Bolton Soapbox: at least we’re spared another cup defeat to Everton

Out with a whimper, says Jake
Was there even a whimper, asks Jake, correcting himself

Ruby Tuesday. Had Sunderland won last night, that 40th anniversary cup run would still have been on – if only until the visit of Everton that won’t now be needed. An abysmal display against Bolton Wanderers, watched by a paltry crowd of 17,500 including our own, occasionally rejoicing but less occasionally suffering Pete Sixsmith, must have had poor old Bob Stokoe spinning in his grave. Another year, at least to wait for anything resembling the 1973 adventures. Pete’s considered judgement: awful, awful, awful – why do we bother? …


There are times
when you want to puff out your chest and tell the world that you are a Sunderland supporter and proud of it. The days after the West Ham performance were days like that. White shirt and SAFC tie at work, big smile, real glow about the face and a kindly, benevolent approach to all those who are not one of the chosen few.

Then, there are times when you want to hide in a cupboard, ditch the white shirt and pretend that you can’t stand football and the only worthwhile hobby is writing down train numbers or building Lego houses or playing computer games where dragons eat your testicles and dwarves cut off your ears.

Last night was clearly the latter as we tumbled out of the cup, undone by a well organised but perfectly ordinary Bolton Wanderers side who did the basics right – meaning that they could tackle, mark, pass the ball and show some desire to win.

Astute readers will gather from that sentence that we did none of those things. And you would be right. Not content with losing to Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup, we now exit a competition that we wanted to do well in, at the hands of a team that are looking over their shoulders at Peterborough United, Barnsley and Bristol City. At least the Boro are genuine promotion candidates.

I keep saying that football is not an exact science and that part of its attraction is its sheer unpredictability. Unpredictability is no bad thing but can anyone explain to me and the other 17,000 hardy souls who forsook their firesides to watch this appalling dross, how players who played with zest and verve on Saturday can look so pedestrian and downright disinterested come Tuesday? If they are able to do that, they deserve a gold pig the size of The Empress of Blandings.

Did anyone come out of it with their reputation intact? Mignolet made one good save but only because he had given the ball away. Bramble was all right in a pub centre half kind of way and Johnson looked good for 20 minutes. I could be kind and draw a discreet veil over the rest – but I won’t.

It showed that we have little strength in depth and that players like Phil Bardsley, Matt Kilgallon, Fraizer Campbell and, on this performance, David Vaughan, have no future at Sunderland.

Craig Gardner needs to concentrate on becoming an adequate full back rather than continuing as an inadequate central midfielder, while Connor Wickham showed exactly why O’Neill would rather pick a one legged Steven Fletcher than entrust young Connor with the centre forward role.

And it’s not just the players. The “tactics” that our backroom staff come up with leave a fair bit to be desired. Last night it consisted of “Give it to Johnson”. Johnson was marked by three men as Bolton realised that he was probably the man who could unlock their determined defence.

Three men on one means gaps elsewhere. Surely we can exploit those gaps? Surely someone on the field can move around a little bit into space? Surely we can do a bit more than lump the ball up to the centre forward? It appears not.

It was such a let down after Saturday. We did not dictate the tempo as we had then and after 15 minutes of chasing around looking busy, we went back to our default position of passing the ball sideways and backwards and getting absolutely nowhere.

Dougie Freedman’s team talk at half time must have identified certain Sunderland players’ lack of interest and enthusiasm and their inability to grab the game and take it in the direction they wanted to go. They did well in the second half and their Championship central midfield of Pratley and Spearing looked much better than Gardner and Vaughan – both of whom might be at that level sooner than they thought on this showing..

All in all, a bitterly disappointing night which is a huge knockback for those of us who have waited 40 years for a trophy and who are beginning to think that we will never see anything ever again other than the odd Football League Championship win.

We have two new faces at the club in N’Diaye and Mangane. Hopefully they can act as a catalyst at Wigan on Saturday and help us to pick up where we left off on Saturday and we can consign this shambles to the dustbin of history.

