After the excitement tension and ultimate relief of last Wednesday comes a time for cool reflection. Sunderland didn’t peer once again over the precipice because of rank bad luck. Survival was a close-run thing and we need to consider why there was yet another desperate battle for dear life in the last few games. Peter Lynn has some answers some will find spot-on, others a bit too finger-pointing. See the full End of Season Review series at https://safc.blog/category/end-of-season-reviews-2015/ …
“It’s such a cryin’ shame, please tell me who’s to blame.”
Understandably, we are all thrilled to have escaped relegation and it feels almost sacrilegious to be doing anything but celebrate.
However, rather than get carried away by the euphoria created by a draw at the Emirates, I would like to reflect on why we flirt with relegation virtually every season.
So, if you have access to Van Morrison’s Back on Top album, select track eight and play New Biography and listen out for the lyrics above in the five minutes it will take you to hear me out.
Ellis Short is to blame. He made the mistake of trusting other people to spend his money.
De Fanti and Congerton are to blame. They hired players unsuited to the Premier League.
Bruce, O’Neill, di Canio and Poyet are to blame. They failed to get the best out of the players.
The players are to blame. Too many of them are either not good enough or not consistent or, worst of all, don’t try or appear not to try.
Finally, the fans are to blame. “What?” I hear you scream. “How dare you?”
Well, the away fans are almost perfect. But at home, who amongst us can say that they never let out a groan when a pass goes astray?
When you get 40,000 fans groan it is loud and must destroy the already frail confidence of a struggling player.
Of course I realise some of this reflects the frustration felt after years of watching poor football with attendant poor results. But if we are to get the best out of our players, we need to somehow stifle our groans.
An example of how the crowd’s positive support can improve a player is to be seen in our Player of the Season, Seb Larsson.
In the past, I, along with thousands of others attending the SoL, would groan (and growl) when he made a reckless tackle. Now, that is gone from his game and he is playing to his true potential.
If you are still with me (!) I would like to point out what, to me, are the on field problems that have led to our struggle this season.
Firstly, goals conceded. Take away the 16 against Southampton away and Villa and Palace at home and you are left with 34. Not so bad in 34 games, say comparable with Man Utd and their 37 in 37 games. The problem I think was that those hammerings not only crushed our confidence but led to us playing ultra defensively.
Secondly, goals scored. Let’s be honest: 30 in 37 games is woeful. While some excuse can be found in the tactics, the main reason in my opinion is inability or lack of effort on the part of our strikers.
To give an example of inability from the Emirates game, if Fletcher had gone for the cross from van Aanholt with his right foot rather than left he would have scored. On effort, I have witnessed Fletcher, Johnson and Wickham all either uninterested or appearing uninterested. This just isn’t acceptable in my eyes. By contrast, Graham and Defoe really give their all on the pitch.
So, where do we go from here?
Van Morrison sings – “It’s a pity they don’t feel the pain, that they should pay the price to play, to play the fame game, the name game”.
Well I am sure the players do feel the pain but I think it only right that some of them move on, for their own careers as well as for the benefit of the club.
In this respect, I would anticipate Brown retiring and Reveillere, Vergini, Roberge, Buckley, Bridcutt, Mavrias, Fletcher, Graham and Wickham moving on.
Now I know people will look at that number (10) and say you cannot have another huge upheaval in the playing squad. Again. I would counter that by asking what their contribution, except Reveillere and Graham, has been this season? Two haven’t played (Roberge and Mavrias) and the rest have been, in my opinion, little short of liabilities.
I haven’t found it easy writing this and imagine that those reading it will have found it hard too and probably controversial. However, I love the club and want to try to find a way forward that stops our annual fight with relegation. Perhaps by provoking debate we might find some answers to questions.
Who knows? We might even get Back on Top.