There are not many reasons why we should wish to read much about yet another disappointment. But if they come to these pages, there is one very good one: the likelihood of a report of the match, and much more besides, from Pete Sixsmith. For Sixer’s work alone, you should vote for Salut! Sunderland in the Football Blogging Awards – do so at http://www.footballbloggingawards.co.uk/vote-now/ – in the established football blog and football club blog categories. But in the meantime, back to those south coast blues and what Pete made of his long trip and his little break with Pete Horan – oh, and the wretched game, too …
Bournemouth was a busy town this weekend.
A load of deadbeats arrived, optimistic after a miserable time in May where they just avoided a humiliating demotion from importance to total insignificance. Their supporters are used to constant disappointment and are desperate to succeed but seem destined to fail once again. But that’s enough about the Liberal Democrats.
As for Sunderland, here was another performance that made it crystal clear that relegation is likelier by the week. A first half that was so poor that a midfield consisting of Messrs Farron, Cable and Clegg and a forward line of Jeremy Thorpe, Jo Grimond and David Steel , would have given us a good game.
As it was, Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie put the game well beyond our reach with one goal that came as a result of defending that Shirley Williams would have been ashamed of while the other will probably win Goal of the Season.
The first half was yet again, an embarrassment for the red and white support, many of who had been on the road since 5am while others had travelled overnight and some had even braved a rail replacement service from Wareham to Poole. It was as dismal as David Owen’s memoirs, as uninspiring as a Nick Clegg speech and as flat as a night out at a Lembit Opik stand up gig. (That’s enough laboured political satire; please be more conservative – Ed).
The absence of John O’Shea caused some worries among the support. The back four had looked better with the Irishman in it and he appeared to have an understanding with Younes Kaboul. His replacement, Seb Coates, had disappointed in his two games and there was a fear that there would be a Leicester/Norwich style collapse.
A good start was essential. Did we get one? No we didn’t. Two minutes into the game, Callum Wilson, playing his fifth Premier League, turned Kaboul, playing his 150th, inside the box and the Cherries were popping. Six minutes later a defensive header from M’Vila was picked up by the excellent Matt Ritchie and his superb volley put the game beyond our reach.
The tight and atmospheric Dean Court ground was rocking. The atmosphere had been good at 3pm but by 10 past it was bouncing and vibrant, while in a corner of the ground 1200 Sunderland fans contemplated another embarrassing score line a la Southampton.
The key to stopping Bournemouth is to frustrate them early on. They have enthusiasm, no little skill and a phenomenal work rate but they cannot play at such a high pace for ever. If goals do not come, they will get frustrated and their energy levels will drop. But give them a two-goal lead and then spend another half an hour
before you have an attempt on target, and you will lose.
Kaboul was wretched, with Jones little better. The former was sent off for a pathetic challenge on the outstanding Wilson, while Kevin Friend was very generous with the plodding full back and failed to produce a second yellow for a challenge that would not have been out of place in the Brandon and Byshottles Sunday League.
Yedlin must be a better player than Puffing Billy, a man ideally suited to the lower reaches of the Championship – which is where we are likely to be next season.
Once Bournemouth wilted in the heat, we almost got back into it. Defoe failed to convert a one on one with Boruc and then put a straightforward header wide – although he was offside.
Jeremain Lens wasn’t. His first half performance was ordinary in the extreme but in the second he injected some pace and vim into our front line. He showed his vision and opportunism when he headed home from the by-line, only to find that Eddie Smart (hardly an appropriate name for this blunderer) had his flag up for offside. It was a decision that possibly changed the game as an early goal in the second half would – ok, might – have caused an outbreak of collywobbles in the Boscombe defence.
We had one other decent chance when the hard working Borini attempted to emulate Ritchie but was just too high with his volley and the game trailed away as Bournemouth held on with ease to win their first home game in the Premier League.
It is interesting to compare the respective clubs French centre backs, both new signings. Kaboul is 29 years old, has played over 150 games in the Premier League, collecting six red cards in those games. His start at Sunderland ranks him with Steve Hetzke, Mobido Diakite and that Greek that Martin O’Neill brought in on loan as centre halves who are not two per cent as good as Charlie Hurley is now.
In the Bournemouth side, making his debut, was Sylvan Distin, aged 37, who has made over 450 appearances in the top level of English football and who has been a mainstay at Everton, Manchester City and Portsmouth (we’ll put the 28 games he played for Newcastle down to youthful indiscretion). He was outstanding. His reading of the game was immaculate and he was equally unruffled by the physical presence of Toivonen and the pace of Borini when the Italian ran at him. He looks to be as outstanding a signing as Kaboul looks to be a disaster. It could change, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
So, another great weekend away was spoiled by an inept performance for the umpteenth time in recent memory. Weymouth was a friendly and accommodating host town, full of salty dogs and good ale. The sun shone in Bournemouth and the trips there and back – although tiring – were pleasant enough.
On that return journey, we passed many family cars loaded down with quilts, kettles and laptops as students took up their university places all over the country.
They would be feeling excited and apprehensive and looking forward to a new life in a new city where they would make friendships that would last for life. Some of them may well have been heading for Sunderland University. If so, they should make the most of Premier League football in their first year as the Championship looms ever closer. Dick Advocaat and his coaching staff have more work to do than the average student in the next few weeks – and rustication is too good for some of our flops.
Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo is the city’s motto. It means Never Despair, Trust in God. I’m already close to despair and I don’t believe in God. Think I’ll become a Liberal Democrat.