Malcolm Dawson writes…….I made a decision at the end of last season that going to watch Sunderland was becoming too painful. Physically painful because of the arthritis in my knees and the back pain I was experiencing on the walk from car to ground and back. Psychologically painful because of the poor football on show, constant disappointment not only at results but at poor performances and a lack of entertainment. Economically painful in the knowledge that, with two and a half years to go before I get my state pension, the cost of a season card represented five per cent of my annual income and I could think of better ways to spend my time and money. But most of all (and I know there are some, though a dwindling number, who disagree with me) I could see the club going only one way under the current ownership. I decided enough was enough. Call me disloyal, call me a fair weather supporter but I felt I had suffered enough over the years and there comes a time when cold logic finally overtakes blind emotion.
But with a new healthy eating regime and a substantial weight loss, the walking has become easier and with Pete Sixsmith otherwise engaged over advent, I got along to the three home games prior to Christmas. Reading was a shambles, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I had enjoyed the Fulham and Birmingham games. So much so that despite the despondent reports from those who had been to Bramall Lane, those two games plus the win at Forest and the fact there were no Northern League games on New Year’s Day had got me thinking that maybe I should go to see the Coleman revival continue against Barnsley. But I am nothing if not stubborn and decided around midday, that I would settle for Barnes and Benno, the Guardian crossword and a snooze on the sofa. Sounds like I made a good decision.
Pete was back in his usual seat but if this most despondent of reports is anything to go by, he would rather have stayed home listening to Nicholas Parsons and Paul Merton recalling the 50 years of Just a Minute as he recaps yesterday’s experience without hesitation, deviation but for those of you who read his report of the Sheffield United game more than a little repetition …
Can anyone out there please explain to me how a team can be so well organised, well motivated and well intentioned on Saturday and then turn into the rabble that pitched up at the Stadium of Despair on Monday?
Had aliens landed and taken over the bodies and minds of these relatively young men and sent them out on a mission to self-destruct? Had they been eating mind-altering vegetables over the weekend that caused not only their minds but their muscles and motivation to seize up? Had a miasma descended on the banks of the River Wear that affected only red and white striped shirts, causing the wearers to forget how to pass, shoot, tackle, mark, organise, score and do anything else that constitutes a successful football team?
Or are they just rubbish from beginning to end?
I am not going to spend long on dissecting this game. There will be no gentle Wodehousian spoofs, no travelogue of lovely English market towns and no detailed analysis of where Chris Coleman and Kit Symons need to tweak the team in order to get a little more out of it in order to prevent visits to Gillingham, Doncaster and Oldham next season. Like the players, I can’t be bothered.
- Why should I endeavour to punctuate a piece correctly when they can’t be bothered to head away a bouncing ball in their own penalty area?
- Why should I comb the internet for amusing pictures when they can’t be bothered to pass the ball accurately?
- Why should I offer a careful and thoughtful analysis of the game when they can’t be bothered to invest it with anything that approaches tempo?
I do these things because I want to do them properly – as do Colin, John and Malcolm. We could turn in a slipshod piece full of grammatical errors and misspellings, badly paragraphed and full of clumsy phrases but we don’t. We do our best at all times.
Should we consistently turn out work which contains all of the above, the readership would become unhappy. The comment boxes would be full of criticism and people would stop looking at the site. We would all become downhearted and the standard of writing would drop even more unless we had a consistent plan to improve it. Should we not have that, the readers would stop coming and we would be out of a (non-paying) job.
Sounds a bit like the football club doesn’t it? Do they have a plan? After this performance, relegation looks more than likely. Bolton are winning, Burton are winning, Barnsley are winning. We take four points from four eminently winnable home games, get walloped at Sheffield United (who are then beaten at home by Bolton) and win at Forest, who then sack their manager.
We have players who are not good enough (Vaughan, Love), players who are creaking (O’Shea, Gibson), players who think they are good but aren’t (for example McGeady) and players who, on this showing, made it clear that they would rather be anywhere than at Sunderland AFC (eg McNair, who spent most of the game talking to Barnsley’s Brad Potts).
We should have been two down early doors, only the woodwork and indecision from Isgrove preventing that from happening. Oviedo hit the post but the entire tempo, all the accuracy, all the buzz came from a Barnsley team with no Famous Names in their team.
The second half was truly appalling and the worst I have seen for years. Players constantly shirked responsibility and as a result, the support became angry and began to turn on individuals. Not a pretty sight, but we had paid hard earned money to watch professionals fail to cut out centres, fail to pass the ball to colleagues and fail to put any meaningful pressure on a competent Barnsley defence.
Other than that, there is nothing else to say. It was a shameful defeat, thoroughly deserved and one that will have supporters, manager, chief executive and some of the players waking up screaming in the middle of the night.
And a Happy New Year to one and all…..