There’s bad news, already mentioned here, and there’ s good news.
But first, a few words of encouragement. It goes with the territory of being a Sunderland supporter that a degree of pessimism creeps into any prognosis for the immediate future.
We are rarely guilty of excessive optimism. Yet the middle of August is surely too early for some of us to be adopting Victor Meldrew’s most doom-laded One Foot in the Grave expression.
I have already seen depressingly downbeat comments and would simply urge a sense of proportion on those tempted to make them.
We should have beaten Birmingham and almost certainly would have done had we not started the new season as we ended the old one, our numbers reduced by idiocy. I am sure Mr Bruce has made it abundantly clear to Mr C(l)attermole that he must learn to distinguish commendable passion from mind-numbingly crass indiscipline.
As for the news, I will start with the good, since it addresses the Cattermole point and reveals long-awaited official recognition at the need to drum some commonsense into the team.
After training yesterday, Bruce introduced the players to a special guest lecturer: Howard Webb. And the specific aim was to get them to listen to the advice of one of England’s top refs – I still think he handled the World Cup final as well as anyone could have done, given the abysmal approach to the game of the Dutch – on how to avoid unnecessary cards.
You might have thought that process relatively easy: don’t commit bad or idiotic fouls, try to avoid kicking the call away when free kicks are conceded and keep intemperate thoughts to yourself. But is one that is clearly lost on some of our lads.
“We have had 10 red cards now since I have been here in a year,” Bruce tells the Mail. “If my maths are right, that adds up to every four games we are having somebody sent off, which is ludicrous and we shoot ourselves in the foot with it.
“It’s hard enough to win a Premier League game, let alone with all these silly and stupid and avoidable red cards we are picking up.
“So we have had Howard Webb here today giving a talk to the players. We have spoken about it repeatedly and we must improve on it, because it is hard enough playing a Premier League game, let alone trying to do it with 10 men.”
Pete Sixsmith will be at the Hawthorns, seeing whether Webb’s words did wonders, willing us on to a first victory and preparing to share his words of wisdom here. As always, I ask readers to bear with us if postings do not appear immediately.
If I am in a position to do so, which usually means catching an internet stream or listening the radio commentary via the official club site, I post updates and post-match reports. But I am not always in that position, and cannot expect the admirable Joan Dawson to fill in for me each time I am unavailable.
When the ship comes in, and advertisers form an orderly queue to sponsor the site of use it to flog there wares, I will appoint a trusty sidekick. Until then – or until Pete gets to grips with what goes on beneath the bonnet of the site.
Oh and what was that I was saying about bad news? Writing on Thursday afternoon (ie before noticing the Howard Webb story), I have just seen that John Mensah is already injured and likely be out for up to three weeks. And it’s official. Now that is cause for feeling down.