How Long Has This Been Going On? Long before John O’Shea’s howlers

Peter Lynn: a musical theme for every moment
Peter Lynn: a musical theme for every moment

Tons of words have been and written and spoken about the wretched Sunderland collapse, the latest in a season littered with disappointment. Peter Lynn was among the unhappy Sunderland fans present and, as always for him, it had involved a major effort to get there from the West Midlands. Days later, he puts the mistakes of John O’Shea into perspective and ponders the lack of managerial stability he feels contributes to the SAFC malaise. He says he wrote it ‘to get the Palace nightmare out of my system’ …

Well, the tune I had in my head
, How Long Has This Been Going On?, was by the group Ace from 1974, written by Paul Carrack and tells of the break-up of a love affair. When I looked up the lyrics on the internet, what also came up was a much earlier song written by George and Ira Gershwin which reveals the joy in discovering love – in the form of kissing. You can see where this is going can’t you?

My last experience at the Stadium of Light, Crystal Palace, was bitter, like the Ace song. My previous one, Newcastle, was joyful, there really were those “chills up my spine” the Gershwins felt in 1928.

It has taken me from Saturday until now – late evening on Tuesday – to summon up the mental strength to write this and even now I really don’t know which way it will go or even if I can be bothered, a bit like some of our players appeared to be on Saturday.

I think one thing is clear to me now and it is no longer “I can’t help but have my suspicions”. Our squad is simply not good enough for the Premier League. Yes, some elements of it are good enough but not consistently so.

What is difficult to admit is that this is not a new thing. We have escaped relegation by a whisker in the last two seasons. We may look back fondly on last season’s Great Escape but the reality is that we almost went down. We are again in a mess and this time we don’t appear to have the spark that we had last season at the same point, with six games to play. On Saturday, any confidence that had been gained from the Newcastle win had evaporated after 20 minutes, by which time we could easily have been two goals down and reduced to 10 men.

There has been masses written already about the game and people are entitled to their opinion when it comes to blame, with John O’Shea getting the most criticism. Yes, he was badly at fault with two of the goals but we are not sitting uncomfortably near the bottom of the league because of those mistakes. You might equally say that we only have the points that we do have due to O’Shea’s defending feats in the drawn and won results we have achieved.

We are where we are due to the squad’s efforts and abilities and if, as is the case, we have spent the past three seasons in or around the bottom of the league then, however painful it is to accept, that is where we belong.

What can we do about it? Again, much has recently been written including some superb comments on this website and a reappearance of the theory that there must be something fundamentally wrong within the club. I don’t subscribe to this. I think that the club would stand favourable comparison with any other in the Premier League. It has taken steps to ensure its long term financial survival, has many strong links with the local community and I know from personal experience that it works hard to consider its fans.

Jake: 'to err is human .....'
Jake: ‘to err is human …..’

For the master debate on Sunderland vs Crystal Palace, what it means and where it leaves us, see the discussion inspired by Pete Sixsmith’s merciless matchday reflections at

The only area of concern I personally have is the high turnover of managers/coaches. I don’t believe we can achieve long term success without the stability that a long term managerial tenure would bring. This of course is easier said than done as we have tried to achieve stability with lengthy managerial contracts only to have to terminate them when it looks like we are about to be relegated, with all the negative financial implications that entails.

My suggestion, for what it is worth, is this – and it is the same whether we are relegated or not. Extend Dick Advocaat’s contract for a short time, say one year. Get him to undertake the very necessary clear out of players. In the meantime, find a young British manager/coach to work alongside Dick and back him, even if we suffer a further relegation, taking the time to build a squad, including the Academy, that plays to a system. This is nothing original – it has been done by both Southampton and Swansea – but it works.

Then, who knows?……………..

“Oh, I feel that I could melt,

Into Heaven I’m hurled!

I know how Columbus felt,

Finding another world.”

* And how Monsieur Salut saw it,
at ESPN:


‘What Advocaat’s innermost thoughts may have been, watching Sunderland’s latest abject surrender, can only be guessed at. In his post-match email to supporters, he talked of a “very disappointing afternoon.”

