Rock bottom, or worse ahead? Grayson on ‘five yards off the pace’ SAFC

Jake: ‘let’s start thinking of reasons to be cheerful’


Jason Steele may feel it was the curse of Salut! Sunderland. No sooner did we run a largely pro-Robbin Ruiter outsider’s piece on the battle for the No 1 jersey than Newton Aycliffe-born Steele is recalled to side only to concede five times.

But in yet another painfully dismal display by Sunderland, producing a crushing 5-2 defeat at Ipswich, Steele was nowhere near being Simon Grayson’s weakest link.

If Pete Sixsmith finds a welcoming library or internet cafe before leaving East Anglia – he warned beforehand that filing a Soapbox could be tricky – we shall doubtless learn more about Steele’s evening.  From snippets picked up from Portman Road, it would appear he took a first half injury when saving bravely at Martyn Waghorn’s feet but played on and was unlucky with the fourth after initially making a good stop.

The Sunderland Echo said: “Given no protection after replacing Ruiter.” It gave him 4/10 but this has to be seen in the context of  3s for Lamine Kone, Marc Wilson and Darron Gibson and no one able to rise above 6 (Callum McManaman). The Northern Echo gave Kone all of 2/10.

And the boss? Readers will have noticed that there is no manager’s post-match e-mail this season.  The club itself discontinued what has become a traditional feature of each game, going back to Steve Bruce’s time. We decided it was not worth the effort to cobble together an alternative from the statements made and press conferences given.

But with supporters rightly wondering if a woeful night at Portman Road represents the nadir, or just another plunging fall with worse still to come, it is interesting – and alarming – to see what Grayson had to say to the club site.

After the usual bland truisms – “when you lose a game and you concede five it is always going to be a disappointing night” – he rued Sunderland’s total inability to stop Ipswich from playing. Only in the last 15-minutes, the game as good as lost (and of course with a morale-sapping fifth yet to be scored) had his players “started d to win second balls and ask questions of the opposition”.

And here comes the killer comment, the admission that makes us look every inch a relegation side:

Every time the ball went into the box in the first half it looked like we might concede. People didn’t stop crosses going in the box in the first place, you could say we were five yards off the pace.

Back to Sixer, suffering with the other travelling Lads and Lasses at the match. His seven-word verdict as published – “Sunderland’s defending plummets to unheard of depths” – was not the only he offered as the game progressed:

* (after Ipswich regained the lead making it 2-1) Two headers, two goals. Dreadful marking again

* (half time) Ipswich better side. That says it all

* (at 4-1) An awful evening in a misty Suffolk

* (at final whistle) Gifted all five goals. Heading for Rochdale

Monsieur Salut’s postscript:
I was playing badminton in the south of France as Pete’s texts kept me informed. Another player saw the London supporters’ association branch badge on my top and asked if Sunderland were my team. He seemed as sympathetic as you could expect a disinterested Frenchman to be as I explained our plight: you don’t need much French to translate déjà relégable après seulement neuf matchs. And now it’s dix.

For my own part, I can say this is the first season, even in recent bleak times, when I have not regretted for a second being nowhere near a game so far. I’ll be back for the Tees-Wear derby and maybe a couple of games before. I think I’d rather stay.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake

4 thoughts on “Rock bottom, or worse ahead? Grayson on ‘five yards off the pace’ SAFC”

  1. While I agree with Jeff about the mad Italian’s work ethic the truth is he wouldn’t have been in charge of a club on the up because with the way the club is being run no manager can or could.

    Just over a year ago I got conned into renewing my season card when with Big Sam at the helm I thought at last we were in a position where the club could push on and improve. How wrong was I. I believe Sam realised even before the Euros kicked off that he was not going to be allowed to stabalise his squad and take the side forward. He would have gone by Christmas anyway, even if the England job hadn’t come up IMO.

    I have made some poor decisions in my life but not renewing my SC this season is not one of them. The last time I saw a Sunderland victory I still had two kidneys and there are young mothers pushing prams who weren’t even pregnant the last time we won a home fixture.

    I could only see the club going one way and there is a point where I have to question whether loyalty should take precendence over the sheer lack of enjoyment, frustration and feeling miserable.

    Last night was spent making music in a class at the Sage followed by an hour or so in the pub with a bit more music making. Would I rather have been at Portman Road? Like the match last night – no contest.

  2. Very sad to say but Grayson clearly has no clue or doesn’t watch the game. He should take a game off and come in sit where I sit. If he had sat next to me on Saturday he would have seen:
    1) Total disbelief at his decision to play 5 at the back (if he had sat where I am for Sheff Utd he would never have done that)
    2) Browning was our best centre back. Kone not interested, Wilson just wants to bang in to opposition players
    3) Ruiter had his best game for us and was probably our best player
    4) Cattermole looked shattered and yards off the pace
    5) Other than Ruiter, Gooch was probably our best player
    6) Now that Ndong has lost his early season enthusiasm and Catts looks shattered, we get overrun with 2 in the middle

    Other than the first point, ALL of the above were contrary to the team he picked, which beggars belief. I accept that he is a professional and I am not, so I could easily be wrong, but I strongly believe that managers should do what Reidy used to and watch at least the first half from high up so you can actually see what both teams are doing. It is not as if his presence on the touchline is galvanising his team into effort.
    What has it done to Ruiter’s confidence that, just when he plays well he gets dropped. Steele was awful last night and so needs to get dropped immediately so, with 1 decision, he may have ruined both keepers.
    How can he possibly believe that putting the unbelievably slow Gibson next to Catts would suddenly give us a 2 capable of coping with opposition 3s?

  3. That crazy Italian would have got us relegated but given time would have brought some real steel back into the club, we would have had high work rate, seriously fit players,passion and pride.

    John O Shea (lovely guy) and the rest of the average players got him the sack……WHY?….Because he made them work Sunday’s, train on an afternoon as well as the morning and god forbid stopped them having ketchup……and by the way, every succesful European club doesn’t allow it’s players to have ketchup bucause it’s full of sugar and not good for you, especially when you’re supposed to be an athlete!!!!

    Ellis, I’m not like the rest, I appreciate what you did for us in the past and the fact that you put so much of your money into the club BUT…. you made genuine mistakes that have left us where we are now. Please, please,please let us go or invest in us again and this time get it right. We need Roy Keane at the helm and if he wont come I’ll take Paolo

    • We have many problems at the club, but I don’t think the absence of PDC or RK is one of them. Neither, in my opinion have the personality or the mind set for football management.

      Apart from the above, and Poyet, Sunderland have appointed a number of tried and tested managers in recent years [ Bruce, O’Neill, Advocatt, Moyes ] and all, for one reason or another have failed.

      Sam Allardyce looked to be the best fit for our club, certainly since Reid, but as Malcolm [ below ] says, he was showing signs of disillusionment prior to his departure.

      The common factor in our struggle for consistency during the last ten years has been the ownership and decision making of Ellis Short, and I think that the answer to our apparent inability to reach the level of achievement that a club like Sunderland would normally expect, must lie with him.

      Clubs like Southampton, WBA and Stoke seem to have worked it out, and IMO we should be at least at their Level.

      Mr Short needs to find an answer sooner rather than later, because at the present rate of decline, his asset will soon have lost most of its value, if it hasn’t already.

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