Echoes of Niall Quinn keeping faith (maybe) amid the gloom

A message from Niall, and behind him an earlier SAFC hero ...
A message from Niall …
No one will thank me for the reminder of a painful anniversary but on this day 11 days ago, more accurately the evening of Dec 9 2002, Sunderland lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City.

Earlier that day, as I have recalled here before, I had joined a queue at Canary Wharf, where I then worked, to buy a couple of copies of Niall Quinn’s autobiography and have them signed by the great man, who was out of the team because of injury.

For my copy, I asked for some message about the night he’d scored the winner and later, after Tommy Sorensen was carried off, kept goal at Bradford City in March 1999. This he did with the words: “To Colin. From a pretend Goalie! (v. Bradford) – Love, Niall Quinn). If you look at the photograph I took of the message, you’ll also notice a smudge of cold coffee on the page – it happened as I fiddled with the book, mug with camera at the same time.

Then I asked him to sign a copy for Pete Sixsmith. Despite the awful state Sunderland were in – 18th – I suggested something upbeat, offering hope of survival. After a short pause for thought, he wrote simply: “Keep the faith.” By the end of the night we were 19th; Howard Wilkinson was no kind of saviour and Sunderland were relegated with the first of our two record-creating lows, 19 points.

Keeping the faith is hard just now under Gus Poyet. I still cannot blame him for the mess we’re in even if starting with both Fletcher and Altidore against Spurs looked hazardous. But it’s a mess whichever way you look at it and even though we try to take comfort from the “easier” home games to come, relegation is unlikely to be avoided on home form alone however good that may now become.

But I have done my best to strike a positive tone, or at least mitigate the negativity, in my reflections at on Saturday night’s game and where it leaves us.

You can read the whole piece here – – but here is an extract, looking as in 2002 for some straws to clutch:

The season is still only 15 games in. Although the gap between Sunderland and a position of safety is now six points, there are still 69 to play for between now and May; 33 of those will be at stake in the matches against the eight teams immediately above. All six clubs that were expected, when the season started, to occupy top-six places at its end have been and gone to Sunderland. It was a cruel opening run of home games but that run is over.

What it means, first of all, is that life ought to become easier at the Stadium of Light. If Sunderland cannot beat the likes of Norwich City, Aston Villa and Stoke City – three of the next four visiting teams – and at least draw against the other one, Southampton, they do not deserve salvation. Equally, the next sequence of away games – West Ham, Everton, Cardiff and Fulham – includes only one, at Goodison, from which only a supreme optimist would find reason to expect any return. That six-point deficit could, in other words, be whittled away between now and the end of January.

That was as far as the forced optimism went. My next words were “now back to the real world” and I noted, as Pete has done, the downbeat nature of Poyet’s post-match remarks. The e-mail sent out by the club on his behalf was very late and included an implied admission that try as the players might, they simply are not good enough.

This, and Pete’s doom-laden Soapbox, might have been very different had Lee Mason awarded the penalty that, by common consent, ought to have followed Sandro’s elaborate use of his arm. A draw or even a late Steven Fletcher winner would have done wonders for our morale – and also Fletcher’s after his bad first half miss and subsequent weak headers – but Spurs had already looked capable of running away with the game in the second half.

My fear is that for all the fanciful calculations about points from games that look on paper winnable, we rarely look like winning even against moderate opposition. I long for Poyet’s players to prove me wrong, starting with back-to-back wins at West Ham and against Norwich but would be lying if I concluded by saying that was what I expected to happen.

Perhaps Niall was right. All we can do is keep the faith. Your views welcome.

Monsieur Salut in Paris days, as seen by Matt
Monsieur Salut in Paris days, as seen by Matt

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14 thoughts on “Echoes of Niall Quinn keeping faith (maybe) amid the gloom”

  1. Highly significant development I think. According to an article in The Telegraph Gus says that he wants 7 players in the window.

    Significant because this is sending a very clear message to both Short and Di Fanti. If the league position and points tally doesn’t sufficiently indicate that the quality of personnel and newcomers isn’t anywhere good enough then his position surely does. He has also made some comments about walking out if he doesn’t get what he needs/wants.

    There’s clearly some kind of power struggle going on here and there can surely only be one winner in the end.

    Out of the players signed in the summer, Roberge and Diakite are clearly not good enough, Cabral has played one league game, Ba, Moberg-Karlsson, & Watmore haven’t featured, and Mavrias has played very little either. Only Celustka, Giachherinni, Altidore and Ki have been anything like regulars until Mannone came in after Westwood was injured. Both Borini who I do think has something to offer, and Dossena have been bit part players. That’s an awful lot of money going out on players who aren’t even getting a regular game.

