Wrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: the rocky road to 37 points in full

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

This was essentially how Wrinkly Pete – a regular Salut! Sunderland contributor Peter Lynn – began his crystal ball-gazing look at Sunderland’s survival prospects. But we have now amended the sequence starting with Leicester (a), taking account of revised predictions, and will continue to do until thd bitter end. In the case of each match, he predicts the outcome and later comments on the reality. This file will be updated as the season draws to its merciful close …

“I’m sending out an S O S, ‘cos I’m in so much distress”

So sang Edwin Starr in his hit song Stop Her On Sight and I am hoping that I will not feel the same as I begin my four hour drive home, post match on Saturday [here, Pete is referring to the home game vs Stoke and he did, of course, make his homeward journey in some distress – Ed].

If David Moyes, pre match on Saturday, can get his team to realise that this is War, another of Starr’s hits, then we might get a win and make a further small (?) step towards safety.

Just in case, and assuming we get no points from the Stoke game, I set out below my personal plan for what we will then need to achieve, game by game, to avoid relegation. This, of course, does assume that those teams presently languishing at the bottom with us do not exceed our achievements.

REALITY: Well, we have not even broken sweat (yes, including some of our players) and my prediction is bang on course. We have nil points from the Stoke game and, having exited the FA cup, will be able to rest up prior to the Spurs home game. I do try to enjoy the experience of following The Lads and can sometimes appreciate the bizarre events that I witness in so doing.

As examples from the Stoke game, not only did the South Stand set a new record for earliest mass exit but our players were not stupid in the second half. They knew that if they annoyed Stoke too much they would be properly smacked (are you still allowed to type that?). How else could you explain Rodwell’s miss?

Speaking of the mass exit, the crowd gaps that I refer to were filled by the time of the second half restart. As my namesake Peter Kay would say “What was that all about?” Did the exiteers all need an early wee? Were the gates opened at half time as in days of old and free loaders filled the gaps? I prefer to think the exiteers heard the crowd greet Defoe’s goal and still had enough belief to reclaim their seats. Which ever I am glad. If we expect fight from our players, we must support them.

On Saturday I will be at The Hawthorns hoping for a victory. I would rather that than a draw and wonder if I have magical powers and should have laid a bet on “my plan”.
Wrinkly Pete 19/1/17

Jan 21 WBA (a) Prediction: Draw.
A tough demand at a ground where we don’t traditionally do well.

When I offered M Salut to do an update of this article after each game, I hadn’t thought I would have Coldplay’s Scientist lyrics buzzing through my head “nobody said it was easy – no one ever said it would be this hard”. However, a deal is a deal, and in fact writing this is just like watching Sunderland. The match itself will have been covered elsewhere so I will just reference a couple of things I witnessed.

Firstly, the team’s performance could be summed up in that shown by Djilobodji who began the game firing accurate 50 yard passes and ended it throwing punches. Secondly, Honeyman’s efforts showed what can be achieved and, judging by their praise of him, how generous our loving supporters are.

Regarding our support, a bit like “Billydodgy’s” but in reverse. They started singing that they wished Stephen Taylor was dead (can we move on please?) but quickly replaced the “we’re f—ing sh—“ with the more prosaic “You’re not that good, we lose every week”

So, we are only one point short on my prediction and some other under achievers have been good enough to keep us company over the weekend. However, we will need a whole team with Honeyman’s attitude and 100% from our home crowd for 90+ minutes in order to get the win against Spurs.
Wrinkly Pete 23/1/17

Jan 31 Spurs (h) Win. Spurs will have played in the FA cup 4th round a few days previously, we will have rested, having lost the upcoming Burnley replay.

REALITY: Ok, so we didn’t get the win I predicted, although we should have if (a) Borini had scored when through on goal, or (b) wins were determined by attitude. It was a pleasure to be there last night.

IF we can maintain that level of performance EVERY game, we could stay up – with more than 37 points.

