It threatens to be a sad day. The FA is expected to be appoint Big Sam to the England job and will not be apologising to Sunderland for the disruption its wretched foot-slogging has caused to our pre-season plans. Then the stage is set, or so we have been led to believe for David Moyes’s arrival as our new boss. Let Pete Sixsmith take up the story from what is likely to have been Allardyce’s last match in charge of SAFC, last night’s friendly at Hartlepool …
Fifty one weeks ago, the Sunderland first team were losing at Doncaster Rovers, having turned in a performance which left many in the crowd worried for the coming season.
That night, they looked unfit, lacking cohesion and an absolute shambles from front to back as they lost to a side that ended up being relegated to the bottom tier.
Fast forward almost a year and here we had a Sunderland side which was fit, slick and full of imagination and running as they dispatched their A19 neighbours with three excellent goals, including an absolute gem from Jermain Defoe.
The new manager (and I am assuming that Sam Allardyce will accept the ultimate poisoned chalice from the dunderheads who “run” the FA) will find a team that has a great spirit about it and can play a fair bit of football.
He will find some very promising players who are beginning to move through the ranks and are starting to look like Premier League footballers.
And, he will find a fan base that has no illusions about the challenges ahead and who crave a season of stability and peace with no dramatic end of season escapes and perhaps a possible cup run to sweeten life. The prospect of mid table mediocrity is something that excites me.
For 45 minutes the players that the new man has to work with looked comfortable in possession and, far more importantly, looked fit and up for it. Twelve months ago, they looked nothing like ready for the rigours of a Premier League season and the subsequent defeats to Leicester, Norwich City and Bournemouth showed that Dick Advocaat was right to walk away and hand the chance to Sam Allardyce.
Hartlepool were run into the ground by the probings of Khazri and Cattermole, the pace of Borini and the sheer quality of Defoe. The latter took two goals, the first coming when he easily shrugged off Pools central defender Nsiala and slotted the ball past Trevor Carson.
The second came when Khazri, as busy as ever, fed Defoe and, when his shot came back from the post, the Tunisian calmly finished.
Finally, Defoe got another with a wonderful chip after Borini, sporting a blonde thatch a la Boris Johnson, set him up after a good run.
Further chances were missed by Rodwell (I seem to have written that a few times) and Kone before the first team trooped off and the Under 21s plus Charles N’Zogbia trooped on.
The second half was far more even as the home team also made a number of changes, which included bringing on Billy Paynter to play up front. He’s a grizzled old pro, big, strong and fearsome looking – exactly the kind of player that Michael Ledger and Thomas Beadling (our second half central defenders) need to play against. Paynter gave Beadling a real test and the young centre half handled him well.
Watmore should have made it four and it was nice to see Lyndon Gooch return to meaningful action. All three Robson’s did well as did Rees Greenwood, although N’Zogbia did little to suggest that whoever is manager will give him a contract.
We had three regulars missing in Jan Kirchhoff, John O’Shea and Seb Larsson and there was no Yedlin or M’Vila. I gather the Frenchman is back in France and is not expected back at Kazan. He has six months left on his contract but Ruben are not inclined to let him go on the cheap. We shall see…..
And so, another Sunderland manager leaves although not for the usual reasons.
Not since Jimmy Adamson left us for Leeds United in 1978 have we seen a boss depart for a bigger job, so this makes a change from sackings, mutual consents and throwing the towel in. There will be more, much more on the Allardyce months in the next couple of days.
In the meantime, maybe we could all club together and buy him and his wife a nice hamper.