The Robson Report: what on earth happens next?

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The time for the proper inquest is not quite with us. Soon enough, Salut! Sunderland contributors will be having their say on a season that has had one high spot but otherwise trundled relentlessly towards the abyss. That doesn’t stop us thinking about the mess we’re in and Jeremy Robson offers some preliminary conclusions …

So where do we go from here? To start answering that question, the first point is that we don’t actually know where we are yet. Most of us would consider us relegated, all but officially. Assuming we are playing in the Championship come August, who will be the manager? We don’t know that either, but we arguably face a cruel paradox.

Never in living memory has any of our managers gone from being perceived so positively to become the villain of the piece in no more than a month.

That is what has happened to Gus Poyet. A significant section of our fan base were quick to applaud him for taking us to a Wembley final and then quick to condemn him for subsequent performances, results and tactical decisions.

Where has he gone wrong? I would argue that he hasn’t really gone wrong at all, but at the same time he hasn’t done anything right either. There was no immediate Hawthorne Effect from his appointment. Results didn’t immediately improve, but the players must have felt a huge sense of relief that it just wasn’t Di Canio, whose comments about the players he inherited and had foisted on him ring very true now.

This season we have won three home league games, all by one goal, and we are bottom of the league. That sorry statistic was masked by a remarkable set of results and performances which took us to Wembley. Arguably it was the players themselves who were able to lift and motivate themselves for cup ties and not Poyet, as he has been unable to instill anything worthwhile in them in the fight against relegation.

Poyet turned against the fans saying that his critics didn’t know what they were talking about after the FA Cup debacle against Hull and went on to demonstrate that the plot was lost starting the a back five (six if you include Bridcutt), from the Liverpool game onwards.

Trying to keep the score down at Anfield against a Liverpool side who had scored 3 or more goals in their previous six games makes some sense, but it doesn’t wash when you try the same thing against West Ham at home or Spurs away. It makes even less sense when you consider that Adam Johnson started on the bench against West Ham, having scored 7 of our previous 9 goals.

More importantly, it’s not working and the players clearly don’t understand it. It’s impossible to implement such tactical tomfoolery. Concerned with his central defensive pairing, you can see why he would add a third centre back, but not when it’s Vergini (and I’m being polite here), has struggled.

You end up with Keystone Cops scenes where a player surrounded by three Sunderland shirts (Vergini, Bardsley and Bridcutt) offering the “gentleman’s excuse me” to an opponent to control the ball on the edge of the box and score.

John O’Shea was absent of course, due to his criticism on the manager’s ludicrous, ill-conceived nonsense.

Poyet also suggested that a genius would only be capable of integrating 14 summer signings into a team. This is an interesting comment from a manager who has used very few and of the four signings made in January (3 permanent), it’s the on loan Alonso that has featured the most. Having also gone on record saying that any striker arriving in the January window would “have to hit the ground running” he delivered Scocco. It’s a rich sense of irony that Poyet possesses.

The last thing we needed were further overseas recruits with no experience of English football, but that’s mainly what we got. His ridiculous persistence with Altidore who incidentally has an identical played and scored record to Sam Allardyce was another aspect of his undoing.

He clearly doesn’t rate Connor Wickham who supporters were crying out to be given a chance. Wickham’s return has not worked yet but he hasn’t been given anything like a run of games to get in the groove.

What we needed in January was someone to shake things up in the front line. We didn’t need 10 to 15 goals. Arguably 4 or 5 might have made the difference. Britt Assombalonga has been scoring regularly for Peterborough in League 1 (21 so far), as have Ross McCormack and Jordan Rhodes (27 and 23) respectively. If it was a good idea for Wickham to be spending some time at Elland Road why not try his loan as a sweetener to get McCormack?

The reality is that Poyet has been as bad if not worse in transfer dealings than the buffoon Di Fanti. He has to carry the can for that.

In the unlikely event that we do survive, then Poyet may still be in a job at the end of the season. It’s job which he clearly isn’t up to. “If I get the sack then remember that it was broken when I got here.” If he was a car mechanic, then he’d be gone after issuing that sort of rhetoric. Maybe he wants to go anyway.

The paradox I mentioned at the start of this article is simply this. If we go down, then there’s a massive rebuilding job required. Given his comments about the influx of players last summer, there may well be a repeat twelve months on with loanees leaving and out of contract players ready for the exit. There’s a lot of work to do and by his own admission he can’t handle that, probably even a division lower.

Given his achievements at Brighton, Poyet may well be as good a candidate as any to bring us back up, but he will probably be gone, one way or the other. If he keeps us up, then he will continue in a job which he is ill suited for, and been found lacking. We just can’t win can we? Mind you neither can he!

14 thoughts on “The Robson Report: what on earth happens next?”

    • Maybe managing Sunderland is the same as supporting them , if your not mad to start with , you soon will be.

  1. To be fair their records are certainly better than the current strike force…the word force used advisedly

    I was wondering if we could have the team for Jody Craddock’s testimonial play our remaining games….suspect they’d do better….too cruel?

