Martin’s Musings from Norwich: ‘we’ll be fine’ … if

Back to the drawing board?

What’s to be said? Another defeat leaves us in desperate trouble unless – how often do we say that? – Chelsea and Reading at home produce 4-6 points. Martin O’Neill is paid to put the best gloss he can on the same old undercoating …


Dear Colin,

We conceded some very poor goals and that gave us an uphill task.

From the moment we conceded the second goal I thought we played very strongly.

In the second half I thought we created lots of decent chances and we were unfortunate not to put two or three of them away.

If we show the same spirit as we did in the second half today for the rest of the season then we have nothing to worry about.

We started tentatively and after we conceded that early goal we were on the back foot, setting ourselves a tough task but we rose to that.

Jake's take on what he saw in Spain

See “Colin”‘s dejected view at http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/710?cc=5739

Whether we’re playing at home or away you have to compete and that’s what we did in the second half.

We saw more of the ball after half time and gave ourselves a lot more options and proper playing time.

If we show the same determination and ability in our upcoming games, we’ll be fine.

All the best,

Beware of forgeries


Martin O’Neill

Jake's anguish
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31 thoughts on “Martin’s Musings from Norwich: ‘we’ll be fine’ … if”

  1. Excellent points Plan B. There is a great deal of commonality between what the Villa lads were saying here and what we are witnessing first hand.

    Some players have been completely frozen out. He must have a low opinion of the players inherited from Bruce. If that is the case then why has not signed a bone fide midfield player to replace those that he doesn’t want to pick such as Meyler and Vaughan. Why has he signed McFadden on a short term deal if he isn’t going to play him even when trailing at Norwich?

    Ji, and Wickham have been frozen out completely until his hand has been forced.

  2. Plan B. We are very serious trouble. This is some of the worst relegation form that we’ve seen since the 15 and 19 point seasons. At times the team reminds me of the side that went down in 1997 under Reid where we couldn’t find the net for love nor money.

    For whatever reason we are absent of a creative midfielder who can make the telling pass or threatening run into the box. Fletcher hasn’t been given a partner. 13 months into his reign with 2 transfer windows gone we can’t still blame Bruce. If he’s stuck with a lot of Bruce’s dross then he has to carry the can for this and not be lining up freebies like Cuellar, Saha and McFadden. Only the first of these has been of any use at all. Maybe we have no money to spend because the transfer pot was emptied on Fletcher and Johnson. I don’t know, but it would seem that way due to his concentration on bargain basement signings.

    It worries me that he has added nothing to a midfield in 12 months that was struggling; and it was struggling under his predecessor, but his lack of imagination is the biggest disappointment to me. He refuses to make changes unless they are forced. Wickham must have forced himself into contention after getting a good 45 minutes against Norwich.

    I know people don’t want to face the grim reality of what’s happening. O”Neill has been given the benefit of the doubt because of his record and every excuse under the sun has been trotted out. For a team to go out like that and play like a pub side for 45 minutes is unacceptable, but my views are not based on 45 or 90 minutes or the last three games. There have been real issues for months which remain unadressed and the time has come for him to go. I may be alone in this today but given another 2 games with no points and his position is simply untenable. I doubt very much whether Mr Short will extend much patience with this matter either.

    • Incompetence, for want of a better word or maybe some expletives, by Bruce, followed by procrastination in the transfer market, by O’Neill, wasn’t a good combination;

      With regards to squad management, it’s interesting that our lack of fight and motivation go back to last season at Everton when O’Neill decided to pick the same team 48 hours after we played Spurs (there was one, forced, change). After that the first 11 ran out of steam and confidence, plus it just de-motivates the lads who aren’t getting a chance. This was one of the main criticisms of his time at Villa but I don’t see him changing.

      All of the above said, his first seasons at previous clubs have never been great, and that alone is reason to think he can take us on an upward curve. He has to inspire the sort of fight we showed at Norwich in the second half (Pressing high up, playing positively, why didn’t we think of that?) but, he has to do it now otherwise as you say we, and Ellis Short, may have no choice.

  3. That’s a good suggestion Bill. We need a manager who can fashion a team and more importantly the club into his own image.

    I’m a big fan of Ian Holloway too Bill and think we could do a whole lot worse. He might put a smile back on our faces. We need someone who can change the way that we are perceived as a club and to do that it needs to be someone who can change the way that we perceive ourselves.

    When our own fans talk about prospective managers preferring Wigan and Brighton to Sunderland it’s clear that something has to change.

  4. I’d love martinez here bill but i couldn’t see him coming, he is proud of his work down there and wants to continue, good luck to him. I don’t know what to make of our manager, this wasn’t supposed to be happening; If we didn’t know it before we’re in real trouble now.

  5. A lot of managers have come to the SoL driven to succeed but it’s been a quite a while since any of them achieved any lasting success.
    Dare to be different? Then we should go after Ian Holloway – unorthodox, energetic and all about playing forward. Blackpool’s season in the Premiership was endlessly entertaining and, if he’d had a stronger squad, Holloway would’ve kept them there. I said it then and I’ll say it again, that I’d love to see him take the reins at Sunderland.