I would ask our fans to stay to the final whistle. Again last night they were streaming out on 87 minutes. Where are they going that arriving 5 minutes later would ruin? Our players put in a really gutsy performance against a superb team. Was that not worthy of applauding them off the field? My travelling group faced a four hour drive home and did so. In fact our journey this time started in January and didn’t finish until a month later!!
Keep the faith.
Wrinkly Pete 1/2/17

Feb 4 Palace (a) Draw. Big Sam will still be struggling to improve things.

REALITY: How could I have been so wrong? Not only was my prediction of the result wrong but elsewhere on this website I forecast that PvA would score at both ends and be culpable for our other two goals in a 3-3 draw. So the only tiny success for my prophesying was PvA’s foul which conceded the free kick from which we scored our first goal. Hey ho!

I will also hope to be wrong on Saturday. I won’t say more – just in case!

By this point, my predictions would have gained us an additional five points. The reality is that we have gained four points so we are a single point down but I think there are other things to take into account looking at where we were just over three weeks ago.

Firstly, we have stayed in touch with the other teams “in the basement” and in fact have been joined by others so that now the bottom six are spread across only two points.

Secondly, we have lost a left back who announced that he didn’t want to play for us and couldn’t defend and got a left back who can defend plus a load of money.

Thirdly, we have got two other new players, Gibson and Lescott who not only want to play but most importantly want to play for David Moyes. To appreciate the significance of this latter point, you only have to look at Jack Rodwell’s performances now compared to those under previous management. Let us hope that his hamstring injury is only slight.

Thus, we still have a mountain to climb but haven’t fallen off!

Sing your hearts out on Saturday. You can make the difference.
Wrinkly Pete. 6/2/17

Feb 11 S’ton (h) Lose. In typical SAFC fashion, one we should win we don’t.

REALITY: Was it all my fault? I predicted the loss based on experiencing so many false dawns over the years following The Lads – although I secretly hoped that Southampton would have one eye on their cup final appearance and we might get something! No, on reflection I don’t think I am to blame, especially after reading the excellent comments that follow Pete Sixsmith’s latest match report. I think that we were simply not good enough in most positions. When we raise our game, for example against Spurs, when we knew we had to, then we can just about compete. If we fall behind, our already fragile confidence completely disappears.
Despite the raw feeling I have inside as I type this, all is not lost. We are still in touch with other strugglers and we have better players to return from injury to improve the side and the spirit.
Keep the faith.
Wrinkly Pete, 13/2/17

Feb 25 Everton (a) Draw.
We bounce back. Well, a partial bounce.

REALITY: Hmmm. I wasn’t at this one so have to rely on other peoples match reports and the SAFC website highlights. Worryingly, our only two outstanding moments seemed to be (a) the continuing excellent response to the needs of Bradley Lowery and (b) Defoe hitting the woodwork.

When the players shook hands pre kick off, it may have been the camera angle but our players all looked smaller than Everton’s. In any event, and not for the first time this season, what little I have been able to see did look like men (them) against boys (us). Well, there is nothing that we can do about that until the giant Kirchoff and the terrier Cattermole return so let’s look for the positives in where we are. Firstly, we are only two points short of my survival scenario at this point in time. Secondly, we have only two games to play in March now that the ‘Boro game has been postponed. If my memory serves me well, a similar thing occurred in two of our recent escape seasons, allowing us time to get injured players back and giving us a “game in hand” over relegation rivals. Thirdly, and crucially, although others down at the bottom have gained points whilst we haven’t, not everyone has so that we are still in touch.

Finally, we have Pickford back in goal. I feel sorry for Mannone as I think he gives everything to the cause and I remember it was he who instigated the wages forfeit after the Southampton eight goal debacle. However, I am certain that Pickford is the better keeper and IF we are to stay up we MUST have our best players on the pitch.

I shall be there on Sunday, dreading a thrashing and hoping for a miracle – whatever happened to Ji??
Wrinkly Pete 1/3/17

Mar 4 Man C (h) Win. The crowd inspire an unlikely victory.