    Hope there’s a good turnout for a decent player and more importantly a good man

  2. Those teams in the bottom half of the table are there for the same reasons as us ie quality, inconsistency, poor management etc. We can’t deny the impact of location nor of the attraction of higher wages. Bent doubled his salary. Gyan was a disgrace. Jones gave up. We’ve been unlucky however at times we’ve made our own bad luck. For me giving everyone else a 7 game head start was always going to be an issue. You may not like them but Catts and Bardsley have been decent under Poyet……largely. Poyet for a whole season would have kept us up. PDC is why we’re going down. Short picked him.

    • I’m probably looking at Bent and Jones through rose coloured glasses to be honest Neil. I just remember that one season they scored thirty odd goals between them and within a couple of transfer windows they both were gone and its been down hill ever since.

  3. I don’t blame Short. We’d done the same old thing year on year and saw no improvement. He at least had the balls to try something different. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out as planned.

    Poyet inherited a shambles, the fact that, mathematically, we still have a chance is itself a minor miracle. I accept, that recent performances and selctions have been bizzare. You could point to the Hull FA Cup game as the point the rot really set in – it was a performance that smacked of indifference, and it seems they haven’t been able to even partially switch back on. When he had us playing, though, we were playing some of the best football we’ve seen in some time (its not Barca, I know, but when you consider what’s been served up in recent years, it was definitely an improvement).

    The main issue I see is that we’re still lumbered with, for the most part, on players bought in under the Bruce regime. Larsson, Gardner, Cattermole. players who, in our heart of hearts, we knew weren’t good enough 3 years ago. The issue being, as Drummer points out, every transfer window has seen us bring in players who eaken an already weak squad. MON, Bruce, Di Fanti/Di Canio need to take most of the blame for that. Can we just not attract those better players? I just think there is something seriously rotten at the heart of the club. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s in charge, or who the playing staff are, some factor constantly drags us down. What is it?

    For now, in the last few games, surely we must have some youngsters itching to show what they can do? Ditch those out of contract, and give them a chance to show what they can do. At least you can guarantee effort, and surely they can’t do any worse?

  4. The inquest will say ,since fatty sold Bent and Jones and replaced them with Wickham and Gyan, every single transfer window on the whole has weakened the team. We’ve spent a fortune on rubbish. The managers and Di Fanti are to blame, while the board are not fit for purpose . Short is guilty of simply trusting those he employs , but ultimately the buck stops with him, he employed them and sanctioned the deals . But….. he’s backed the managers and kept the club afloat . It’s just rank bad descisions made with the best of intentions .

    • Drummer

      IMO a very accurate and reasoned assessment of our plight.
      I think that the lack of intelligent football know how on the Board has to be a key factor. For instance, it is difficult to believe that anyone with knowledge of the game could seriously believe that DiCanio would make a good manager?
      Equally, what prompted them to think that DiFanti, whose background I understand was as a players agent, would succeed as a DOF?
      As you say, the ultimate responsibility must be at the top, and it has cost the club dearly.

    • I would simply add that the catastrophic failures in the transfer market, particularly those associated with PDC, in reality meant that the core of the squad were the same group of players who had been flirting dangerously with relegation since the time of Bruce.

      This ‘Old Guard’ are still there and apparently still pulling the strings, may be it was unbelievable naivety on our behalf to think that any thing could, would and should change with the introduction of yet another new manager.

      I have come to completely reassess Bruce in light of the current situation and would opinion that no one could turn this current squad (few exceptions) in to an effective team, capable of any degree of consistency of performance sufficient for PL status.

  5. Ken G said, “please please please let’s get some players with real character rather than freeloaders”

    The freeloaders you are referring to have everything to answer for Ken. Unfortunately we got lumbered with even more of that type last summer, when we had more than a fair quota to begin with. It was men of character that PDC wanted and far from what he was given. He was right in everything he said.

  6. Brighton fans maintained that Poyet didn’t have a plan B.It seems to me that we are on plan G none of which has been successful. As M.Salut says the time for an inquest is in the close season, but if I might make make one observation it’s that as I said after PDC’s sacking, the players had done for three managers and that Gus was more than likely to be the fourth.I would have been happy to be proved wrong but the Cup run as with O’Neill merely flattered to deceive.Whatever the summer holds, please please please let’s get some players with real character rather than freeloaders.

  7. The question is who is he going to be able to keep out of the current squad. More important I suppose. Who would he want?

    It’s a massive task whether we stop up or get relegated.

  8. Bridcutt in a back 6 would just make it a back 5 1/2. He does the job Larsson was born to do , point your fingers and annoy people . Anyone could do it , why waste the wage and the transfer fee? He’s one of Poyets better signings. Poyet inherited a dogs dinner, but a cup final and a couple of months in the top half of the form table at least , showed he and they could do the job. What’s gone wrong, did the players only perk up at the thought of a winners medal , then throw the towel in when that went out of the window? Did Poyet get tricked by that form and endevor and start to believe they actually cared , so started to trust them? Has he completely lost the plot , with he’s tappy tippy possession football and tactics?I think it may be a combination of the lot. Hope he regains it for the building job ahead or he moves on.

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