Wrinky Pete asks – How do you solve the problem of our fear?

How do you solve the problem of our fear?
(with no apologies to Julie Andrews)

Peter Lynn: Ol' Blue eyes is back
Peter Lynn: Ol’ Blue eyes is back


I hate “The Sound of Music” and therefore loved the alternative lyrics dreamt up by “Cocky” – a 1970s Cornish (I think) comedy folk group whose lines included “How do you solve the problem of diarrhoea?” and “High on a hill lay a steaming goat turd”.

Somehow, those lyrics crept into my thoughts on trying to solve the enigma which is Sunderland, and our home form and consequent flat crowd atmosphere.

The present situation is at one and the same time both baffling and yet perfectly understandable. You have on the one hand a hugely passionate set of fans who are made up of the most generous people I have ever met. (I say this with no hint of self praise since I am not local, although my parents were). On the other hand you had a sizeable number of those same people booing our ten men from the pitch at the end of Saturday’s draw with Fulham.

Now, I am not about to say that the game was anything but grim to watch. However, I don’t see what is to be gained by booing the ten remaining players. In former times it was standard practice to give a standing ovation to “the ten men”. By all means boo Rodwell for his foolish behaviour but not the ones that had given us the chance to fight another day in the replay. Yes, I know, “freedom of speech”, “I’ve paid my money so I’m entitled to boo”, but just pause for a moment to consider the effect.

You have a bunch of players whose collective, if not individual, confidence is presently low. This can be evidenced by the high proportion of backward or sideways passing in our play. Players low on confidence are unlikely to attempt forward passes or dribbles, fearful of losing possession. If you then compound this by the noise of the collective “uugh” from the crowd if possession is lost and you soon have almost no-one prepared to take the risk of forward play. I have not named individuals because it is probably unnecessary and I do not wish to risk making things worse.

However, you can see the opposite effect in Seb Larsson. Little over a year ago he was struggling and the home crowd were “on his back”. Gus Poyet gave him not only a chance but clearly some boost to his confidence. The same crowd now give him nothing but positive support. This then leads to even better performances from him. So the evidence for positive support is clear.

Now, I am not saying that it is easy for fans to give total support all the time while watching some pretty dour displays, but what I would do is ask fans to consider the role they play during a game. You know that you love your club and would do “anything” for it. What you could do to improve your team’s chances of winning a game would cost you nothing. You have already paid for your ticket and any additional costs such as travel so your commitment is made and not in doubt. Now imagine how you would feel post match if we won. I know how you would feel, of course, and you can help it happen. How? Simply think what would motivate you if you were lucky enough to be on the pitch at the Stadium of Light playing for Sunderland? Forget money. You are so engrossed in the game that your brain is unable to focus on anything else but if you were straining every last muscle and sinew to outrun your opponent would it help if 40,000 people were roaring you on?

Now, unfortunately, you are not playing but you can make the difference for those that are playing. Don’t be a sheep and wait for someone else to cheer. Get there first!

“Sing your hearts out for The Lads”

Wrinkly Pete


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9 thoughts on “Wrinky Pete asks – How do you solve the problem of our fear?”

  1. SAFC have announced that, following a fans survey, it is no longer considered appropriate for the team to run on to the pitch to the strains of Prokofiev’s ‘Dance of the Knights’ considering that they perform more like cart-horses. Instead they will emerge from the tunnel to “Heaven Help Us All” and to celebrate the change of tune there will be a special guest at the Stadium this-afternoon, Mr Stevie Wonder, who is also being hailed as the only man in the world who can clearly see that we need to make better use of our creative midfielders!

  2. A couple of good articles that perhaps sum up my reaction to Senor Poyet’s comments after the Fulham bore draw.



    Tomorrow might be a good time to revive that once often heard version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” – “All we are saying – is give us a goal.”

    Do that Gus (preferably more than once) and the home fans might just start to renew their faith in the Poyet way.

    • I doubt that many fans could actually articulate ” the Poyet way ” – I don’t think he could either.