    • Does Poyet mention where he expects di Fanti to find 7 good players who are willing to join bottom of the league Sunderland?

    • I thought that Ba,Watmore, Molberg- Karlsson
      and Mavrias were ‘ones for the future’ so it’s no surprise that they haven’t been seen….however perhaps it’s time they did.

      • @ Michael

        I’d be a bit wary of that. If I recall, Wickham and Ji were both described thus by that brilliant judge of footballing excellence, Steve Bruce!

        Someone should possibly have reminded SB that what Sunderland actually needed was someone for now? And Di Fanti should have been told the same thing.

  2. The e-mail sent out by the club on his behalf was very late and included an implied admission that try as the players might, they simply are not good enough.

    There was nothing implicit in his comments in the Echo. He came right out and said so. The only hope is that we can strengthen in the January window. There’s an awfully long way to go so there is no reason to give up yet. New blood is absolutely essential in January and that is a sad indictment of Di Fanti after 14 players arrived in the summer.

  3. Just thought in Saturday after yet another own goal and yet another major refereeing decision going against us, that both the team and fans came to the conclusion that the game is up and the footballing gods are against us. We have to a least win or get a battling draw against West Ham or we could go in to free fall , sorry guy’s not positive at all.

  4. Unfortunately I had and feeling about this season as soon as I saw the fixture list.

    To gain any sort of momentum clubs like us rely on their home fixtures. So If like us your first seven or eight home games include six of the teams that will probably finish in the top four you have to be very good or very lucky to get a decent points return. Sadly we are neither good nor lucky and will find it difficult to develop any momentum for the rest of the season.

    I think the people who set the fixtures need to take bit more care to ensure the clubs have a fair chance and not deliver them an unplayable hand so early in the season.

    I will be surprised if we get the 30 points needed to avoid relegation. But football, as they say , is a funny old game and I hope I am pleasantly surprised come May.

  5. Nucleus of the same players have seen three managers off so far and if Poyet doesn’t bin them, he”ll be next.
    He has to take part of the blame for losing to Spurs in such a timid manner too.
    4-1-4-1 saw us play decent football since his arrival overall and we scored three times versus Chelsea and drew at Villa immediately prior to last Saturday.
    Poyet then goes 4-4-2 and dropped Dossena which upset our natural balance on the left and any manager who regularly picks Larsson [and then combines him Iin a midfield four that involves Colback, who is an honest lad but who is no better than Grant Leadbitter who now plies his trade at Championship level] is just inviting trouble. They have no consistency and our midfield is incredibly weak, both in physicality and in speed of thought and movement [we lack genuine pace all over the pitch-we are slow and pedantic to watch]. We have gone back to chopping and changing [four changes v Spurs] and square pegs in round holes-midfielder Larsson ended up playing right back and the right back Bardsley was on the left. Who plays people out of position as regularly as SAFC?
    Other major contributory factors to our current depressing and embarrassing predicament include continually selling our best players without a fight and then having a scattergun approach to replacing them with cheaper, sub standard ones-many of them from relegated clubs-Larsson, Gardner, Fletcher for starters.
    Idiotic decisons like selling Sess but keeping Ji. Appointing a Director of Football who allegedly signed players PDC didn’t really want and not signing ones he did. Maybe Di Fanti could clarify PDC’s accusations?
    Overall, it’s a mess and the supporters deserve so much better. Just when will it ever end? We’ve been here so many times. Why have lessons not been heeded?

    • Lessons arn’t learned because the faces change. Maybe a SAFC managers journal similar to the US presidents one would help? Would be a hell of a lot more names in it mind.

    • Great post Tom.

      With reference to Di Fanti. Has he got any recognised football CV? I understand he was previously an agent? – IMO, about the worst background for assessing talent that you could possibly have.

  6. There seems to be a definitive pattern here:

    we seem to raise our game, to little avail generally, against the glamour sides, while up against our fellow sad sack clubs, where we should conceivably pick up major points, we barely mail it in.

    It’s an mental attitude, that unless addressed immediately, will result in certain relegation.

  7. Apologies. The “dashboard” behind the scenes was playing up earlier and wouldn’t let me activate the function that allows comments, which usually happens automatically but sometimes moves without warning to a “comments off” setting. Now cleared so feel free to have your say …

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