtlessly citing our 10th place finish as evidence that Bruce is hewn from the same managerial material as Clough, Paisley and Wenger, when the reality is that he has more similiarities with Dinnis, and McFaul and co.

  4. He won’t be quiet for long, Bill. He went missing for a few days and I thought he had seen the light, but no. He is probably having a confab with chatnoir in a pub somewhere in Ponteland as I write. He didnt deny our accusation that he was Steve Bruce-it is possible that chatnoir is Ellis Short and Steve aka Davey is obeying orders.

  5. Davey, it isnt a matter of whether the players like Bruce or not, it is whether they feel confident in his management of the team. Someone like Sess probably came not because of Bruce himself, but because he believed that the Club had ambition and there was a future for him here as part of an organised and ambitious squad. I think this whole issue of whether Bruce is likable or not, is a red herring. Managers arent there to be liked necessarily, but to be respected and valued for their overall judgement and skills in motivation and tactical organisation.

    I believe that if there are rumblings of dissent amongst the players it isnt because of a personal dislike of Bruce, but disappointment in his managerial style and seeming lack of ambition. Sorry if you think that this is unconstructive Davey, but as with the rest of life I think that individuals and organisations etc should perform to their potential and I dont think that is happening at Sunderland at the moment. Saturday’s match against Fulham provided further evidence of this and a win against Wigan would not change my mind.

  6. Of course Mr Taylor! How remiss of me to forget that we long suffering supporters are the source of the club’s current woes.

    We are presumably to blame for bouts of flatulence, famine in the third world and the Greek’s financial implosion.

    Where did I put that sack cloth and the ashes? If you need spare set anyone I’ve got plenty here in my shame.

  7. Clearly Mr Gambles this “minority” of which Davey speaks are gathered in one collective on here in the corridors of Salut where Davey finds himself regularly in a minority of “Positivos” which is thankfully restricted to him alone, although occasionally joined by the mysterious “chat noir.”

    If Short doesn’t sack the failing Mrs Doubtfire, then who is to blame Davey? The groundsman perhaps, or chief turnstile operative?

  8. Bruce is obviously a decent bloke and popular with the players,but as Bill says he doesn’t seem to be making the most of the good players at his disposal.This coupled with a determination to contradict himself in team choices and statements to the press is worrying.I hope it all comes good but the stats are racking up against him Also I don’t think Davey is being fair to the range of opinion and quality of comment on this site.

  9. I never said the players didn’t like Bruce. I said he’s shown quite clearly that he has no idea how to get the best out of them, either in selection or tactics, and that this must be very demoralizing for them as a team. As individuals, I’m sure most of them do like him. He takes them out for meals and go-kart sessions, appears not to make extravagant work-rate demands and, when they show any sign of discontent with the club, doesn’t argue with them or try to motivate them but simply holds the door open, hands them their coat and wishes them bon voyage.
    It’s not sacking Bruce that will cost us, it’s keeping him.

  10. I agree with Chat Noir
    Yes Bruce’s record is shocking – we finished 10th last year – disgraceful
    Let’s all pick on Ellis Short as well now
    It took some finding this site as it doesn’t seem to be on News Now anymore – don’t think it was worth the bother – as we still have the same 5 or 6 anti Bruce Brigade – who fortunately are still in the minority of all the Sunderland supporters ; although I admit that could well change if results don’t improve over the next 2 months
    Hilary , Bill et all – how can you subscribe to the notion that the players don’t like Bruce – they signed for him – and most mentioned – it was a fact that Bruce was the major part of their consideration when joining
    I have been as mystifed as you too at some of the selections – and substitutions – but what on earth do you think we will gain by changing manager at this point – and as in previous posts – your replacements are hardly going to set the N E alight , let alone the premiership
    Please feel free to pile on the thumbs down – but do try to answer with a modicum of constructive replies – rather than the “sack Bruce at all costs” standard reply

  11. What do we have to do to get this man out, his record is shocking and now it looks like sess wants to go, his family have already left, we are in big trouble,another season of promise gone,why us!

