Hate to say it but one of the best pieces of analysis Pete Sixsmith has produced on these pages is his devastating assessment of SAFC vs Villa at https://safc.blog/2015/03/sixers-villa-soapbox-some-constructive-criticism-and-please-go-gus/. Where do we go from here? Today may bring part of the answer …
There’s speculation galore that Gus Poyet has taken charge of his last match and will be out of the SoL doors before this week, maybe as quickly as today.
Many of us cannot see a realistic hope of survival. It should be possible but if our grossly overpaid squad cannot produce so much as the required effort, let alone ability, while Burnley battle with commitment and sheer guts to overcome Manchester City, then the Championship beckons.
I have no idea how many Sunderland first-team players stay in the immediate area during the week. Those that do, as opposed to commuting in their expensive cars from the North West or elsewhere, should be made to do the shopping, school runs, whatever all week. They need to be seen out and about, not to be abused but to get an inkling from people’s expressions of the great swell of disgust that is felt.
When players try hard but just cannot compete at a given level, we can at least understand. There’d be no shame in Shildon, say, or the Hackney Marshes Pot Bellied Over-40s XI losing by a hatful in a cup game against Chelsea or Arsenal. But when you realise they’d be disappointed not to take Sunderland to a replay, you begin to see the scale of our problems.
Experienced former players commenting on the surrender to Villa detected no passion and not much more effort in Sunderland’s display. The squad looked in complete disarray and, with only nine games left, a long-term replacement for Poyet seems a task too far until the close season. If speculation about Dick Advocaat for the rest of this season is correct, much will depend on whether a man of 67 with his best managerial years well behind him still has it in him to motivate the shower he’ll have to work with.
The exodus before and at half-time will have chilled Ellis Short’s bones to the marrow. He may not specifically care about the views of Pete Sixsmith, and supporters like him, but the language he does understand is the threat of season ticket non-renewal.
Despite Wes Brown’s understated admission that Sunderland have been “terrible” at home – didn’t he also say being four down at the interval was “disappointing to say the least”? – only one SoL league game this season has drawn fewer than 40,000 (a few lucky ones gave QPR a miss). How Chelsea would have loved to get an attendance like ours vs Villa, 45,746 until about the 37th minute, for PSG in the CL.
But Short should look at the numbers still present in the second half for an idea of what gates he can expect in the Championship unless Sunderland hit the ground running and romp to the title.
Before Villa, with gallows humour spreading among SAFC fans, I joked on Twitter that things were so bad I’d left the country. Yes, I was going anyway. But my comings and goings between the UK and France have not been great bringers of fortune.
My first game back last season took me to the Liberty Stadium and Poyet’s first in charge. A four-nil thrashing. I returned to France with the magic of Wembley fading as we endured a sequence of seven defeats and one
draw in the league before tunnelling got under way for the Great Escape. I got back to England this season just in time for Southampton away and left two days before the capitulation to Villa.
Maybe that makes it all my fault. But like Sixer, I see no compelling reason to expect a third successful battle for survival.
As I wrote at ESPN:
With only nine games left, it will be surprising if Villa do not rise to midtable, despite their FA Cup distractions. It will be even more surprising to see Sunderland do better than gain undeserved survival from the results of fellow strugglers Leicester, Burnley (despite their win over Man City) and QPR.
Poyet admitted his team’s performance, if performance is not too grand a term for what was served up, was unacceptable and said he understood the fans’ reaction. He could hardly have protested otherwise.
Sacking him now would please many, perhaps most, of those supporters and he could have no reasonable complaint if owner Ellis Short decided enough was enough. But this would be a late and decidedly risky move and it is open to serious doubt whether, for the third season in succession, such a change would have the desired effect.
Despite the presence of some talented players in all areas of the squad, it is also difficult to identify where a new manager would find inspiration.
At 26 points, Sunderland have more than they did when the club was relegated in 2003 and 2006 with 19 and 15 respectively, in each case creating a record low for the Premier League. Yet Poyet’s team is arguably as bad as either.
Can Advocaat, or someone else, prove me wrong?