Wise Man Says: beware Cardiff – guaranteed a win at Newcastle

Jake presents the man with a surname that's a gift for SAFC-supporting headline writers
Jake presents the man with a surname that’s a gift for SAFC-supporting headline writers

Nic Wiseman takes a break from professional gardening, serious running and preparing his editing debut at Salut! Sunderland – if only young Keir gets round to handing in his homework – to reflect on the latest twists and turns in the life of a Sunderland supporter. Will the Lads keep up the momentum of terrific trips to the top of the league and for once see off fellow-strugglers? Nic sees the obvious pitfalls, St James’ Park being one on the last but one matchday of Cardiff’s season, but keeps faith …

This football lark is easy isn’t it? Just get battered 5-1 at Spurs and claim that only a miracle can save us. From then on we lost very unluckily to Everton (I know, I know, that’s what we always say) and then harvest four magic points from the supposed ‘unwinnable’ games at Citeh and Chelski.

We’re now three points from safety, with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. Martin Keown, on Sunday’s Match of the Day 2, reported the results of his forecasting matrix for the bottom clubs and related that his relegated teams would be Fulham, Cardiff and Norwich. Not Sunderland! Not the team that has spent the majority of the season in the bottom three.

This exercise reminded me of the spreadsheets the office staff of the club populated in the ultimately doomed 1996-97, last season at Roker Park campaign, featured on the landmark BBC series, Premier Passions.

The problem is that once the euphoria has subsided, and one analyses our results this season, of our seven wins, only one was against a relegation rival. Our 4-1 romp over Fulham was the exception to prove the rule, though granted Stoke were down in amongst it when we beat them at the end of January.

There has been much head-scratching over the season as to our incredible inconsistency. We beat Chelsea twice (once on the way to a cup final) and lose demoralisingly to West Ham at home and Norwich away. We do our first double over the Mags since 1966 and complete a hat trick of wins over them since 1921. We take four points from Man City and scare them in the Capital One Cup Final, yet are beaten by an abject Villa at the SoL. The list can go on..and on..and on. It could be said that we are only consistent in our inconsistency.

And then the latest irony (certainly not the last) is that once we all concede relegation (Stephen Goldsmith, in his Wise Men Say podcast, asked the Everton fan guest if they will miss Sunderland in the Premier League), the team springs back to life and claims four points from two games.

There are more twists to come, say the media commentators. Next up is Cardiff at high noon on Sunday. If the season goes with form (??!!), we’re due a full house and a massive let down.

Websites, fanzines and tweeters have urged fans to pack the stadium to give one final push to the season. Sunderland, being Sunderland will not show up and we’ll be back where we started. But maybe there’ll be another double bluff and we actually do take Cardiff apart. This is the conundrum that is supporting Sunderland. Who can say?

One thing we need to be aware of is that Newcastle’s final home game is against Cardiff, so that’s a guaranteed three points to the Welshmen, given the Black ‘n’ White’s dreadful form at the moment.

My predictions? I hesitantly think we’ll stay up. But it Really Is the Hope I Can’t Stand!


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18 thoughts on “Wise Man Says: beware Cardiff – guaranteed a win at Newcastle”

  1. Fantastic post Goldy. Well said. I’m not really sure how much if any of anything is actually down to this manager. It will gall me regardless of the outcome of this season if Poyet has the nerve to even suggest that any credit might be due to him for recalling Wickham.

    • He will Jeremy. I bet he already sees it as a tactical master stroke? [ conveniently forgetting that CW could have played in Josy’s place all season ]

      • To be fair, while I am obviously pleased that Wickham has finally found his goalscoring touch, until the Chelsea game he hadn’t really shown that he could cut it in the Premiership. Maybe, like Danny Welbeck who also was slow off the mark when on loan with us, he can push on and develop into the player we were all hoping he would be when he signed. As for your point William – it is a tactical master stroke when you think the alternative was Danny Graham! 🙂

  2. “Stephen Goldsmith, in his Wise Men Say podcast, asked the Everton fan guest if they will miss Sunderland in the Premier League”

    After the Norwich, West Ham and Spurs debacles, Gus appeared to be losing it; claiming that the players wanted to play five at the back. It was a ludicrous decision and hopefully won’t cost us.The performances since the final had been gutless, and that was more the issue than his previous trusted formations failing in any way.

    Suddenly, a change back to four at the back, some odd public utterances at an odd time from the manager, and the players decide to compose themselves. I had written something far more damning in A Love Supreme’s 25th anniversary edition. If we stay up that will seem very harsh.

    Never have I wished to be proved so wrong. Regardless of what I may tweet, write, or say in the studio, I’m always supportive in the stadium. Our record against sides like Cardiff, as you correctly say, is there for all to see.

    We’ve had three years of bottle jobs when it comes to games we’re perceived favourites in. That has to stop on Sunday. Let’s do this!

    • The ” back five ” against Spurs was a case in point. Not only did he decide a negative system, but he dropped O’Shea [ who whatever people might think of him, seldom lets us down ] and brought in Cuellar, who hadn’t played for months, alongside Vergini and Brown.

      This set up allowed Spurs to run amok in the second half, and we conceded five, which might be critical at the season’s end.

      Obviously I am really pleased with the sudden change in our fortunes, but I have to say some of Poyet’s decisions completely baffle me, and I do honestly question his tactical thinking.

    • That quote, wasn’t a pop at you, Stephen. I just used it as an example as to how resigned we had all become in acknowledging relegation given the poverty of our performances post-Wembley. Agree with everything in your post, just wanted to set record straight.

      • Ah, I know it wasn’t, Nic.

        Jeremy, I’m still with Gus, I have to say. Just hearing him acknowledge that teams are different and games need to be approached in different ways gives me more confidence than someone like Steve Bruce or Paolo Di Canio.

