Do they mean us? Redknapp’s ‘worst team’ jibe, Adrian Durham’s ‘basket case’ club and more

How much should we care what others think of us?
How much should we care what others think of us?

It’s been open season on Sunderland.

Harry Redknapp tells Alan Brazil on TalkSport we’re the worst team in the Premier League.

Steven Fletcher gets it in the neck for posing with his brash new £260,000 Lamborghini parked next to his £160,000 Bentley in front of another brash possession, his house.

And back at TalkSport, Adrian Durham calls us a basket case of a club that has ruined Connor Wickham’s career. It’s not all bad, though; Dick Advocaat says we have so few current internationals that we needn’t worry too much about injuries this weekend.

There you have a snapshot of the negative coverage heading our way in recent days.

With our abysmal record this season, it should come as no surprise. We cannot pick up points against the top clubs and we cannot pick up many against those struggling with us down at the bottom. The football has been dire and, while there was a big improvement at West Ham, it was an improvement from atrocious to mediocre and we lost anyway.

Let’s take the anti-SAFC news agenda step by step:
* ‘Arry: On any assessment, he failed at QPR other than getting them quickly back up again (we’ve had managers like that who then couldn’t hack it in the top flight and they didn’t all have the money and geography – London attracts players – at his disposal].

This is what he told Brazil: “I think it’s going to be very, very difficult [for QPR to stay up]. But, having said that, I think Sunderland are bang in trouble. My honest opinion, I think Sunderland at the moment are the worst team in the division. QPR went there and beat them 2-0 just a few weeks ago. I think they’ve got it all on, Sunderland. I think it’s going to be tough.”

My first instinct was to denounce his outrageous calumny. Then I pulled myself up with a jolt: perhaps he’s right. I was only a little reassured by this exchange of tweets with a fellow-supporter:

I accepted in response that I’d settle for the standings to be as they are now after the last games of the season. Then, the table will have exposed ‘Arry’s lie if Stu is right that what counts is total performance over the whole season.

Jake: 'this time last season he gave us hope'
Jake: ‘this time last season he gave us hope’

* Adrian Durham: Connor Wickham ruined his career by joining Sunderland – a talented footballer who chose the wrong club

I’ll admit I dislike Durhan’s whiny voice. But he does the job he’s paid for, winding people up with all that whining.

It would be comforting to know at least some Salut! Sunderland readers are far too young to remember Shots at Sleeman.

Alan Sleeman was a Sunday Sun (ie Tyneside not Murdoch) sports journalist who liked to enrage fans of the North East teams and wait for the deluge of anger to pour in. Once received, it was sorted and stuck on a page with that heading, Shots at Sleeman. Durham is like that, deliberately contradictory to the extent that the discerning listener can often feel he has espoused an inflammatory case that he does not actually endorse but is guaranteed to bring in the callers (is it true, as I saw on twitter in the same thread, that TalkSport callers pay a premium rate?).

The thrust of his case on Wickham is that here is a player who greatly impressed him before he joined Sunderland but has had his natural progress disrupted and derailed by a constant managerial changes, repeated exiles on loan and utter failure by the club to show him the necessary guidance or even play him in his best (central attacking) position.

Here’s an extract:

The ongoing debate about English talent failing to develop after promising early signs needs to look at examples like Wickham. All the ability, but no significant strides made. He should have made that progression. The fact that he hasn’t is down to Sunderland being a complete basket case of a club.

Maybe and maybe not. Durham’s evidence of this uncommonly great talent consists of snatches of brilliance in an England Under 17 game, a sub’s role in a Championship match showing him to be “one of the more technically gifted players” on the pitch and, a few months later and still in what we used to call and other countries still call Division Two, a superb run from his own half and the coolest of finishes.

That is pretty thin stuff. But yes, we paid lots of money for Wickham and saw the same potential. So Durham may have a point in saying he has not been properly nurtured at Sunderland and has not even been given the proper “slap in the face” needed to eliminate what one of his past managers described as his “playboy model” tendencies.
Perhaps in the short time he may be with us, Advocaat – provided he sees the unfulfilled potential – will recognise this and use it to help Sunderland’s survival bid and Wickham’s long-term prospects.

Jake: 'any chance of a lift, mate?'
Jake: ‘any chance of a lift, mate?’

* Fletcher’s flash car:

There is Sunderland history for this kind of contrived row. After the relegation of 2003, Mick McCarthy fined Michael Gray two weeks’ pay and stripped him of the captaincy for turning up in his new Ferrari when ordinary SoL staff were losing their jobs because of the players’ failure to stay up.

