Sixers’s Soapbox: squirming in our seats as Crystal Palace take the spoils

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I was in the ground early yesterday and got chatting to one of the stewards. When he asked me if I expected anything from the game my look must have said it all, even before my shake of the head and verbal response of “No not really.” When the first goal went in I turned to the bloke sitting next to me and said “two more and I might be able to relax.” After the second went in I turned again and said “one more and I’ll be able to………two more again!” That’s what following Sunderland does for you. Serves me right for getting all optimistic at the back end of last season. During my conversation with the steward and comments from those around me during the match, it would appear that criticism of the owner is growing.

I hate to hear the team booed and I wish people wouldn’t leave early, no matter how dire the performance as I feel that just adds to the enormity of the task and does nothing for player morale. Tremendous positivity amongst the fans helped keep us up last season. More on field performances like yesterday’s will not be tolerated by much of the home support and will make what is already an uphill task, that much harder.

Like me, Pete Sixsmith stays to the bitter end and keeps his feelings bottled up until the players are out of earshot. Here is where he says what he really feels.



We have had books about Sunderland’s Top Ten Games and Sunderland’s Great Matches and I believe there is one coming out about the Six In A Row over our Friends From The North And Currently In The Championship which will probably find its way into the stockings of those who are still of a Red and White persuasion.

I would like to propose a follow up to that one and call it “Totally Inept Performances by Sunderland AFC 1962- 2015” and would suggest that Saturday’s howler would vie with the 5-1 defeat at the Sports Direct and a 6-1 thrashing by Blackburn Rovers in the mid 80’s, as the worst performances I have seen by teams representing the club M Salut and I have followed for the last 50+ years.

In many ways, this was worse than the others on account of how, by some fluke, we had established a two goal lead and looked as if we might be on our way to winning a game before the central heating and the winter duvet go on.

That those goals in no way reflected the general course of play was of little bother to the diminishing number of Sunderland supporters inside the Stadium of Light. A win was a win was a win and in Jermain Defoe we had a man who had given us a lead that we could hopefully build on as the leaves left the trees and the Premier League starts to sort itself out.

When he put in the second goal on the hour after another bout of poor defending by the visitors, we prepared to sit back and watch the midfield and back four tighten up and thwart Pontius Pardew and his team and then we could go home with big smiles on our faces to enjoy a Saturday evening doing whatever it is we do on a Saturday evening.

That feeling lasted for all of 30 second. Straight from the kick off, Palace went down the field, took advantage of the rabble who purport to be defenders and pulled a goal back. Instead of relaxing back in our red and white and pink seats, we were sat on the edge of them hoping that perhaps we could get a third goal to finish these pesky Croydoners off.

Jake: 'we're pretty useless'
Jake: ‘we’re pretty useless’

Not so. Pontius played his substitute cards well and took off Cabaye and sent on a pacy youngster in Zachy Fryers. With his first involvement, he galloped down the wing, leaving Manquillo for dead and put in a cross that James McArthur, rising above a static Van Aanholt, headed in to level the scores.

From edge of seat, we went to hiding under them. The longer the game went on it was clear that if anyone was going to win it, it would not be a team in red and white stripes. But, we held on thanks to some desperate defending and some wayward finishing, particularly by Andros Townsend. A point was just about acceptable – or so we thought.

What possessed Manquillo to push Wickham over in the corner may never be known. The game was almost over. Had the push not taken place we would have had to defend at worst, a throw in. But hands were placed on him, down he went, right in front of Anthony Taylor and the free kick was given.

We had time to organise our defending – except there was nobody there to do the organising. But even so, surely it was easy to spot that Benteke was stood unmarked, in the box, looking to make a run. I saw it, just as I had seen Lukaku peel off the defenders in the last home game.

Alas, neither of the centre halves picked him up and the Belgian came through like a coal train rattling down a railroad track and powered in a header past Pickford and into the net. And that was that. From 2 up to 3-2 down and we looked like a team that was seeking to emulate Derby County’s 11 point season.

This is yet another ragbag of a team, hastily thrown together with no planning or foresight. There is no discernible pattern to it and without Defoe, there is not one player who can score goals. Two of Palace’s goals came from midfielders. Our midfield is more likely to appear on Strictly Come Dancing than it is to weigh in with a goal or two. Kirchhoff has never scored, Cattermole twice in his seven years at Sunderland and Ndong twice last season for Lorient.

