Stephen Goldsmith is not just a budding broadcast sports journalist, podcast wizard and Salut! Sunderland assistant editor. He also coaches children. In the latest of our end-of-season reviews – the series will end soon with Pete Sixsmith‘s calculations of how well spent his season ticket money was – Goldy says his young charges show more movement and pace than our midfield managed at times …
Well they do say football is a real life soap opera.
The extent to which Sunderland’s neighbours 11 miles up the road legitimise that theory often puts it beyond doubt, but the last six or seven weeks has had us in the thick of our own little juicy storyline. A manager with an explosive personality, and who is very much a novice at the top level, was brought in under national scrutiny because of past endeavours. What will happen from here is very much anyone’s guess.
It’s certainly a far cry from the distinct dullness we all witnessed previous to his appointment. And boy had it been dull.
I kept believing in O’Neill, I really did.
I don’t even feel his footballing philosophies are as unworkable as people make out. They’re a little outdated and will never win a side the Premier League, but as was proven by the new-found direction the players moved in upon Bruce’s departure, they can prevail in modern football. Well, to an extent.
But it was precisely that little post-Bruce spell that fooled everybody, including O’Neill. If a side is to sit as deep as we did without the ball, dominant and forceful central midfielders are essential when breaking. The performance levels of our midfielders before their drastic decline clearly led the manager to believe he didn’t need to utilise the transfer market as a means of making this happen. He should have, as an inabilty to dictate games or offer any real fluency resulted in some of the most hideous and uninspiring football witnessed for many year.
Play was laboured and movement was static, so much so I’m convinced I even had my under 9s move the ball quicker.
It’s all well and good buying a flair player such as Johnson but you need the mentioned midfield types to be that platform for them to receive the ball in dangerous areas. Cattermole’s injury didnt help of course, nor did allowing David Meyler to leave without at least offering him the chance to show us what he had to offer. The whole thing was a disaster. N’Diaye was added by January but he was too little, too late.
Yet O’Neill’s failure to adapt to what he had was the biggest disappointment of all. He’s recently scoffed at suggestions that he’s a little old-fashioned yet he admitted that talk of having a Plan B is new to him. Excuse me? If one statement could sum up his time here this season, it would be “no Plan B”. And his Plan A resulted in 40,000 people attending matches in body but not mind for the best part of a season.
* See the full series of 2013 End-of-season reviews at this link: https://safc.blog/category/end-of-season-reviews-2013/
Steven Fletcher’s goals and Simon Mignolet’s saves have been like gold dust for us this term, they are two highlights in an incredibly forgetful season.
By the time of the Man Utd game, we were on our knees as rival clubs started to stroll past us in the race for survival. The appointment of Di Canio was the nudge that shoved us across the finish line with memorable wins over Newcastle and Everton being the force behind it. But it was all a bit too close for comfort and the downward force we are moving with is alarming.
I will finish by reminding people that contrary to popular belief we didn’t rely on Arsenal to keep us up.
We finished three points ahead of Wigan, had a significantly better goal difference and beat them twice. Nothing to write home about, sure, but we’ve enough negatives to worry about without creating more based on distorted facts.
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/