Tons of words have been and written and spoken about the wretched Sunderland collapse, the latest in a season littered with disappointment. Peter Lynn was among the unhappy Sunderland fans present and, as always for him, it had involved a major effort to get there from the West Midlands. Days later, he puts the mistakes of John O’Shea into perspective and ponders the lack of managerial stability he feels contributes to the SAFC malaise. He says he wrote it ‘to get the Palace nightmare out of my system’ …
Well, the tune I had in my head, How Long Has This Been Going On?, was by the group Ace from 1974, written by Paul Carrack and tells of the break-up of a love affair. When I looked up the lyrics on the internet, what also came up was a much earlier song written by George and Ira Gershwin which reveals the joy in discovering love – in the form of kissing. You can see where this is going can’t you?
My last experience at the Stadium of Light, Crystal Palace, was bitter, like the Ace song. My previous one, Newcastle, was joyful, there really were those “chills up my spine” the Gershwins felt in 1928.
It has taken me from Saturday until now – late evening on Tuesday – to summon up the mental strength to write this and even now I really don’t know which way it will go or even if I can be bothered, a bit like some of our players appeared to be on Saturday.
I think one thing is clear to me now and it is no longer “I can’t help but have my suspicions”. Our squad is simply not good enough for the Premier League. Yes, some elements of it are good enough but not consistently so.
What is difficult to admit is that this is not a new thing. We have escaped relegation by a whisker in the last two seasons. We may look back fondly on last season’s Great Escape but the reality is that we almost went down. We are again in a mess and this time we don’t appear to have the spark that we had last season at the same point, with six games to play. On Saturday, any confidence that had been gained from the Newcastle win had evaporated after 20 minutes, by which time we could easily have been two goals down and reduced to 10 men.
There has been masses written already about the game and people are entitled to their opinion when it comes to blame, with John O’Shea getting the most criticism. Yes, he was badly at fault with two of the goals but we are not sitting uncomfortably near the bottom of the league because of those mistakes. You might equally say that we only have the points that we do have due to O’Shea’s defending feats in the drawn and won results we have achieved.
We are where we are due to the squad’s efforts and abilities and if, as is the case, we have spent the past three seasons in or around the bottom of the league then, however painful it is to accept, that is where we belong.
What can we do about it? Again, much has recently been written including some superb comments on this website and a reappearance of the theory that there must be something fundamentally wrong within the club. I don’t subscribe to this. I think that the club would stand favourable comparison with any other in the Premier League. It has taken steps to ensure its long term financial survival, has many strong links with the local community and I know from personal experience that it works hard to consider its fans.
For the master debate on Sunderland vs Crystal Palace, what it means and where it leaves us, see the discussion inspired by Pete Sixsmith’s merciless matchday reflections at https://safc.blog/2015/04/sixers-soapbox-a-devastating-assessment-of-sunderland-vs-crytal-palace/
The only area of concern I personally have is the high turnover of managers/coaches. I don’t believe we can achieve long term success without the stability that a long term managerial tenure would bring. This of course is easier said than done as we have tried to achieve stability with lengthy managerial contracts only to have to terminate them when it looks like we are about to be relegated, with all the negative financial implications that entails.
My suggestion, for what it is worth, is this – and it is the same whether we are relegated or not. Extend Dick Advocaat’s contract for a short time, say one year. Get him to undertake the very necessary clear out of players. In the meantime, find a young British manager/coach to work alongside Dick and back him, even if we suffer a further relegation, taking the time to build a squad, including the Academy, that plays to a system. This is nothing original – it has been done by both Southampton and Swansea – but it works.
Then, who knows?……………..
“Oh, I feel that I could melt,
Into Heaven I’m hurled!
I know how Columbus felt,
Finding another world.”
* And how Monsieur Salut saw it, at ESPN: http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/2393964/sunderland-sliding-toward-relegation-following-abject-loss-to-palace
‘What Advocaat’s innermost thoughts may have been, watching Sunderland’s latest abject surrender, can only be guessed at. In his post-match email to supporters, he talked of a “very disappointing afternoon.”
Fans had no reason for similar restraint as they took to social media. Many comments are unrepeatable; milder ones accused the players of mental weakness, spinelessness and offering “utterly pathetic” opposition to Pardew and Palace. A few admitted to the sheer embarrassment of supporting a team that, even in the bottom six, can fill a stadium for kickoff only to empty it with half an hour remaining.’