        That five at the back thing was but a wobble. I hope.

  3. The Mags have certainly done us no favours these past few weeks, failing to beat teams around us but as these are mostly the teams we have also failed to beat we have no room to whinge.

    Hopefully by the time Cardiff get to Sid James’ that result will be irrelevant to us (and I mean in a positive way) but it could just as easily be irrelevant in a negative way. With WBA losing this evening we have another side to aim for who we still have to play. I still think our squad is better than those of Cardiff, WBA and Swansea and they have the opportunity to prove that. Past results don’t fill me with overconfidence but as long as Moyes is in a job when we go to Old Trafford there’s a chance of a point or three there. If he goes then we’ll have to rely on the home games I fear.

    • And so Moyes has gone and as it is often the case that a team responds for a game or two after a manager’s sacking, it makes Sunderland’s task just a little bit harder.

    • Moyes gone, how that will affect us I don’t know, do they have any other fellow bottom feeders to play? Whatever happens in our last few games ,our fate if we do go down will have being hugely influenced by sendings off, own goals and perservering for far too long with a non scoring centre forward. No one is innocent , just some more culpable than others.

      • They play Norwich on Saturday so a win under Giggs will be to our advantage – if (a big if) we beat Cardiff. They also have Hull left at home and though it looks as if Hull should be OK, Brucie’s boys still have to play Villa and Fulham. Fulham have got Stoke and Palace. Norwich have the hardest run in with Chelsea and Arsenal as well as MUFC.

        It’ll go down to the last weekend but by Sunday afternoon we’ll know how many teams are still in the mix.

  4. Can i just add that the quality of the responses to an article are the best indicator of its quality (a bit like GD). This one is no exception Nic. Great piece, prompting the sort of high quality debate we love to read and enjoy on Salut.

  5. A couple of months ago I took a look at the end of season tables for the English leagues going back over the past three or four seasons. Almost without exception (and there are a couple of outlying examples), the teams with the worst goal difference are those that get relegated, as predictably do the teams finishing top and second have the best. Hull City were an anomaly in their promotion season having gone up with a relatively poor GD.

    At that time (couple of months back) the teams with the worst GD were Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich. Norwich had such a poor GD compared to those around them that most observers would probably have given them no chance of clawing that back against their rivals. Their rivals have helped by shipping some goals in heavy defeats and that gap has narrowed considerably, but they remain one of the three worst.

    It’s such a reliable rule of thumb that you could almost get rid of the points for wins and draws and rely upon GD to decide who are the winners and losers. Over the last few weeks our form was so dire that it appeared that the GD “rule of thumb” might not be as accurate as history shows, but our form has turned before we ended up dropping into the bottom 3 on GD alone.

    Is this what Martin Keown was relying on I wonder?

  6. My fear is that there’ll be a decent crowd there on Sunday, full of nerves, knowing (again) how important the win is. Unless we score in the first minute and again three minutes later, this nervousness will manifest itself in negative shouts and cries of frustration and boos at half time. This is the last thing the team needs at any time but especially at this end of the season. Nervousness and negativity transmits itself to the players and may, in part, explain why performances against the bigger teams and away from home often surprise us and “banker” home games disappoint.

    A word too in support of the much maligned Seb Larsson who was as much responsible for our win on Saturday as Manonne and Borini, with his challenge on Ramires in front of the open goal. But we are back in a situation where the players can determine the club’s status next season and we are not reliant on other clubs slipping up.

    Ha’way the Lads.

    • Good points . Can the boo boys not just shut it for once, that’s not support ! We’re all aware of the limitations of the squad, the league doesn’t lie, but amazingly we’ve got yet another chance to save our season . If they can’t , cheer, applaud, chant, just sit on their hands and keep stum. On another note, I heard a decent discussion about our team on Talksport this morning ( Colin Murray show , I know!) . Basically the schizophrenic nature of our wins against our defeats was the topic. The conclusion which came from an ex pro ( apologies I can’t recall he’s name) was that the team don’t want it enough in the easier games, they’re selling us short by not rising to the challenge that they feel in the more difficult games and therefore falling short. Well that’s got to turn on its head for the run in ,as has the mags home form, though to be honest if the roles were reversed and a home defeat would send them down, how would we feel?

      • Surely it is the manager’s job to ensure that does not happen? Complacency can be an issue in any sport [ or in any job ] but Sunderland’s inability to beat so-called lesser teams at home, IMO, goes deeper than that.
        I think, in a sense, they are too conscious of the crowd’s expectation. They look nervous, and heads go down if we concede early. We play better when we are not expected to win.
        I don’t think Poyet’s tinkering with players and formations has helped. For instance, the inexplicable experiment with three centre backs, chopping and changing with personnel, and trying too much tippy- tappy football [ few of our players are comfortable doing this, and it has cost us dearly on occasions ]
        IMO he should decide his best 14 players, and stick with them, together with an agreed and understandable system for home and away. I think, had he adopted this philosophy on taking over, we would not be where we are. Our performances against some of the better sides show that we are capable of much better.
        I am not suggesting we are a particularly good side, but we should not, in my opinion, be bottom of the league.

      • Agree, we should be higher up the league and maybe the players feel that aswell , therefore the effort isn’t up to scratch. The manager should stamp it out , I agree ,but I’m sure Bruce, O’Neill and now Poyet have all tried and seemingly failed. The five at the back was a huge mistake and down to Poyet, I don’t buy for one second he’s pronouncements in the media that it was the players choice , they were just going along with he’s suggestions to keep their place . He’s also struck lucky with Wickham simply because there’s no one else. Whatever ,the fights back on, this is our umpteenth and final chance, just take it!

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