The following headline, a staggeringly self-evident gem of its kind, appeared at the Ladbroke’s site (where you can get only 10/1 on us to go down) …
Home games liable to determine Sunderland’s season
With insight like that, who needs to consult any other pundit?
For the record, and this is not quoting Ladbroke’s but bookies generally, we share those 10/1 odds with Birmingham City. Blackpool, West Ham, Wigan and Wolves – the last three, of course, still for us to play – are odds-on, and I certainly hope three of those teams figure in the final reckoning. You get 13/8 on Blackburn and some rather longer odds on West Brom (16), Stoke City and Aston Villa (25), Newcastle (28) and Fulham (33). I thank Neil Chandler at the Blackcats list for that information.
Tight as the lower two-thirds of the Premier has been for most of the season, I still find it impossible to believe that come the end of May, we will have slumped from sixth-looking-at-fifth to preparing for another season in what people outside the UK still call our second division.
The papers are suggesting Craig Gordon may return on Saturday, which sounds like fairly neutral news to me since both he and Simon Mignolet have had lows as well as highs this season. And Steve Bruce, having appeared to cite Darren Bent’s departure as a key reason for our decline, is now saying this is not the case but that injuries disrupting the Turner-Bramble centre-back partnership offer the truer explanation.
My own memories of earlier in the season are that we did indeed concede relatively few goals but also that we were, on occasions, very fortunate. I accept the argument that we have lacked a settled back four, and that this must have had an effect, but remain firmly of the view that the failure to replace Bent in some way, even as a temporary fix, has been utterly crucial.
If Bruce’s hand was forced in any way in that aspect of our season, then the responsibility he bears for the slump is significantly diminished. Someone posted a very pertinent comment here immediately after the Bent transfer to the effect that we could all do with a full chronological account of how it came about. That Salut! Sunderland reader was more concerned at the time with the spat between SAFC and Villa; that now takes secondary importance to an accurate description of Sunderland’s response to Bent’s desire to go and Villa’s wish to buy him.
Water under the bridge? Yes, but with people clamouring for Bruce’s head, it would be useful – at least for supporters – to know the full, ungarnished truth. It would also be useful to know, if only we could, that Wigan’s odds will not have lengthened come 5pm on Saturday.