Niall Quinn’s crisis inquest (2): case for the defence

Mrs Logic (before she mucked about with the colours)

Among the many responses to the Salut! Sunderland article headlined Bruce in, Bruce out? Offering a hand to a drowning man was this, an excellent posting from a fellow supporter who called himself simply Moongod, but turns out to be Richard Halma*. He correctly identified this site’s tendency (we’re fans after all) to soar heavenwards after a fabulous performance or during a good run and descend into the depths of gloom when things go less well. Optimism and understanding have every right to be heard as loudly as the clatter of brickbats colliding with targets. We’ve been downbeat – read the Case of the Prosecution. Now turn the coin for a rosier analysis …

Extraordinary. I read the exact opposite of all the negatives here and elsewhere in December. Elmo was a future world beater before Christmas, and now he compares unfavourably to Daryl Murphy …

The recent run of games has been very tough – the easiest on paper being Everton and Stoke away, two places where anyone could struggle to get points.

Couple that run of games (personally, I hoped for 10 points maximum from the last eight) with the loss of Darren Bent, and the absence of various others through injury, and the players have been left low on morale and confidence.

They are still the same players that took us to the heights from which we fall – and nobody was complaining when we were up there.

We were told that top 10 was the target, and now there are so many that think Steve Bruce should go because we won’t make Europe. How about judging our position at the end of the season in comparison with that target?

We’re all hurting right now – and compared to 2010, games seem unbearably hard to watch – but I can see a lot of talented young players that will be stronger for this experience, and that might seriously make for a European push over the next few years.

If Bruce goes while still building this squad, who comes in?

Do they dismantle the side he built and start from scratch again? Can Ellis Short really afford the time and money required to actuate that kind of staff turnover?

I’m constantly amazed at the short sightedness of football fans. Didn’t Manchester United fans want Fergie out while they were still second rate? Aston Villa fans wanted Martin O’Neill out after regular top six finishes – where are they now?

The situation is far from critical, and as a supporter, I curiously feel the need to support the club’s manager et al – especially given the improvement during his tenure. Could you imagine even pushing a top four side close over 90 minutes under Keano?

A dismal (pathetic/embarrassing/diabolical – insert your own negative adjective by all means) run of results does not make or break the season, nor define the club and its players as poor. We have underperformed and even been unlucky on occasion – but before Christmas we were joint top of the clean sheet table, and that states a massive amount about how far SB has already taken us.

Whether he can take us as far as we hope is debatable, but unless our season really is over, and we can expect nothing more from a very talented group – which I doubt – now is not the time for change.

I would still be surprised if we don’t finish top 10 as targeted, and consolidation on that as opposed to Europe should be our target for next season.

I have seen this team play some of the best football in a Sunderland shirt in my lifetime. So quickly we forget … who could blame the players for believing you when you tell them they’re not good enough?
Please … Keep the Faith.

* Richard Halma on Richarrd Halma:
Born in Hull ’78 and now living in Leeds. God help me! As a six-year-old in 1985, my first memory of televised football was a certain Milk Cup final defeat to Norwich – and for the first time ever I saw my mother (from Red House) care about the game I loved. This (despite the tigerish temptations of my locality) dictated the club I would finally offer my soul too. True – I’ve seen more away games than my single home game (vs Derby County, December ’07) and not many of those. My life now revolves around my cat, my flat, my writing, my music … Above all those though, is the three days of tension that accompany each and every game – and the red and white blood that pumps through my veins… Hard to describe the situation, really, especially as my stepdad was a cat’s cock hair away from turning me @ Boothferry Park in all honesty. It’s a guilty secret that I shouldn’t hide!

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8 thoughts on “Niall Quinn’s crisis inquest (2): case for the defence”

  1. Again , CSB – I really think we’re essentially in agreement. The only exception being that when I think of some moments in the first half of the season, I find myself believing that if we can keep the youngsters together in the right system, well – it’s a question of how far we DARE dream.

    I personally need to believe that handled rightly, SAFC could be the best team in the land in my lifetime. I understand that makes me unrealistic – but I don’t want to follow football just for the sake of it. I want to see a young lad from Sunderland lifting up the Champions League trophy, and believe that it is the right of fans of every club to want that for their team.

    The realistic side of me also knows that can only be achieved with good practices all through the club – and yes, that does mean the ‘inquiry’ everyone in the backroom staff is making the right noises about already. That’s where I believe the youth (Ryan Noble, Billy Knott, Louis Laing, Craig Lynch etc…) will be vital. If they can progress enough to make the 1st team squad, they won’t allow slumps like this at THEIR club. That’s as close as I can find to a solution though – other than having so much faith in NQ it scares me at times. I trust him to guide us – so much so that I had to fight my own initial confusion at SB’s appointment to eventually see what I think may be the right direction for the club over time.

    I genuinely LOVED the style and enthusiasm with which we began the season – and that let’s me trust SB more – but how can I expect anyone to feel the belief in the future I do on the back of the recent run of games. After them, I guess you’re more than entitled to express the disbelief you’ve been sitting on.

    Does anyone really know where we are expected to be in 5 years, though? I will always believe we are capable of great things – such is my bias.

    Serious thinking IS the order of the day, however – I hope (as always) that this inquest is more successful than others we’ve seen over the years…in Niall I trust – but I’ve been burned before for being too trusting.

