Pete Sixsmith is a worried man and he knows other worried men. It is up to Gus and the Lads to ease his concerns, starting at Selhurst Park …
We all accept that Monday night brings a crucial game for both Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Win it and we rise above Palace, Leicester City and a plummeting Aston Villa and we will be on the same points as Hull City.
A draw keeps us in the bottom three but halts the mini-slump that has hit us in the latter days of October.
Lose and Palace will be four points ahead of us and Neil Warnock will be gloating – and we don’t want that do we, boys and girls.
A friend, who was on his way to London for the game, texted me this morning to say that in his opinion if the team lose this one, Poyet should be joining Keane, Sbragia, Bruce, O’Neill and Di Canio as former Sunderland managers. He does not like the style of play that we adopt and, in his view Poyet has made too many errors to be allowed to continue.
It has not been a smooth start to the season for Gus. Transfer targets have not been fulfilled. One can quite understand why Borini wanted to give it a go at Anfield – although he has not played much. But the pursuit of the Italian appears to indicate that we took our eye off the ball and started the season with, to misquote Reggie Perrin’s brother-in-law, Jimmy Anderson, “a bit of a cock-up on the defensive front”.
And now? Jones injured, Brown struggling, new boy Anthony Réveillère not played since May, Coates disappeared off the face of the earth, Vergini more accomplished at scoring past his own keeper than the opposition’s and that keeper having two successive nightmares. It doesn’t look good.
The midfield surrendered at Southampton with Cattermole retreating deep and Gomez just retreating. Buckley has struggled, Rodwell looks as big a disappointment as Andy Kerr (ask yer dad), Giaccherini and Alvarez are injured while Bridcutt looks better suited to the Championship.
Up front, Wickham has been dropped, Altidore continues to look and play like a rugby league prop and Graham is as far out of his depth as Jimmy Clitheroe in an Olympic swimming pool.
Put this lot together and it is a wonder that Poyet, Oatway and Taricco are not queuing up for their pay offs.
Some fans (like my friend) have never been convinced by Poyet’s approach. “Too slow,” they say, “too laboured”, “no pace and no penetration”.
When it works (Newcastle away, Cardiff home and Manchester City anywhere), it looks good. But when it doesn’t(Burnley away, Swansea home and QPR away) it looks about as exciting as an afternoon spent listening to a lecture on Quantitative Easing delivered by Professor Stanley Unwin.
But wait a minute. Is it all doom and gloom? Can things change?
Some of us think not, hence muted but audible calls for us to cut our losses (yet again) and bring in David Moyes or Tony Pulis or Eddie Howe as if a new manager automatically fixes things. There may be a new manager bounce – we got it from O’Neill and Di Canio – but that does not last long. Do we want to build or are we a club who chops and changes with the regularity of Ray Davies’s Dedicated Follower of Fashion?
Five weeks ago, Newcastle United fans were incandescent after a defeat at Stoke. They held up banners demanding that Pardew be “sacced”(sic). They jeered him and the message boards and phone-ins were less than complimentary. Words like “inept”, “brainless” and “Cockney” were hurled at him and he had as much credibility with those vociferous members of the Toon Army as King Herod would have had at a child care convention.
Look at them now. Four wins on the trot, including knocking the holders out of the League Cup and seeing off Liverpool. Pontius is back to doing what he does best – telling the world what a great manager he is and doing that wonderfully smug look which makes me scream at the TV when I see it.
But he is there. He stuck to his “principles”. He has produced a winning team and, according to some of those on Facebook, the League, the Champions League, the Eurovision Song Contest and the Nobel Prize for Physics are within their grasp.
As for Poyet, he plods on. Should we lose tomorrow, and I would not be surprised if we did, the message from Sunderland supporters will be less hysterical than that from Tyneside last month, but a few more will begin to question the manager and his tactics.
Over to you, comrades.