REALITY: Hmmmm. OK, so we lost which makes this prediction of mine look a bit silly as we are now five points adrift of my imagined tally at this point. However, the 2-0 defeat does not give a full reflection on what I was lucky enough to witness first hand.

Firstly, with a little luck we could have scored three or four goals, in which Jones (twice), Borini and Janazai would have aided Defoe in his goal scoring exploits. Secondly, our team, unchanged for the first time this season (?), and costing perhaps a tenth of that of our opponents, matched City in most respects and outplayed them in spirit, even when two goals down. If we can play like that AND maintain the spirit for EVERY remaining game we could still survive in the Premier League. If my memory serves me well, in each of our other recent escapes it has only been when we have been “cut adrift” which we pretty much are now, that the siege mentality has kicked in and we have found the means to raise our performances, consistently.

My only disappointment yesterday was with those “supporters” who chose to leave – in their thousands – on 80 minutes. I really don’t understand it and have now given up trying to think what the motivation for it is. I would just ask this: Does leaving early add anything positive to the efforts of the players, management, club and other supporters who are trying to help us avoid relegation? If the honest answer is no then please stay and back The Lads.
Wrinkly Pete

Mar 18 Burnley (h) Win. Burnley are distracted by their forthcoming FA cup semi-final appearance.

REALITY: Hmmmmm.
“I should have listened to my old man” So sang Elton John in Yellow Brick Road. What my dad said – or was it on a sales training course (?) – was never assume anything in life as to do so will make an ass out of you and me (ASS/U/ME). Wise words that I should have remembered when I started this prediction. Instead I made some assumptions eg those around us then would not exceed our achievements.

There were others that I didn’t “put down in words” and I think that those are the ones that are making my prediction look pretty sick right now. They were (a) assuming that we would have our full squad available by the Watford away game and (b) that ALL of our players would show professionalism in EVERY game.

a) Anichebe, Kirchhoff and Cattermole are badly missed and new injuries like Kone’s on Saturday have not only meant that our best players have been unavailable but we have been unable to have a settled team, essential in my opinion.

b) Turning to professionalism. You would think that it would be a “given”, never mind the amount of money that our players earn, for them to be utterly professional. However, I give you Borini on Saturday as an example of anything but. He had two golden opportunities to win the match for us and blew them both. This you might accept but twice, when we had Burnley rocking in the second half and the South Stand crowd were willing the ball into the net, he gave away free kicks deep in their half which relieved the pressure and allowed them to regroup. Finally, when he stomped off the pitch at the final whistle he did not even acknowledge our supporters applauding HIM! Totally unprofessional and in my view unacceptable. If I were manager I would give his shirt to Honeyman AND give him as many games as Borini has had to secure his place in the team.

So, is it my fault, making assumptions, that we are now even more likely to be relegated ? No, of course not. Is it David Moyes’s fault? No. I didn’t understand the omission of N’Dong, nor his late arrival onto the pitch, especially with the difference he then made to our midfield tempo.

But I don’t think Moyes’s decision was unprofessional and I don’t hold with sacking him. We are where we are – and have been for five years – because the quality or performance of our players equates to bottom of the league. I hate saying it of the team I love but I simply cannot deny the statistics. I still fervently hope we stay up but that won’t mean we are anything but a mediocre team.

Now, looking ahead…………

David Moyes thinks we need 34 points to survive and that we need to turn one of his games identified as a draw (perhaps Man U home?) into a win to make up for the two points dropped on Saturday.

I stick by my original 37 points being required and presently we are seven points behind my schedule (GULP!). Thus I will revise my original plan to give us wins away to Boro and home to Bournemouth with a draw with Man U at home.
Keep the Faith.
Wrinkly Pete. 20/3/17.

Apr 1 Watford (a) Prediction: Draw. A battling performance by Cattermole on his comeback from injury inspires the rest of the team to a 0-0 result.

