Wouldn’t we love the problems of 2008 just now? Needing to beat Birmingham City to keep up our Premier League survival hopes on track, we did just that with goals from Daryl Murphy – a “neat finish from Kenwyne Jones’s knock-down,” said the BBC – and Rade Prica.
Ten years and a day on, the two teams meet again. It’s away and we still need points for survival, humiliatingly from the Championship. The 2008 win got Sunderland out of the bottom three and we finished 15th. Can we do it again? Our Birmingham City Who are You? interviewee went for 2-0 again, but in his sides favour. This is how Pete Sixsmith captured it back then, in a much shorter early manifestation of Sixer’s Soapbox …
2008 introduction: Perhaps safest to say nothing to Roy Keane’s face, but could it be that our esteemed leader is among the growing band of devoted readers of Pete Sixsmith’s Soapbox? Or was it just great minds thinking alike?
Well, I got the team selection right. And more important, so did Roy. He said that we have to make the Stadium of Light a “Snarling Place” and he picked a side that was able to do this.
We got into Birmingham’s face right from the start, and we stayed there. They were never allowed to settle and the two centre halves were roughed by Kenwyne in the first half and then by Kenwyne and our latest Swedish recruit in the second. Prica replaced Yorke, allowing Whitehead to move into the middle and Deano and Miller dominated the centre of midfield.
Birmingham were poor but we made them look poor. It wasn’t entertaining football but it is much better than losing 3-0 and going three games without a goal. Billy Smart would not have stood for results like these.
Lots of positives to take from this one: Gordon looked safe and comfortable (relatively) behind a much more settled back four.
Bardsley made an excellent debut and his Salford genes seem to come more from the hard as nails Ena Sharples than the somewhat effete Morrissey. He tackled well, read the game and shouted at Nyron when he was about to drop a clanger.
The midfield had a much better balance in the second half. Yorke is too slow and his departure at half time allowed Whitehead and Miller to form a promising partnership. Only Stokes disappointed. I’m beginning to run out of patience with him; he must begin to fulfill his promise or he too will be on his way to Burnley.
As usual, Kenwyne was awesome and Prica looked sharp and clever. He is a physical player who will give us that hardness up front that Chopra and Connolly don’t.
Finally, a word about Mark Halsey who gave the best refereeing performance I have seen this season. What a pleasure to see an official who showed that he understood that a game has to be allowed to flow and that footballers are grown men and not delicate pieces of Dresden china.
So, a good win and if we are 15th in the table at 6pm on Sunday May 11 all concerned with Salut! Sunderland will be breaking open the champers. Liverpool next – let’s outdo Havant and Waterlooville.
And now back to 2018. Ha’way the Lads at St Andrew’s tonight …