Fans had no reason for similar restraint as they took to social media. Many comments are unrepeatable; milder ones accused the players of mental weakness, spinelessness and offering “utterly pathetic” opposition to Pardew and Palace. A few admitted to the sheer embarrassment of supporting a team that, even in the bottom six, can fill a stadium for kickoff only to empty it with half an hour remaining.’

13 thoughts on “How Long Has This Been Going On? Long before John O’Shea’s howlers”

  1. It’s beyond me as well Jake. I wonder why it is that our players are farmed out to lower reaches of the football league or even lower (Lynden Gooch to Gateshead). If these kids were good enough they would be getting a game at better places than the bench in Shropshire and Gateshead. Other clubs loan out players to clubs in “division” or the Championship but not us. Why? They aren’t good enough!

  2. Apart from Duncan Watmore, perhaps the player most touted to break into the first team is Mikael Mandron. He’s been on loan at Shrewsbury Town since the end of January and has made 3, (that’s THREE) appearances. That includes coming on for the last six minutes against Bury and for many games he hasn’t even been on the bench. Somebody explain to me what SAFC or the player get out of this arrangement cos it’s totally beyond me!

  3. I agree completely with what Mick says (and in fact just about everybody here). The academy is a complete failure. The sad truth is that so are other academies which are failing too. We aren’t this.

    The issue for Sunderland is that there’s arguably a greater need for success stories through the academy than at a lot of other clubs in the PL because there’s simply a profound need to develop our own. We have not been doing that and there seems little hope of any change.

    The academy has got a poor reputation on several fronts in the region and some of the other clubs feed off that and take advantage. The work of the academy seems to be independent of what happens with the first team, and that’s a huge part of the problem. Not surprising given the dearth of talent making it through. It has nothing to do with the change of management because they are there to produce footballers and they aren’t.

    Is this to do with the quality of players they are signing in the first instance? Yes, undoubtedly. Is it related to the quality of the coaching they get? Take a look at who is doing the coaching and ask yourselves about that one.

    The bigger problem is simply this however, and it’s an issue for football generally. There is no reserve team football any more and that seems like madness to me. The gulf between U21 and adult football is we can call it that has grown too wide. That;s the reason why so many players are out on loan these days. Exposure to first team football at a lower level has replaced the reserve structure where all the pros would play at some point. That has to change. The current system doesn’t work for the majority but the loan system helps the wealthier clubs develop their talent and increase the market value of players so we are probably stuck with it.

    • The two notable successes of the academy are Henderson and Colback . One we got a fortune for , one we gave away and the result is exactly the same , they don’t play for us . We may aswell have given away Henderson also for what good the money’s done , paying off crap managers after funding their crap signings .

  4. The problem at Sunderland is we can’t attract top players who are capable of giving us a spark or a threat. Who wants to come to Sunderland? It’s hardly an attractive sounding place. Sunderland are a magnet to players looking to reignite their careers (Rodwell, Johnson, Mannone) and players that are to old to do the business in the Premier League anymore and happy to take the pay cheque (Brown, O’Shea, Reveillere, Louis Saha a few seasons back). And with the age comes a mentality block. The players love playing playing against a Chelsea or Man City or Liverpool but when a Stoke or Aston Villa or QPR come calling the players can’t be bothered.

    Sunderland need to blood some young players through a la Duncan Watmore or Mikael Mandron. The only problem with this is that the constant chopping and changing of managers prevents any sort of long term plan being drawn up for the development of young players. And the current predicament we keep finding ourselves in means that the young players will be overlooked.

    What Sunderland need is an experienced manager who will provide much needed stability in the Premier League, who can then gradually throw in younger players and develop them. Who knows, Sunderland might just have their own Harry Kane

    • Agree with everything you say,particularly the blooding of young players for our Academy.

      I am old enough to recall the introduction of Arnott,Rowell and Elliott that almost saved us for relegation.But at least we went down fighting.

      Other fine players like Bobby Kerr,Mick Horswill ,Ritchie Pitt,Bobby Park,Dicky Ord,BarryVenison,Dennis Tueart ,Billy Hughes and of course the legend that is Monty all came through the junior section and gave the club fine service. Will we ever produce such players again?

