The Observer had an excellent feature on the football pages, copied by others, in which one supporter of each club in each game gave his or her own assessment and out-of-10 ratings. Pete Sixsmith was a regular
for our games. The feature is no more – more fool The Observer – but Pete was asked for his midterm assessment (NB ahead of the Spurs game) …
Up until six minutes before the end of (normal time in) last week’s game against Blackburn, the “season so far” had been one of undoubted doom and gloom. Then, a stupendous shot from David Vaughan followed by a curling free kick from Seb Larsson gave us our third win and, hopefully, kick started the 2011-12 campaign.
The dismissal of Steve Bruce and the hiring of Martin O’Neill has left Sunderland fans looking and feeling much happier than they were at the end of November. Bruce had had a steady two years, but the third year had started badly and there was a real danger of a prolonged relegation scrap. The owner acted quickly and sensibly and replaced a manager who appeared to have run out of ideas with a manager who pressed all the right buttons on Wearside.
The squad that O’Neill has inherited is top heavy with central defenders, central midfielders and former Manchester United players and light in creativity, width, pace and goal scorers. He has a month to assess which players in the club will do a job for him and where he needs to strengthen. His managerial skills will be tested on this.
Under Bruce, we turned in too many adequate performances and far too few good ones. We have our expectations – a good performance against our near neighbours from The Sports Direct Arena would do for a start – and the feeling is that, under O’Neill, we can turn that adequate into the good.
There is renewed optimism amongst supporters which, coupled with O’Neill having a fresh look at the squad and having some money to spend, should see us move up the league to the heady heights of, ooh, half way. We may even have a cup run and get past the Fourth Round for the first time in years.
Such modest ambitions constitute success for clubs like ours in the oil and oligarch dominated Premier League.