  6. My response to this “And why would Martinez give up what he’s got at Wigan? What would his incentive be?”

    Same comment re Poyet at Brighton. Bigger club that has more potential in the longer term but at following on the heels of a trail of managers who have by and large failed over decade after decade during various periods of affluence and being broke and under different owners. No combination has worked. To be different is the incentive Bill, Dare to be different and be driven to succeed. Does anyone think that a man with a record like O’Neill’s would still be in the job 10 miles up the road?

  7. Jeremy: Even if he doesn’t land a deal with Chelsea, Avram Grant’s not coming to the north-east. I just cannot see that. And why would Martinez give up what he’s got at Wigan? What would his incentive be?
    I don’t think it’s an indication of how far our stock has fallen to think that Poyet, with a five-year contract, might believe he can build Brighton into something. There may be more job satisfaction in that for him than coming to rebuild an ailing Premiership side.

  8. I think Hughton is a decent manager and Sunderland would offer him more potential to shine. But he’s not at the SoL and I don’t think he’ll be coming. As I’ve said, my biggest fear is that O’Neill will throw in the towel and leave us high and dry.

  9. Davey said “His record at Chelsea I’d say was good – but look at their squad”

    That’s right Davey. Same squad that was stinking the place out before he took over. Champions League and FA Cup as a caretaker in the job a matter of weeks. Yes, I agree that is not a bad record.

    WBA sacked him prematurely and without any justification. Got MK Dons to play offs straight away. Got WBA promoted straight away previous to his time at Stamford Bridge. Oh yes, I can see why you would have reservations about replacing someone with 2 wins in 22 with someone with this track record. What was I thinking of? Doh!

  10. Bill said “Maybe our best bet might be Rafa Benitez…”

    Well Benitez will be out of a job soon enough, the way things are going. It may well be the first justified sacking tha Abramovic has made in some time,……….. well at least 11 or 12 months anyway.

    Is this really how far our stock has falled Bill, that fans of several decades standing think that the manager of Brighton and Hove Albion would think he is better of staying where he is?

    Why not Avram Grant? He was happy at Pompey. Martinez has done as well if not better given the paucity of resources at his disposal at Wigan. He’s a good judge of players and a good tactician.

  11. I’m glad everyone is not as pessimistic as Jeremy – it spreads through the terraces onto the pitch and everything gets worse – I’ts the start of December – you don’t get relegated in December
    Norwich are having a good season ?? Hughton is a good manager ?? Had we beaten them yesterday (on 2nd half performance we should have) , we would be sitting above them in the league .
    Small margins
    Avram Grant – he’s worse than Dick Whittington
    Martinez – he’s not available
    Poyet – he’s not available
    Di Matteo – aside from Chelsea his records not great – play offs with MK Dons – but beaten in them by Scunthorpe
    Promotion with WBA but sacked the following season after a run of bad results
    His record at Chelsea I’d say was good – but look at their squad

  12. Faint-hearted? Never! No worries for steady men, as they say. And while I agree that O’Neill is failing, I still have a faint hope that he hasn’t failed yet and will pull us back. I know – cockeyed optimist, that’s me.
    Avram Grant? Not a hope in hell of getting him. Martinez? What would bring him to the SoL? He’s doing okay where he is. Di Matteo? Yeah, he’d probably be great but I suspect he’ll hold out for (and get) something better. Poyet has a good contract with Brighton and, I think, probably sees himself doing well with the club.
    Maybe our best bet might be Rafa Benitez…

  13. For goodness sake Bill. We have won twice in over 20 games. Who could do worse? How can we fare less well in terms of performance or results than we are at present?

    Who will we replace him with?

    Avram Grant, Roberto Martinez, Roberto Di Matteo, Gus Poyet. There are three for starters. I’d even give Mick another chance to see what he can do with a few quid to spend (well maybe not………..)

    Who will we replace him with is now the mantra for those who accept that a manager is failing but lack the courage of their own convictions to say so. I’m disappointed to see that you are joining this choir of the faint hearted Bill, I really am.

    • None of those managers excite me and would be guaranteed to do a better job than O Neill. Grant and RDM did ok with a multi-million dollar world-class players, not mid-table guys like ours. And Martinez has kept Wigan up (just) in the past few years by the skin of their teeth.
      There is the slightest chance he could do a hair better than O Neill but we just can’t be sure.

  14. Today is MON’s first anniversary at the SoL and I’m starting to wonder when we’ll hear the chant: “You skinny Ulster bastard, get out of our club.”
    Realistically, though, who could we get to replace him that wouldn’t dump up us out of the frying pan and into the fire? At least when Bruce was axed, there were viable alternatives. That no longer seems to be the case.
    I’d love to have David Moyes but that’s never going to happen.
    Alan Curbishley’s out of a job but he’d be no better and very likely worse than O’Neill.
    If either was likely to come, I’d take a chance on Chris Hughton or Ian Holloway.
    If O’Neill was summarily fired (or was to resign which I fear may be more likely), who would take over? Steve Walford? Thanks for nothing.
    Seems to me we’re left with little alternative than to stick with the devil we know and bite our nails through December and into January.

