Peter Lynn* – Wrinkly Pete to ageist acquaintances – keeps the Countdown to Wembley series going after singing himself hoarse at Old Trafford – while first dealing with the transformation in approach, confidence and results since Gus Poyet took over …
I am not one of those people who sees only bad luck happening to them and theirs while only good luck happens to everyone else. I especially believe that in most ball games, over the course of a season, things even themselves out, including officials’ decisions.
Take, for example, the Berbatov miss early in our Fulham away game. That, I consider, was our good luck as, had he scored then, it could have changed the course of the game; our team spirit could have been deflated, theirs would have been lifted.
The mood of the Fulham crowd would have been boosted and ours subdued. In that same game, Cattermole made a challenge, the like of which has, in the past, seen him dismissed. On this occasion, he wasn’t even spoken to, quite rightly.
So, why do I consider us lucky to be joint bottom of the league? It is to do with “timing” as much as anything. For virtually all of this season we have been bottom or second bottom, generally accompanied by Crystal Palace.
However, we have not been cut adrift, which I would suggest is due to the extraordinary “shape” of this season’s league, with an elite of six clubs and a “middle” of just three, leaving the remaining 11 presently separated by only six points.
This structure, or similar, has been evident for most of the season and is probably explained by the similarity in quality and playing style of those 11, hence they pretty much cancel each other out, both during games and with results.
Continuing with my suggestion of “timing”: we have had our “bad” run of home fixtures, some other clubs have not. We changed our coach early. We, like almost always happens, benefited from his “honeymoon period”. Now, however, we are showing signs of longer term benefit. That may not happen to the likes of Cardiff, Crystal Palace, Fulham and West Brom. We have retained the support of our fans. Now I know that we have exceptional support, as is witnessed by the continuing large crowds at home and away but it is the passion which they continue to show, especially away, despite loss after loss which I find amazing.
During this bleakness, lasting five months (!!), the players have enjoyed the fans audible backing which at times most of them have scarcely earned.
We have benefited from a cup run. I am a believer in the positives, for example the belief, gained from beating Southampton, Chelsea and Man Utd, rather than the negatives, for example the tiring of players by extra games.
Even if we do not win the final, our coach will have had more games in which to discover his best team. In this respect, he has certainly got a “core” of players who have got real spirit and resolution, as witnessed by the recovery from two goals down against Southampton and from 1 – 0 down in extra time and after the second round of penalties against Man Utd.
So, we are still “bottom” and still have a mountain to climb to avoid relegation but there are signs that we could make it – at the very same time that other strugglers are showing signs of cracking. See what I mean about “timing”?
Now, fresh from the privilege of being one of our fans at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, I am wondering how we can get the atmosphere created by those 9,000 replicated by the home crowd against Stoke next Wednesday night, it could make all the difference.
Bring back The Flags? Start playing Wise Men Say one minute earlier? If you are reading this and you are there on Wednesday, don’t wait for the team to do something to get you cheering, just cheer – I bet you those around you join in!
* Peter Lynn on himself: born in Bristol, 1944, to parents from Roker and West Hartlepool. Supported Sunderland, at a distance, since age 10; inspired by Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly.
Moved to Midlands in 1976 and got to occasional games, home but mostly away until 2008. Then made contact with Heart of England branch of SAFC Supporters’ Association and found ways to get to most home games and many away games. Sunderland highlight: Being at Wembley, 5/5/73, with my Dad. Sunderland lowlight: (so far!!!) Everton FA Cup replay, 27/3/2012.
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