      What we have seen so far is a policy of painfully slow build up comprising of harmlessly passing the ball backwards or sideways until possession is lost.

      Getting as many players behind the ball as possible when defending in the hope that sheer weight of numbers will limit scoring chances.

      Leaving one isolated player forward and expecting him, with practically no support, to somehow conjure a chance on goal.

      That is [ a possibly slightly exaggerated ] summary of what I conclude to be GP’s preferred way of playing, and in my opinion, it is going to take us straight into the Championship come May [ assuming he is still around by then ]

      • I think you just have articulated the Poyet way William. The murmurings that have come out in the media since the “stuck in the past” comments suggest we might see a more attacking philosophy tomorrow.

        I hope so because I’ll be there in the freezing cold and I’ll need more than Bovril to keep my spirits up.

        For what it’s worth I’m still hopeful of a strong finish to the season and I expect Gus to be at the club for the long term, providing of course he can find a winning formula. But if he persists in what we’ve seen since the start of the season then I think you’ll be nearer the mark.

      • I think Gus will keep us up. He maybe needs 3 years to change what we have into what he wants. We have a lot of crap in our squad.

  3. Don’t forget team selection! Sometimes the atmosphere is set as soon as the team is announced, because we know how the team will set up with particular players. Let’s imagine we play Gomez (in for Rodwell) with Bridcutt on Saturday: the football will be painfully slow, predictable and harmless. Now let’s imagine Poyet plays Johnson or Giaccherini! Totally different mind-set from the beginning. (Notice I haven’t even mentioned the chance of both creative players on the pitch at the same time, that would be crazy talk. We need to be 2-0 down for that to happen!)

  4. I feel that Poyet and his tactics are the source of this fear.
    Excessive caution induces the very thing you fear. Poyet is just not the type to say “relax, be confident, be brave”.

  5. For the record

    1. I wasn’t there on Saturday.
    2. I have never booed the team.

    The problem of “negative support” tends to happen at home games. There is a different atmosphere at away grounds when what is generally the minority of the crowd gets behind its team, determined to make its presence felt.

    This is true of most clubs not just Sunderland, except perhaps when a set of supporters have lost total confidence in their club. Witness the antics of Pardew Out.com before the Mags stuck a couple of wins together. Those leaflets disappeared but can anyone doubt they were a major factor in Pardew taking the Palace job? He may have gone to his “spiritual home” anyway but the negative reaction from Mag supporters during that period must have helped his decision making. How I wonder do they feel after their recent performances.

    Fans who go to away games tend also to be the hard core of loyal supporters and the herd element kicks in. Those who make a noise are concentrated in a small area of the ground – not dispersed to all corners as they are at home. Allocated numbered seating doesn’t help at home. I never sing at home games (sorry I just don’t) but always do when away. Why? Because at home where I sit hardly anyone sings and I tend to be a fairly undemonstrative person but away everyone does and I get swept up in the atmosphere.

    So of course Pete you are right – booing the team doesn’t help but the booing is not I believe aimed at individuals but at the style of play they are having to adopt. If we were attacking, creating chances and achieving the same results would the reaction be the same? It might because there will always be a vocal minority of moaners (and God help you if your season card puts you just in front of one) but currently it seems that fans are just disenchanted with the lack of ambition.

    It is not the fans’ reactions which sees the players pass the ball sideways and backwards, then sideways then backwards again – it is the tactics they have been told to employ. I agree booing doesn’t help the team but at home performances have been dire for a long time now. If the team walked off having drawn 0-0 or lost by the odd goal after creating a bucketful of chances then those in the ground would feel hard done to but appreciative of the effort and intent. It is the fact we never threaten teams, we lack ambition and can’t maintain any positive start such as against Hull. We self destruct too regularly.

    We have the players who can play the attacking game. I will refer to The Mags away and the response at Man City once we had conceded as examples. I’ve used them before but that says how little that positive approach has been seen.

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