  15. Davey. Have I suggested a name? If you are going to make silly suggestions such as those then there’s little point in debating the matter with you. Regardless with the abject performances and results I really wonder whether Howard Hughes or Dick Whittington’s cat could fare any worse, Look at the table and form Davey. We haven’t beaten 11 men since March, This is even worse than under Bruce. Making farcical suggestions about who to replace him with does not detract from the fact that he’s failed completely. He’s been a disaster. It’s hard to accept that the man most of us considered to be the best manager we’d ever seen appointed at Sunderland is not up to the task. Time to face the facts before we go down. Carry on with this and we are cast iron certainties to go down. He has had two transfer windows to turn things around and he hasn’t done it. A third won’t ease the problem either. It’s a bitter pill but we all need to swallow it.

  16. Agree, that first half was a shocker, second half showed promise.

    But why does it take a half time bollocking for the players to up their game or were the substitutions the reason?

    Getting rid of MON imo would change little as we would still be stuck with the same playing staff. Tactically we are limited but is this a reflection of the manager or the players, we have seen both do better. But for me we still have the SB legacy and we need to dilute the negative effects of this with a further player influx.

    MON needs time to continue experimenting with the squad available, I agree he could throw caution to the wind a bit more, particularly after that first half performance, and give more of the squad players a run in the team it is unlikely to do any harm on current results.

    Last night we were unlucky to concede the first, bad deflection let them in, second was poor defending, but after that we had enough chances to have won. Can we kick on from the second half performance, recent evidence suggests not and if that is the case then we need a significant turnover of playing staff (first eleven)as they have all been given a fair crack of the whip with squad players plus new recruits (midfield, defence) being brought in.

    I think its its time for MON to be brave, not replaced, because it is difficult to see how we could have performed any worse than the first half last night with a different starting eleven.

  17. Sorry I forgot to mention Wickham , my critiscism of him , is that he is too easily knocked off the ball , for a lad of his size ; he nudged a few Norwich players over yesterday and gave Bassong a nervous time . It’s time to give him a run in the team

  18. Jeremy ,

    Advocating getting rid of MON – and who would you suggest as replacement ?? Mark Hughes , Nigel Worthington ??
    Johnson was vastly improved 2nd half , as were McClean and Sess . Have to agree though , that the first half was as bad a performance I have seen from any team .
    Still think we shopuld keep the faith in MON though

  19. Sorry Alan, but Johnson didn’t have a canny second half at all. He had the chance to play a killer ball to Wickham who twice got into a great position and both crosses were underhit and lacking conviction. If you mean that he looked less disinterested second half than in the first then I would agree with that.

    The way that this team set out in a game that should be (and in fact was) winnable had we gone into the game looking like a professional side rather than Ryhope CW was nothing short of a disgrace. If the manager can’t get the players in the right frame of mind for a game like this one then it’s time he went.

    He will be gone well before January. Two games left to save our season and his job. Two games and that’s it. He is a huge disappointment, O’Neill. He was forced to throw Wickham into the fray and I thought he did very well, but even that was an accident. We’d hot have seen that had Norman Stanley got injured.

  20. I don’t want MON to go I have faith in him he will buy in January he needs to he has identifyed that the midfielders are not good enough he will get better in he will atract them Johnson will come good he had a canny 2nd half today ime sure Ellis will suport him in the market and MON will get a good squad together anyway just got back from Norwich and ime knackerd got to be up in 4 hours for work keep the faith in MON he is the right man and he’ll prove it given time ..

  21. That’s enough for me. I have no faith that O’Neill has a clue how to turn it round.

    He has to go. Simple as that. Clueless. I’m amazed that I’m the first one to say it. That first half was one of the worst 45 minutes I have ever seen. It was appalling.

  22. I tottaly agree with you Ian I can’t understand like I’ve been saying for a month now where’s wickam at he’s been scoring goals left right and centre for England under 21 an d safc reserves the physical presence he brought in the second half was excellent as for cambell he came on the last ten mins and it was 6 mins before he touched the ball we were a different team in second half hope we carry the second half display in the next game we kneed to get Ji on instead of cambell and it might mix it up a bit here’s hopping we are not to far adrift come January and we can get some midfielders in ..

  23. I think Wickham should get more of a chance.
    Ahead of Saha and Campbell at least.
    For me Larsson is not firing this season, and McClean can be benched too.
    I’ve said I’d like to see Rose on the wing causing problems with his pace, but another idea is to have Sess on the left (with licence to drift about), and play Fletcher and Wickham up front with AJ on the right.
    Midfield would be Vaughn and Gardner. Although I don’t rate either of these too highly! We really need Cattermole and a Dembele-like January signing.
    With O Shea and Cattermole out we look a little light.

  24. Kilgallon may end up taking some stick for his miss but at least he was there for the rebound whilst there were few other players in the box and three standing over the ball when Gardner shot. Maybe MON should give his half time talk before kick off?

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