That is but one of the problems that faces David Moyes and whichever other manager comes to Sunderland. Another is the frighteningly inept levels of defending. Hearts are in mouths whenever Djilobodji goes anywhere near the ball and Kone looks a considerably lesser player than he did in the spring. There are plenty of handshakes and fist bumps but not much sign of any cohesion between them. Neither full back appears to be a competent defender.

Going forward there are three options.

Option One is hoof it forward to Defoe who is prepared to scrap with centre halves but who, because of his size, rarely wins.

Option Two is to pass it square until we can get the full backs in, by which time any competent team has got back in numbers and any attack peters out.

Jake: 'we need an end result'
Jake: ‘we need an end result’

Option Three is to give it to Janusaz in the hope that he might just dribble his way through the defenders and score a wonder goal.

The problem with the third option is that the player involved looks as likely to score as Cattermole does. When he goes on a run, there is nothing genuinely productive at the end of it and down goes his head. He does not appear to be enjoying his time at Sunderland and I can’t see Mourinho welcoming him back the Old Trafford with open arms, so he really is at a crossroads in his career. I would be amazed if he retained his place for next week.

As I would if John O’Shea were not to be brought back to face the Baggies next Saturday (kick off 3.00p.m. – seats available in all parts). He may not be the most mobile of players, but he can organise and he is not a mistake waiting to happen as Djilobodji appears to be.

David Moyes must be wondering what he has walked into. Any good will that he brought with him has just about gone and he has clearly inherited and signed players who are not good enough. Manquillo represents a trade down on Yedlin, Kaboul is desperately missed at the back, Kirchhoff does not look the imperious player he was last season and his gamble on Janusaz appears to have backfired.

My well of optimism is running dry and another defeat next week against a well organised West Brom may empty it completely. Saturday was a dismal experience and it is beginning to look like four years of constant struggle have caught up with us. Psychologically, the players look shot.

Finally, what of Palace? I am not a great lover of the club or the manager, but he has put together a solid team that will do well – at least up until Christmas. They gave us two goals but were strong enough to come back at us and they have a pattern and a plan. We are lacking in both.

A long autumn and winter beckons. It may be a long time before we can celebrate a win but we keep the faith – at least for a little bit longer.

13 thoughts on “Sixers’s Soapbox: squirming in our seats as Crystal Palace take the spoils”

  1. So Sam looses his job as england manager,get him back at Sunderland double quick,,get rid of moyes,even tho hes on a 4 year contract,,,why the hell he got 4 years is beyond me,but id fire his arse a get Sam in,,,hes the only one that can have a go at saving us.

  2. We were 4 players away from being a reasonable team last season and in less than 100 days David Moyes has come along and dismantled that team and replaced it with rejects, has beens, rookies and poor footballers. Not one player signed this summer would get into any other team in this league. N’dong might come good we’ll see. Ryan Mason would have been a simpler more sensible option but we’ll see.
    An absolute shocking state of affairs, Moyes is the worst manager I can remember since the low alcohol sales rep from the south coast. I don’t say that lightly. Advocaat, Allardyce, O’Neill, Poyet etc all came into poor underperforming struggling teams. This clown took over a team with so much optimism and talent I had to shake my head. Personally I don’t think he’ll see out October

    • I don’t think you become a bad manager overnight Stuart. Moyes was good at Preston, brilliant at Everton, and IMO inherited a poor Man U side, and still did no worse than the highly rated guy who replaced him.

      I think it would be madness to replace him now, and I don’t think Mr Short would dream of doing so.

      I am very disappointed with our start, but I don’t feel it is all DM’s fault. He has tried to sign more proven players, but few seem to want to join Sunderland.

      However, something radical has to happen soon, because I find it hard to believe that we will pull off another ” great escape “

    • We had a decent team at the end of last season. We had a manager who was getting the best out of them. We had a sensible pre-season organised and all was looking rosy. The game at Hartlepool showed us we had a team that looked to have had a good summer and were much fitter than the one that started a year earlier. We could have signed Yedlin. We might have signed M’Vila and the feel good factor could have carried on with a settled side.

      But even before the England debacle Sam was appearing frustrated with the lack of transfer activity. I don’t really think all the blame can be put at Moyes’s door.

      I know what I think needs to happen if the club is to progress. Martin O’Neill is not a bad manager. Gus Poyet is not a bad manager. Dick Advocaat is not a bad manager. David Moyes is not a bad manager. But there is something at Sunderland AFC that stops them taking the club forward. Ask yourself what the common factor is over the past few seasons.

      As for the team – a year ago Kaboul and Coates were dreadful at the beginning of the season but Kaboul came good when Kone signed. Djilobodji was a curate’s egg yesterday – good in parts, but at the moment we need a more solid defensive unit. I thought O’Shea should have started alongside Kone yesterday. He may be getting on but he reads the game better.