Check that link, by the way, and you’ll find it is from 2008 when Derby were facing relegation and Rob Savage was involved in a similar boy’s toys controversy. Paul Jewell, then Derby manager, said: “At this moment, Sunderland are the worst team in Premier League history because they went down with a record low number of points”. Derby went on to break the record in style, with just 11 points (our worst having been 15 and 19).

To be honest, I cannot be bothered to say much more about Fletcher’s car, beyond this thought: most SAFC fans, at a guess, couldn’t care less about such displays of affluence if only the players concerned were doing the business on the pitch, which demonstrably Fletcher – among many others – is not.

And I promised
one bit of better news. Advocaat has been talking aup the value of ugly wins – yep, we’d take a few of those – and spelling out why we should not fear the internationals could add to injury woes:

From The Daily Mail

‘The only important thing in the final games is winning. The way we do that is not important. So if we win games very ugly I like that. We will play very negative if the need is there.’

Advocaat has given his players the early part of the week off, an agreed rest period which is the legacy of Gus Poyet’s ill-fated reign. The Dutchman joked that the club don’t have too many international players so their preparations for the visit of North-East rivals Newcastle a week on Sunday will not be disrupted.

The upshot of all this is clear: we can dismiss ‘Arry’s thoughts as irrelevant, adopt a couldn’t care less attitude on players’ tastes in runarounds (while asking for more achievement in their day jobs), aim Shots at Durham and look forward to however many wins, and however ugly, needed to stay up.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake

17 thoughts on “Do they mean us? Redknapp’s ‘worst team’ jibe, Adrian Durham’s ‘basket case’ club and more”

  1. Is this the same Club that produced Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback through their youth system, who found and developed Simon Migolet, Danny Welbeck and Danny Rose, Sunderland was good enough to bring them on, Wickham needs to sort himself out the club has done nothing but support him

    • Like too many of his generation, Wickham seems to have started to believe his own publicity.
      He is a promising player, who, so far, has totally failed to make the next step up.

      If he is to progress he needs to get his head out of the orifice it currently resides, and work on those aspects of his game which are patently lacking – ball control, particularly his first touch; using his natural physicality [ he reminds me of a big girl at present ] and, above all, vision [ he appears unable to spot a teammate in a better position ]

      He might be advised to compare his progress with one Harry Kane – a player who he should have been competing with for international honours?

    • The Geordies would get sent off for putting our players on their backs. On that basis we might actually score. Or is that the wrong way round..

      • Brilliant AT!!

        That prat Durham is an irritant – and he shouldn’t have such a good surname – but I find professional geordie Shaun Custis just as bad. I had the misfortune to hear him on Sky’s Sunday Supplement (not in my home by the way) a couple of weeks ago saying SAFC fans deserve what they’re getting ‘cos they got Bruce sacked for being a geordie – lazy, ignorant journo.

  2. It’s painful to hear and to listen to. We can say what we like about our own club but it’s extremely hard to take when it comes from outsiders. The sad reality unfortunately is that it’s true, it’s accurate and probably very fair.

    We are dreadful to watch. We are ponderous when we have the ball. We don’t score goals, and at times you could legitimately wonder whether that objective has been forgotten. We are a rich club that doesn’t spend money, dependent on freebies and Championship players. The football has been completely unattractive under at least the last 3 managers and we are again in a battle to avoid the drop. We’ve won 4 games all season.

    It’s all very well to moan about negativity, but the harsh reality is that there is virtually nothing to be positive about. If I’ve missed that, then please tell me what it is. I suppose we got rid of a clueless manager who specialised in talking in riddles. We might be at least grateful for that, even if not the predicament he’;s put us in.

    There’s no pleasure in watching Sunderland even for us die hards, so how can there possibly be anything in it for neutrals?

    • 45,000 fans is a positive. A top class stadium is a positive. Financial stability is a positive. QPR have none of this and even Joey Barton recently criticised ‘Arry for his transfer record.

  3. This negativity in the media towards Sunderland is akin to a pack of vultures circling a dying beast. What is needed is for that beast to get back on its feet (i.e., win a game or two), and then those nabobs of negativity will flock off is search of new and easier carrion.

    Of course the big question is can we put a modest winning patch together. Here’s hoping our Richard can turn things around.

  4. The worst team in the league still didnt turn to Good Ole Arry to save them , what’s that say about him ?

  5. The worst injustice inflicted on Wickham was within a few month of his joining us. Away at Brighton, against a team with had just been promoted to the division he had spent the previous twelve months terrorising, he was ignored in favour of Sessegnon in a lone striker role. What that game could have done for the lad’s confidence is incalculable
    Shame on you, Bruce!

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