  12. Even this side as bad as it is, shouild probably beat Wigan. There is a part of me that feels exactly the same way Bill. I have the strange feeling that when he gets his marching orders that it may well come as a surprise; such as after another draw at home against a side we are expected to beat, like Wigan.

  13. I’m back in the invidious position of almost hoping we get beaten on Saturday because that would surely push Bruce out of the door and the team would perhaps then get enough of a bounce from whoever took over to embark on chatnoir’s dream of a “long and prosperous run.”
    On the other hand, what if a defeat still didn’t get Bruce fired? I’m beginning to think Ellis Short will never see the wood for the trees. And I hate to see us give up another three points. So, no, I really really hope we win. God knows, we should against Wigan. That’s if the so-called manager doesn’t once more become afraid of winning and plays for another soul-destroying goal-less point.

  14. A third of the season gone with two wins. One against a side that had just experienced a midweek trip to the edge of Siberia, and the other in the middle of the worst run at home since the club was formed. This is beyond poor, bad, etc. It’s a disgrace and no less.

    Yet, we are still debating Bruce’s job.

    Persevere for much longer and we will be well and truly sunk by the time the window opens again.

  15. Vince, I hope the rumours are wrong about Sessegnon wanting to leave, but I wouldn’t be surprised. He isn’t only a very good player, but is also highly committed and professional. He is exactly the kind of player that we should be intent on retaining, and we would struggle to replace him. The danger is that if things remain as they are, by January it will be only mercenaries or journeymen who will want to join us.

  16. I think Ian is correct in saying Vaughan may not have been fully fit– he missed Man United and I don’t believe he played for Wales during the international break. I would have liked to see him starting, but if he’s not 100%, he probably shouldn’t be risked. Injuries tend to strike (most teams) in January, and whilst it’s not ideal, I’d rather take a point now, and have him available throughout the winter months.

    Cometh the thumbs down, but I’m still holding out hope that instead of our usual strong autumn performances followed by poor winter performances, we’re bucking the trend and will embark on a long and prosperous run commencing in the next few weeks.

    Also worth noting that only Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Newcastle have conceded fewer goals than us. We are doing some things right, and it’s now a matter of fixing the attacking to ensure that we’re a fully well-rounded team.

  17. Three games is at least two too many. There’s only one way to stop the rot and time is running out. Otherwise, it won’t just be Sess wanting away. The trickle will become a flood and we absolutely cannot afford to let that happen.

  18. The worst game I ve seen this season at home.Nearly fell asleep first 45 mins.Boy are we BORING.
    I also heard a rumour Sessignon is wanting away come January,just to make matters look even worse,he was our best player on the day and he works well on the left flank.
    I am losing interest in this team there is just no spark whatsoever.It appears Bruce cannot motivate good players like Bent and Gyan,nor can he get raise lesser but reasonable quality players like Bendtner,Gardner and Vaughn,none of which look happy when playing for us.

    Elmo is lightweight and just not up to it yet.Richarson looke more comfortable in the middle after moving from the flank.Back 4 only adequate.Only plus was Westwood who looks like a confident decent keeper despite his lack of height.

    I gave Brucie 3 games last week….Strike One.

  19. I think Vaughn was rested because he wasn’t 100%. You’ll see him replace Catts in the next game v Wigan.
    As for Gardner, I agree with you, – we should be finding a place for him. I do rate Colback though. Elmo will not start next game either because of Larsson (who we desperately missed).

  20. We’ve quickly become Sundulland under Bruce.A lack of ambition in trying to win games is obvious and questionable team selections abound.I couldn’t for the life of me see the point in giving a fired-up Ryan Noble a mere three minutes yet persisting with the underwhelming Elmo for the whole game.

