No Sixer’s Soapbox from this of all games. Pete Sixsmith announced a few weeks ago that he would not be at Chelsea – has he now relented over Man Utd? – but the decision had much less to do with Sunderland’s then quite hopeless plight than his disdain for Stamford Bridge and those who inhabit it. Ray Knight’s excellent, and amusing Chelsea ‘Who are You?’ made me warm to Chelsea supporters a little (I had already felt pleased when they beat PSG), until one Peter Scott began a series of incomprehensible, condescending postings after my own report at ESPN.
So no Sixer to record this momentous victory. Let a recent addition to the ranks of contributors, Grant Tunkel, offer his own sunny view from California …
Mike Dean pointed to the spot and everything changed.
That which seemed impossible – a win at Stamford Bridge, a four-out-of-six week and, dare I say it, the possibility of Premier League survival – was anything but.
Fabio Borini stepped to the spot and delivered the decisive goal, lifting Sunderland to a stunning victory over Chelsea. “Impossible” lost its prefix.
It all became possible.
So how did we get here? How did a squad all but assured of relegation fight its way back into the picture?
My confidence in the side has waned considerably in recent weeks, but my trust in the man at the top has not. During his thus-far brief tenure on Wearside, Poyet has pulled the right strings at the right time.
The Uruguayan’s decisions to start Connor Wickham at center-forward, leave Jozy Altidore out of the squad then bring him on for key minutes, use Emmanuele Giaccherini as a go-to substitute, and start Santiago Vergini for the suspended Phil Bardsley, were all decisions I questioned.
But Poyet knows what he’s doing. Clearly.
Wickham has been nothing short of a revelation, scoring three times in two games to jumpstart an otherwise non-existent offense. Even Altidore looked sharp, drawing the decisive penalty against the Blues.
Those are two buttons Poyet has pushed exactly right. He could have started January transfer acquisition Ignacio Scocco over Wickham, but he didn’t. Poyet could’ve turned to Scocco over Altidore, but he didn’t. He made the right moves at the right time.
Now, Sunderland is in the right spot: three points clear of the drop zone and playing their best football since February.
I’ve spent the last few weeks wondering where I’d watch the Championship next season. I’ve also fielded questions about what team I would support next season until the Black Cats returned to the top flight.
Those concerns are tabled, for now. Keep trusting Gus and everything could fall into place by mid-May.
It’s all possible.
* Grant is American so Salut! Sunderland, in accordance with precedent, respects his use of US English. Just don’t let anyone else think of trying it.
** From Monsieur Salut’s ESPN report:
I am now a lot more understanding of referee Mike Dean’s failure to spot the Ramires elbow into Larsson’s face than I might have been had the game ended differently. But Altidore’s entry into this arena ultimately made sure it did not, and led to the removal of any unkind thoughts I might have harboured towards Dean.
Opinions will always vary. I thought Cesar Azpilicueta did foul Altidore and that it was, therefore, a penalty. Some pundits deemed it to be harsh. The histrionics in the Chelsea technical area, and Mourinho’s sarcastic postmatch comments, can safely be disregarded as the petulant rantings of men who assume victory is theirs by right.
And at this stage of a desperate season, to be a Sunderland supporter, I should also be honest enough to say I do not actually care. Sunderland did, in my admittedly partisan view, deserve to win, just as they merited victory at the Etihad on Wednesday, two points conceded then only because Vito Mannone, so impressive all season that even my 5-year-old granddaughter has been know to sing his song, made an uncharacteristic error near the end. At Stamford Bridge on Saturday night, Mannone was back to his dependable best.