As we drove home, the crumb of consolation was a commemorative concert for Gerry Rafferty on Radio 2. The first song was most apt bearing in mind what we had suffered, Can I Have My Money Back Please. Still, we won’t have to fork out £20 to watch Everton beat us.

gerry rafferty

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12 thoughts on “Bolton Soapbox: at least we’re spared another cup defeat to Everton”

  1. Can’t disagree with any of the above, I would however also add my bemusement at the withdrawal of Johnson while allowing McClean to stay on the pitch – surley Johnson on the left with Larsson coming on the right would have afforded some opportunities to Campbe…I’ve just spotted the flaw in my argument. I wonder what Saha is thinking when Campbell walks on the pitch before him, even as old and crocked as he may be he just might actually touch the ball, control the ball and pass the ball, whereas Campbell never, ever does any of the above. Ever. Horrendous night: cold and bored.
    I actually felt sorry for Vaughan last night, after working as a fluent and fluid pair with Larsson, he was suddenly left as the only midfielder trying to collect the ball from the defence, no surprise then that Bolton push 15 yards further up the field, blocked him off, stopping what supply there was and allowed Gardner all the time in the world to wander around ineffectually, before grabbing the ball at every free-kick as if he was Beckham in his pomp. Awful!

  2. Bardsley took at least one extra touch every time he had possession. He was very poor. MoN is said to be looking for a fullback and I’m with Sixer that “Gardner needs to concentrate on being an adequate fullback rather than an inadequate midfielder”.

    He has no place in our midfield while Sess plays where he does. Unless he embraces this and looks at it positively instead of thinking it’s a downgrade of sorts, he could be out on his arse in the summer.

  3. Good article again Pete I can feel the burning anger.Only thing I think you have gone a bit OTT with is over Vaughan,I think he showed on Saturday he is good enough,just he needs to do it more often.The others you mention(Bardsley,Kilgallon,Campbell) I do despair of too.

    Gardner has no right to be in central midfield,if he’d payed at right back I am sure we would have done a whole lot better.Larsson should have started.

  4. I totally agree Tom Bardsley was useless cant see what has gone wrong with him colback very weak again Vaughan two games in one week to much Gardiner can’t play in midfield and why I why do we still play one up front for gods name we are playing Bolton an average championship side not Chelsea but there again we have to many championship players our selves and as for last night they still watered the pitch before kick off 17.000 there last night and I was one of them clear them out Martin or you are next thi is not good enough one good game in 20 is not good enough…

  5. There we are-SAFC encapsulated in two games. Proud v West Ham. Ashamed v Bolton. Build you up, let you down.
    MON must shoulder responsibility for the FA Cup defeat. Once again in comes Bardsley, out of form and a bad omen this season when selected [see results with him in, and not in, the team. He was awful v Boro in the League Cup, another pathetic, wasteful, shambolic display. Central midfield small and weak. Lone, inexperienced striker against lower league opponents. No genuine passion, will to win or leadership anywhere on the pitch.
    Substitutions-ridiculous! 0-1 down looking to get back into the game-takes off Wickham and Johnson [leaves on Bardsley!] and brings on Campbell [League one standard at best] and Larsson. Wickham at least deserved to play in a front two as he did when rescuing the game at The Reebok.
    We could have had a 40,000+ crowd v Everton but once again, as v Boro, we squandered a superb opportunity to put some excitement into a season that has thrown up far too many disappointments against ordinary teams.
    I want MON to do well. I believe that ultimately he will do well. But the Bolton performance should make him as ashamed as we supporters feel about it. If it acts as a catalyst for him to give us a team our support, history and Ellis Short’s commitment deserves it will have served a purpose. But it was another typical SAFC performance when fans rightly expect far more against average opponents.
    Not good enough, MON. Get tough please.

  6. Fear not i am sure you will see a spectacular exit from the cup for us toffees at the trotter arena. i would have felt sure of our place in the 5th round up at the stadium of light but Bolton are different, this can be said to be a Lancashire derby, then things are different they will come out with there arms a swinging and like a drunken bum on a saturday night they will probably land a lucky punch and that will end with another year without a trophy for your bogey men which i am sure will leave you with that nice warm “been to church” feeling knowing your dismal 2-0 defeat was not in vain.

    • Cheers Garham, but I feel that the Toffees will be too sticky for Bolton. I can’t see them failing in as many areas as we did

  7. To add insult to injury, or vice versa, due to a ticket office blunder I ended up paying for our Ian’s ticket twice.

    Thankfully, I got half of my money back. SAFC turned up and expected to win without putting in the necessary effort

  8. Poor turnout, poor result. A week’s a long time for Vaughan. Hope Bolton do well. Inconsistent all season…no doubt that’s why we’re in 14th place.

  9. Pete wrote ‘or playing computer games where dragons eat your testicles and dwarves cut off your ears’

    Can you give me the particulars of this game as it sounds very interesting for Saturday afternoons.

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