  21. I think losing is part of game and main thing is perform well in the field. Sunderland doing there best but I think they don’t have enough confidence for wining. All of us needs to encourage them for there upcoming match against Wigan. Thanks

  22. I agree Plan B. Beating Wigan will prove and change nothing in my view as they are completely adrift now. Time to go.

  23. I’m not sure if it’s even a case of Bruce being scared of losing; I think he’s just completely clueless of how to build a winning team, as demonstrated by the summer’s transfer policy. Are we stuck with him for a lot longer if we beat Wigan? 🙁 now would be the perfect time to get rid.

  24. What worries me is the sheer number of players that Bruce has got through who arrive in good form and having had fresh experience of the PL.

    Vaughan got 10 goals from midfield for a team that needed a GPS to find the opposition box and got relegated. Can’t get a game.

    David Vaughan ran the Blackpool midfield (despite the adulation doled out to Charlie Adam), and is left out. The strange thing is that he loves everyone’s favourite Pharoah who in my view is possibly League 1 material (I honestly don’t think he’d even look reasonable if he was playing in the Championship).

    Angeleri missed out on the WC only just, Da Silva was one of the top 3 centre backs in the WC, but no good at Sunderland. Similar story with Riveros. Noble, bang on form with a midweek hat trick is reluctantly sent on with less than 3 minutes left. His movement off the ball and into the box could so easily have changed the game had he been given 20-30 minutes.

    Caution, fear, nervousness, you can call it what you will. I’ll stick with incompetence. Bruce out! (feel better now!).

  25. I totally agree about Vaughan and Gardner, Joan. It might be over cautiousness on Bruce’s part, but also possibly a lack of imagination. I concur with Bill in suspecting that some of these players will want to leave come January.

  26. From Joan (masquerading as M. Salut) : I’ve stayed pro-Bruce (just) on the grounds that the squad is stronger than it has been for some years. However, if you have good players and don’t use them, what’s the point of a strong squad? While I can see how a player new to the Premier League might not adapt (e.g. Riveros), I don’t see how at least one of Vaughan and Gardner isn’t worthy of a starting place. Can you really tell from how players are in training whether they should be left out? Surely their record at previous clubs has to count for more. We always end up wondering whether there’s something more sinister going on when players don’t get a game, but as others have said the operative word here is over-cautious. The team selections against Arsenal and on Saturday have been extremely disappointing and I am losing hope.

  27. What also concerns me about the January window is how many of Sunderland’s squad might decide they want out. If Bruce is still in charge, who could blame them? Money isn’t the sole consideration for a lot of players. Motivation is important, too, and that’s entirely lacking right now.

  28. Craig Gardner as the new Shaun Cunnington………………

    Oh dear Pete, I hope you are serious if you are saying that (well obviously I hope that you are not serious at all of course), as it’s such a terrible thing to say about any player. Horrendous comparison to be forced into.

    Does this mean that Gardner is the “Haddock” to Cunnington’s “Cod”? Nobody could ever really take Shaun’s “plaice”

    My coat is already on………………….

  29. I absolutely agree, Bill. We have some good players who under a better tactician could perform consistently well, but Bruce’s defensive approach means that the team plays without passion and flair. Bruce has been talking about buying strikers in the January window, but are decent players really going to come to Sunderland if this regime continues? It is hard enough to attract top players to the North East and a team which isn’t as yet in Europe, but to expect high profile strikers to sign up to the current scene is stretching credulity. I hope my instincts are right and Bruce will go VERY soon-leave it much longer and we could find ourselves mired in the relegation zone and although there are some very poor teams at the bottom, we could still go down.

  30. “He was frightened of losing…”
    That says it all about Bruce’s timid approach to the game. He’s frightened of losing so he shies away from playing to win. His default position is to pick up a point a match.
    It’s reached the stage now where Sunderland every week are playing against 12 men – the other team and Steve Bruce. How much longer can he be allowed to undermine a great club that deserves so much better?
    To quote Oliver Cromwell’s words to parliament in 1653: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

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