Pete Sixsmith has endured much as a Sunderland supporter but yesterday’s ordeal was about as bad as it gets. We’re still in a better position points-wise than last year but the omens for improvement via the transfer window don’t look good, and it was transfers that made the difference last season. No-one can be in any doubt significant improvement is needed, and needed desperately; if we continue to play the way we did yesterday we can kiss goodbye to the Premiership for a long, long time, as Pete makes clear in another immaculately observed match report
Goodbye 2016, the year that gave us Brexit, Farage and Trump, took away Cohen, Wood and Aherne and then ended up by making it clear that this miserable, wretched 366 days would be the last one that Sunderland AFC could proclaim themselves a Premier League club.
After a performance as bereft of commitment, effort and ability as this, nobody can be in any doubt that, along with Hull City and Swansea City, we are destined for the 46 game dog fight that is the English Football League’s Championship. The fifth best supported league in Europe is about to welcome the Stadium of Light to its ground rota, alongside such venues as Griffin Park, the Pirelli Stadium and (possibly) Ewood Park.
The latter is just along the road from Turf Moor, where the potential death warrant was delivered by a Burnley side who had an abundance of the three qualities that we so clearly lacked. They are a committed side who play to the best of their ability and who never stop running. They have players who would fit into a number of Premier League sides and who would do well. The same cannot be said about us.
Looking at the shocking performance that was turned in yesterday, the only man who would get another Premier League club is Jermain Defoe. He looked a beaten man at the end of this fiasco and may well be contemplating leaving before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month. The others were terminally hopeless.
For twenty minutes we looked the brighter of the two sides. We attacked well and looked secure at the back. The midfield, with O’Shea sat in the Denayer role, looked competent. And then we hit the buffers, or more precisely the advertising hoardings.
Kone slid into one, received treatment (and abuse from Burnley fans who seemed to think that it was a disgrace that he was hurt), went back on but limped off a few minutes later. Both he and Djilobodji had looked secure against the busy Gray and the irritant Barnes and they do seem to bond together well.
O’Shea moved back to partner the Senegalese and Ndong arrived for what could be his final game before he takes off to Gabon for goodness knows how long – and then, like a game of Buckaroo or Kerplunk, the whole damn thing collapsed.
Communication between the two central defenders was non-existent as they both went for the same ball and failed to win it. Off went Andre Gray and he beat Mannone with a powerful shot across the goal. Unfortunate but not disastrous we thought. Keep it to that at half time and then regroup in the dressing room and we have a chance.
We managed to hold on, came out for the second half, showed some short lived desire and Borini missed a good opportunity to level the scores when he shanked a volley wide. Hope, as ever, sprung eternal.
It disappeared a few minutes later as Djilobodji failed to deal with a long ball and Mannone came rushing out of his goal. Gray rounded him and put the Clarets just about out of sight.
They disappeared over the horizon when Pienaar stood on the ball which was then moved on to Barnes. He sensibly gave it to a man who was playing for Hinckley United four years ago and he rounded a helpless Mannone to win the game.
Larsson gave away a stupid penalty kick which Barnes converted before Defoe pulled one back after Januzaj evaded the defenders who crowd round him and furnished a decent cross but it was far too little and far too late.
I struggle to think of a performance this century that has been so inept. We have conceded more at Everton, Chelsea and Southampton, but they were against sides that were in the upper echelons of the league at that time. Burnley are one of those teams that we need to take points off, particularly away from home. We failed dismally and the future looks grim.
As does the injury list. Kone may well miss the ACON while Anichebe pulled up before half time with a hamstring problem. Don’t expect either of them to line up against Liverpool tomorrow. Throw in the existing injuries and the list looks as long as Roker Pier.
What of the manager? He sounded very downbeat after the game as if he knows that there is little he can do with the current group of players and that he has no chance of bringing in substantial reinforcements. He may stay, he may go but whatever happens, we have shown that, as a club, we have had our time in the Premier League and that we have brought precious little to it in the ten years that we have been there. Keane, Bruce, O’Neill, Di Canio, Poyet, Advocaat, Allardyce and now Moyes have all tried and failed to move us forward. I see a dismal future where we join Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolverhampton Wanderers and various others stuck in the quagmire of the Championship.
And on that note, as they used to say in The Beano,
“A Happy New Year to all our Readers.”
I think Biffo the Bear, Little Plum and Lord Snooty and His Pals might do better than that lot did yesterday.