Our new matchday correspondent, Bob Chapman*, was delayed by a grisly day at work and a cat demanding a medical consultation. But his report from Villa Park adds more weight to the argument that, come what may on Sunday, we’ve really turned the corner, with John Mensah’s commanding centre-back play an important feature of the revival …
It is a time of year I should always like, a chance to take in a midweek fixture towards the end of the season with nothing, effectively, to play for.
Steve Bruce, I know, will want 40 points but I believe we probably have enough already. Sadly in all my years since 1964 following Sunderland, that has been a pretty rare event. There has always been something at stake.
I enjoy going to Villa. It’s an old ground that has been well modernised and the current view is much improved from when we used to be behind the goal.
My companions were my brother Tim and his son, Jack Montgomery Baxter Chapman. True! That really is his name and along with his dad he is demonstrating some of the finer attributes that Slim Jim had before the game. Yes, I’m afraid you’ve guessed: he had a few pints.
It turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable game. Villa will probably feel they did enough to win it and but for Gordon probably would have done.
However we played well enough ourselves to suggest that we, too, might have won it.
This side is well capable giving anybody a game now, which proves that having key players fit is essential to winning games at this level.
With no bookings on either side and only one and three minutes time added on at the end of each half, it was a game played in a spirit that was a credit to the game and worthy of the £36 forked out.
Even the ref – Mike Dean – played his part, apart from missing a fantastic save by Gordon after which he gave a goal kick!
Steed was easily the best outfield player on the park until he had to go off for his Gitanes fix.
His ability to keep the ball the ball so close to his toes and then use his diminutive frame to get himself between the ball and the defender is uncanny.
Having done all the tricky stuff you can usually rely on him to provide a pass. However the best pass of the night belonged to the much maligned, of late, Kieran Richardson who laid on a perfectly weighted ball for Campbell to put us ahead.
Richardson is a midfield player. He is not a fullback and neither is Anton Ferdinand. Although the latter had a reasonable game last night, he will eventually be found out in this position. Fortunately, on thios occasion, Young wasn’t up to the job.
But it is no coincidence that the upturn in our fortunes can be attributed solely to one man.
Without a doubt John Mensah – pictured from his Facebook site – has transformed the side. He oozes quality. Although Turner captained the side it was Mensah who organised it at the back. Between the two of them they contained Carew, except for their goal when Turner should have been a yard tighter and Young should have been closed down more quickly.
That said, it was nice to see both sides playing the ball through midfield rather than opting for the longer option.
So what should Bruce do next? Sign Mensah and attempt to buy Hutton would be a start. Keep Kenwyne and add another couple of quality signings and we will be looking at a side capable of achieving what Peter Reid did a decade ago.
And now bring on Liverpool!
* Bob Chapman, a Bedford-based science teacher with family origins in the North East, started supporting Sunderland 46 years ago and never stopped. There was no time off for good behaviour in those days. Welcome to Salut! Sunderland, Bob.