  5. Sorry Pete , no way would I’d except yet another relegation to the first division , please correct me if I’ve miss read your article . Our club , fanbase and everything that goes with it is better than that . It would be an utter humiliation and there’s no guarantee we’d fight our way back . It’s hard enough looking the championship in the face ,at least it will give us respite from getting drubbed every week . Another venture into the third level would be totally unacceptable .

    • I agree, especially when you take parachute payments into account, and, I believe, that the wages are automatically and contractually slashed if the club is relegated. A comparison with the bloated Leed United of a decade ago or, more recently, equally bloated Portsmouth seems to be way off the mark. It also depends upon what Short does. Sell the club or invest more and go for a quick promotion.

  6. Pete, I’m glad you made the point about O’Shea’s contribution to the season. He certainly had a ” mare ” on Saturday, but I think, with the exception of Larsson, he has been our best player this season.

    In regard to the general points, I think Jeremy is right [ about stability ] IMO had we stuck with our last five managers [ and I include Keane in this ] we would inevitably have been relegated.

    I think that all of our problems emanate from the same source – our inability to appoint a decent manager. It is he signs the players, decides the tactics and is responsible for motivation.

    Stability will only be achieved once we make the right choice [ or rather, when Mr Short does ] because it will follow that decent players will be signed and results will improve.

    History demonstrates this time and time again:

    Ramsey at Ipswich
    Shankley at Liverpool
    Revie at Leeds
    Clough at Derby and Forest

    The above are admittedly examples from the top of the ability range, but those teams were all in the second division when those managers were appointed.

    More recent examples are Ferguson at Man U and Moyes at Everton. At the present time Eddie Howe may soon be joining those iconic names.

    Frankly, our last five managers [ Keane had one decent season, but was in decline when he left ] have not been anywhere near good enough, and not surprisingly, we are now paying the price. A poor squad, clueless tactics and low morale.

    Mr Short’s key task is to appoint a manager fit for a club of Sunderland’s size and potential. We will not progress until that happens.

  7. Agree with Jeremy that stability is the goal not the means to an end. Other than a couple of seasons under Peter Reid stability is the one thing the Club has lacked.

    I have been, and still am, one of the proponents that there is a fundamental problem currently with the Club. It goes further than just the playing staff not being good enough, it goes further than the apparent wielding of player power.

    Our financial position in the words of Pete ‘ It (the Club)has taken steps to ensure its long term financial survival’, however this survival is how dependent on maintaining our PL status???? What happens if we are not in the PL to our financial position.

    Additionally if everything is geared to just staying in the PL, having to put up with the dross week in week out that has been served up for a number of seasons, what impact does the Fans financial input have and what happens if the desert the SoL in the search for a worthwhile Saturday afternoon pursuit.

    We agree the squad is not good enough, but Sunderland is not a big enough draw for top class PL talent and at any rate we can’t pay what these standard of players want. Is our biggest failure and main fundamental problem that we are trying to get stability and build for the future in the wrong division in the first place.

    Is Shorts overriding concern about staying in the PL misdirected when he should be thinking about obtaining stability in the Championship, building a team and re-structuring the Club from there before a push on the PL where we come up leaner, meaner and a lot wiser.

    We may not have any choice in this matter anymore.

  8. Oh dear. I was wondering how long it would be before someone came out with the dreaded “S” word; “stability.”

    Conjured like some magic potion. “Stability” is and end, not a means to that end. “Stability” can not be achieved by carrying on with managers who are no good, and are failing. That doesn’t bring “stability.” We can only achieve “stability” when we have a team and management which is capable of producing results which are sufficiently consistent and good enough to keep us away from the dreaded drop zone every single bloody season.

    We haven’t been sacking managers because we were doing well, We sack them and change them (with some immediate impact in the majority of cases, even if not in the current situation), because we are losing most weeks. If we had stuck with Bruce, we’d have been relegated. Had we stuck with O’Neill we would have been relegated. PDC would have had us down by Christmas, and anyone who thinks Poyet should have been kept on wants his head examined.

    The sort of “stability” that you are talking about here is persistence in the face of failure. There’s another “S” word that springs to mind. Maybe we should have stuck with Malcolm Crosby 🙂

  9. SAFC have been saying for years that we are going to sign players with ‘character’. There is little evidence of it at the moment ( The skill level is not too great either)

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