  2. Moongod,

    You heard little debate regarding the contract extension from me because I was stunned into silence. At the time we were ahead of expectations so I would have taken a good kicking had I expressed my concerns (see Jeremy’s ( I’m predictable)and Martin’s (I have the intellect of a dead grub) digs at me).

    Birflatt Boy is not wrong, we have been poor and there are clear concerns regarding the threat of relegation. but sacking SB now would not be the answer and like you I think we will be in the Premier next season. But there needs to be some serious thinking between now and the start of next season, because if there is yet another repeat of this season and the stagnation continues we may as well go down.

  3. ifos – if not for those clean sheets when we were still fresh, we would be in much bigger trouble. They can’t be ignored, because a season – as you rightly point out – lasts more than the 4 months we’ve had since xmas. I wasn’t comparing SAF and SB – I was comparing the response of fans. Of course MU were never flirting with relegation – they were a bigger club then, than we are now, and their targets were set accordingly, which brought brought a premature ‘Fergie out!’ campaign from the fans. Which leads to…

    CSB – Great post. Nothing really to disagree with – Though I’d like to add that at the time of the contract renewal I heard very few complaints because we really were headed in the right direction. There’s still deadwood to go – I know for a fact that SB wants to fill out his defensive options from his reactions to defensive mistakes caught on camera.

    I honestly believe that SB knows our problems – and I think he’s also young enough to recognise his own failings and try to develop them accordingly. I HOPE so, at least.

    My faith is not blind however, and if this slump is not corrected and/or repeated next year (when we WILL be in the premier league still) it is something that will need seriously addressing. All I ask is that we judge the club against the pre-season top half target, and at least match that target next year.

    Thanks for all the replies.

    ESPECIALLY Birflatt Boy, without whom the debate is stifled somewhat. 🙂

  4. Birflatt Boy – I expected this response from you. The truth probably lies between my optimism and your pessimism.

    Can I ask how many points you expected from the last 8 games? I wanted 10 and am VERY disappointed – but I can’t forget the flip side these players showed at the start of the season.

    True – between injuries and fatigue catching up with the younger lads we have slowly lost our mojo. Confidence is shot and right now we need to turn things around, and learn how to prevent this slump happening again. I at no point denied that – now can you accept that we were only have heights to fall from because the players we have were showing true promise and talent at the start of the year?

    I suspect that you will give the old ‘that was then, this is now’ answer – but I personally find it staggering that you can find absolutely nothing positive to say about the club’s performance this season.

    If doom and gloom is what you look for, doom and gloom is what you’ll find.

  5. I find it staggering to think that anyone believes we are heading in the right direction when it’s Championship football looming on the approaching sign to the side of this particular road!

  6. Prosecution/ Defence = two good posts. As we all know football is very much about differing opinions, however regardless of all of our opinions regarding SB, we will all inevitably keep the faith.

    However, faith is one thing, but the sermon that keeps comimg out of the SOL is disapointingly familiar. SB’s aftermatch postmortems make very disturbing reading for the vast majority of the post Christmas period. Yes we had some difficult games against some top teams and any points gained would just have been a bonus. But our performances have been unbelievable poor bearing in mind the squad of players we have.

    Yes, there are journey men in the squad who are happy for the pay and are not motivated enough by the Badge. yes, we have been hit by injuries, but as we all know football is a squad game. Yes, we miss bent, but Gyan and Wellbeck ( and Campbell on early season form) are more than capable of filling in.

    The defining point of the season for me was the mauling we took at SJP and our response to it. Yes, we strung together some good results, but the failings at SJP are still very evident in our play and until we eradicate this, then any progress we make will be painful.

    I am quite happy for SB to fulfill his original contract, 3 yrs, but at the end of next season if we have not eliminated these systemic failings at the Club I would expect him to do the honourable thing.

    Unfortunately NQ has put us in a bit of a spot by extending SB’s contract and if the need arises that we need to push him as opposed to his jumping during next season then we have made a rod for our own back. If SB can replicate the early season promise that was displayed this season for all of next season then of course this will all be academic. I sincerely hope that he can and that ES continues to support the team improvements that will be required to bring this about. SB deserves another season as RK did leave us in a hell of a mess. SB has made a bit of a mess himself, but we are heading in a direction that I think most fans recognise as being desirable.

    Can SB take us to the next level next season is the question we should be asking, and if not is he willing to step aside and take our thanks for his efforts but it just didn’t work out this time.

  7. Couple of points in response to this article: firstly what we are watching is a repeat of last season (and for Bruce the season before at Wigan), which suggests that the manager isn’t capable of learning from his mistakes. That’s a massive problem in terms of medium to long term improvement. Secondly, the argument about Bruce and the clean sheets before Xmas, aah if only the season ended there. You can’t really complain at people not waiting til the end of theseason to judge him and then use 4 months of defensive performances as a reason to keep him. All the clean sheets in th world up to November aren’t helpng us now. By the way, Ferguson never flirted with relgation after spending millons of pounds; the Aston Villa fans were obviously a bit foolish, and if Bruce had taken us into Europe in successive seasons I suspect this conversation wouldn’t be happening. He hasn’t.

  8. In short, you can’t please everybody. Let them do what they wanted, anyway, they will be the one to suffer. Advise and opinion is given when it is needed or if they wanted it. To avoid lawsuit.

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