      As for PvA and Manquillo I feel it is more a question of balance in the team. When Borini, Khazri and M’Vila were all starting, there was cover for Yedlin and PvA. Kirchhoff provided solidity in front of the back four and could also provide a decent pass. I don’t feel Watmore or Januzaj are covering the right back the way Borini does (or Seb come to that) when fit. Ndong will be OK – maybe he should play on the right hand side in front of Manquilo. I’d always have Cattermole in the team and although Khazri sometimes runs round like a headless chicken, he does support van Aanholt.

      I get the feeling that Defoe is getting fed up, knowing that no matter how hard he tries the team will still struggle to get a result. I don’t believe that a professional like Defoe would deliberately give less than 100% but subconsciously he must be feeling frustrated and that in itself will diminish his performance.

      He has all the pressure for goals piled on him, gets little support in front of goal and yet still scored twice. To come off as part of a losing team must have him scratching his head.

      Sam seemed the perfect fit for the club. What a shame the media couldn’t convince the F.A. that Moyes would have made a good manager of the national team.

      Having said all that he has to work with what he’s got until January. I am fearing the worst.

  3. I agree with everything you say, Pete, and would add the following. It’s not a coincidence that our 3 goal giveaways to Everton and Palace both occurred in the second half. We can defend reasonably well for 45 mins, but then things start to go wrong. The defenders lose concentration, the midfield tires, and other teams are just fitter and more lively than us. I know we’ve had injuries and I know new players need time to adjust etc etc…..yeah yeah, we hear this every year, but it doesn’t hit other teams the way it hits us. Cattermole had to be taken off yesterday, because he couldn’t last 90 mins. He’s already starting from a position of being too slow for the Premiership, and during the second half he wouldn’t have been able to catch me (aged 64, and had a drink). Kirchhoff finally lasted a game, but his second halves have all been poor compared to his first. N’Dong might turn out to be okay eventually, but I’m currently embarrassed that he’s our all-time record buy. In any case he contributed nothing towards recovering the situation. And just when we’d persuaded ourselves that the Holy Grail of a steady, solid defence had finally been achieved at Sunderland, we’ve managed to return to our normal state of ineptly giving away soft goals when we’re otherwise doing okay. I actually predicted their third goal out loud, as soon as the ref gave the free-kick, because it was just bound to happen. Benteke had been winning everything in the air all game, and hadn’t scored…..

  4. Here’s a question. Can anyone remember PVA ever heading a ball in his time at the club? I can’t. Surely yesterday was the final proof that he is not a defender … not that we have anyone to replace him with. Ten players signed and it’s hard to think of one who’s threatening to be any good. Just what was Moyes thinking ? Hardly surprising the back four look so clueless – they speak 4 different languages don’t they ? Felt sorry for Watmore who at least worked his socks off. I’m not a season ticket holder and it’s now very close to the end for me.

    • You put your finger on our greatest defensive weakness ie van Aanholt. As you say, he is not a defender, he does not have a defender’s instinct or courage, and opposition teams are now playing on that weakness. He does not anticipate danger and deliberately moves away from potential heading duels, which also represent scoring opportunities for the opposition. For evidence, just look at any highlights on the SAFC website and specifically the cross for Benteke’s winning header yesterday. Why does PvA step backwards away from the flight of the ball?

      PvA has useful pace, and can dribble. I would only use him as a winger. Denayer and Manquillo should be given the chance to take over right and left back slots, respectively, though I admit both need work.

      John O’Shea has no pace, but he knows how to defend set pieces. He will have to be risked alongside Kone until Djilobodji is coached into being a more effective defender.

      • Well said Tom. I reckon that PvA, on average, is responsible for at least one goal every game. I have to say that I’m not impressed with Manquillo either.

        Sunderland seem to have a genuine blind spot in signing fullbacks. Who was the last really competent one? Chris Makin would be my best guess.

  5. Overpriced and inadequate signings by Moyes , Djilobodji is woefull . The team has no pattern of play and the confidence is zero . Pickford will become a top goal keeper while Defoe is thankfully still Defoe . The fact we were and are awaiting the inclusion of Cattermole and O’Shea speaks volumes and its volumes of disappointment . The crowds are already dropping and anymore of this rubbish it will only be the season tickets holders left . Well done Ellis Short .

  6. I suspect that a book on ‘Sunderland’s inept performances….’ would be a weighty tome indeed.It also seems to me that Januzaj is another Antony Le Tallec in the use he is to the team.

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