Reality: I was unable to be at this game and so, apparently, was Janazai. I only expected one point and so we are now only (?) eight points down on my prediction. In true Len Shackleton literary style – remember the blank page in his autobiography? – , I have put the same effort into this update as Janazai has to his whole season with us.
Wrinkly Pete 4/4/17

Jake: ‘click here for a chance to guess the score, maybe win a prize and help Bradley Lowery. Time is running out’

Apr 4 Leics (a) Lose.
Leicester get the three points they need to avoid the drop, avoiding the shame that they would have suffered as relegated champions.

Reality: It gives me no pleasure to have got this result spot on. I was there and was pleasantly surprised at our overall performance. We fought well and should have been ahead but failed to score from a number of good chances when we were on top. Then, when we came under pressure after their rookie manager used two of his subs and our vastly experienced manager failed to use our subs until it was too late, we conceded. I don’t generally criticise managers as they make far fewer mistakes than players but this time…………

Cattermole was playing his first game in months and was clearly suffering. Moyes signalled to Anichebe to get ready but a further eight minutes elapsed, during which time one of their two subs scored. When Anichebe did come on, he held the ball up, giving others a breather and chance to regain shape.

I did enjoy the “slap ribbing” from their fans and our fans’ response “You’re not that special, we’ve won it six times”. I thought our fans were splendid, singing and cheering the team on right to the end and it was well reciprocated by the players who came across to us at the final whistle to show their appreciation.

Now, to the future. In recent times, in similar situations, we have dispensed with our manager(s) at this point and survived. I am not suggesting we should do the same or indeed need to. We are in deep trouble but it is not impossible to escape, just unlikely. I think that if we envisage O’Shea (for Denayer), Cattermole and Anichebe playing every game from now on and either Khazri or preferably Honeyman replacing the bereft-of-confidence Borini then there might just be another great escape. Bringing in Honeyman would allow Larsson to play on the right hand side where he is much better suited.

I have amended the remaining fixtures and results required as I outlined previously, after the Burnley home game.

WAS Apr 8 Man U (h) Lose.
The shrinking violet that is Mourinho finally gets his team playing like Chelski and Ibrahimavich is unplayable. BUT NOWApr 9 Man U (h) Well, if Lord Murdoch can change the date to suit himself, I can change the result – Draw.

Apr 15 West Ham (h) Win. We get revenge with a 1-0 win in the 94th minute.

(TBA) Arsenal (a) Lose. Miffed at not being in the FA cup semi-final, The Gunners take it out on us, with the four foot tall Sanchez getting a hat trick of headed goals.

WAS lose, before rearranged: NOW Apr 26 Boro (a) Win

Was Apr 29 Bournemouth (h) Lose. We have the jitters, with safety in sight, Bournemouth are by now already safe. NOW Apr 29 Bournemouth (h) Win.

May 6 Hull (a) Win.
Hull become our Norwich of last season as we secure their relegation.

May 13 Swansea (h) Win.
Swansea, who are already down, give in to allow us to escape again.

May 21 Chelsea (a) Lose. Who cares?

WAS: We survive with 37 points, the same total as last season.

IS< NOW/strong> We survive with 36 points, one fewer than I thought we would need and two more than David Moyes predicted we would need and thus he is given the freedom of the city!
As if I could care less, Palace are also relegated. This then is Big Sam’s first relegation and completes a miserable season for him personally.

Wrinkly Pete.

* NB: the reality check that is Sunderland AFC are on 20 points. To reach Pete’s 37, or 36 as it has become, he has had to upgrade his predictions for the remaining games. He sees it as unlikely biut not impossible. I swear pigs just flew past the window – Ed

What else have we written about Leicester? Here’s a selection from our archives

Thought football could stoop no lower? Think again. Leicester sack Ranieri Sixer’s Leicester Soapbox – at least the beer was good Leicester City v SAFC: managerless, no adult as goalie but one point
Leicester’s mad drummer, Cabella’s hair and new-fangled nicknames test Sixer’s nerves

Jake: looking back
Sixer’s Leicester City Soapbox: Arsenal and Chelsea no place for chokers
Jake: shows you the way to go home