Sixer’s Everton Soapbox: Toffees chewed up, now Bent on a Villa clincher

Two wins in a row and Jake is perfecting Sixer's smile
Two wins in a row and Jake is perfecting Sixer’s smile

We’ve all seen false dawns but no one can seriously doubt the impact Paolo Di Canio has had or where we would be, for all his feelings of being hard done by, had Martin O’Neill stayed. Pete Sixsmith wonders whether the same commitment from players and fans seen on Saturday can propel SAFC to safety at Villa Park next Monday night. He also detects the essential changes evident from two marvellous wins against NUFC and Everton. MoN, if he were an avid reader of Salut! Sunderland, might say Sixer identified similar improvements when he first took over and he’d be right. But can PDC sustain this progress where the Ulsterman, sadly, could not?

It seems that the last time we beat Everton, Roker Park and Goodison Park vied for the title of finest Archibald Leitch lattice work, Harry Catterick was managing the Blues and Dixie Dean was banging them in with gay abandon.

In fact, it was 2001 and Claudio Reyna scored at the Stadium, Walter Smith was the manager and the Everton No 9 was Kevin Campbell. But, it is a long time ago in the days when most of us were still debating the values of mobile phones, the Football Echo still appeared on a Saturday night and Des Lynam was hosting The Premiership on ITV. Ah, happy days!!

This was the first time we have beaten a David Moyes side and the first home win for Paolo Di Canio. It was a vital one as well and means that we have not been dragged back into the very serious stuff at the bottom of the league. There is now only one relegation place to fill and should Villa lose at Old Trafford on Monday night, we will have a decent cushion. We should be more than capable of taking four points from the final four games to ensure survival.

2079.3km separated Jake from this moment at the SoL. He felt as if he were there
2079.3km separated Jake from this moment at the SoL. He felt as if he were there

As happened 15 months age, we are benefiting from new manager syndrome.

Di Canio has come in and revitalised a group of players who were sleepwalking to the Championship. The organisation looks better, the players seem switched on and we are having those little bits of good fortune that had deserted O’Neill in his final months.

Make no mistake, we played well against Everton. We took advantage of a slip by Leighton Baines (that’ll teach him not to sign for us!) and scored a good goal. Seb Larsson hit three very good free kicks, each of which was inches away from being brilliant and we defended as if lives depended on it – which, looking at the macho postures adopted by our head coach, they probably did.

The main difference looks to be that players have been given specific instructions as to what to do.

Take Alfred N’Diaye. Three or four weeks ago, some were hoping that Hartlepool or Red Star Paris would do as he looked anything but a Premier League player. He was seen as symptomatic of the decline under O’Neill and comparisons were being made between the large amount of cash forked out on him, compared to the few sous that Sissoko had cost for our Tyneside rivals.

He had a good game last week and had a gigantic game this. He thundered into tackles, won the ball in tight situations and annoyed Fellaini so much that I expected a hissy fit from the hirsute Belgian. It really was an excellent performance that showed us that, whatever O’Neill’s failings, he could spot a decent player.

Same with Danny Graham. He was foiled in the opening few minutes, when he took advantage of the lack of pace in the middle of the Everton back four. His first goal in a red and white shirt was prevented only by an excellent save from Tim Howard.

But after that, he ran his legs off, went looking for the ball and never once allowed the ponderous Distain and accident-prone Heitinga to settle. All he needs is a goal and the transformation will be complete. But Di Canio and his coaching staff will know the benefits of a centre forward who never allows the opposition breathing space.



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It is clear that the players have bought into the different style that the Italians have brought to the club. The tempo is quicker, the tackling fiercer and the attacking play more direct than it was under the previous regime.

Add to that the fact that the head coach has good ideas and you get true professionals (and that’s what we have as opposed to the mercenaries at Loftus Road) wanting to listen to him and buy into his short term philosophy. Men like O’Shea, Cuellar, Johnson and Mignolet do not want a relegation on their cv.

O’Shea and Cuellar were immense on Saturday. The Irishman never missed a header and won the battle with Anichebe early on. The Spaniard was equally impressive, with timely interceptions and good tackles with his, apparently, telescopic legs.

Backed up by strong performances from Colback and Rose, we rarely looked under threat and, as Everton revealed that they lack goalscorers, an equaliser looked less and less likely. That they resorted to lumping the ball into the box for the last 20 minutes and to falling over in the penalty area tells you how strong our defenders were.

Dipping into the metaphor bag, the green shoots of recovery can be seen and we look a far, far better bet to stay up than we did three weeks ago after Manchester United contemptuously brushed us aside.

Certainly, the arrival of Di Canio has galvanised the whole club. The atmosphere in the Stadium was brilliant and the crowd roared the team home in the last 20 minutes. That’s what crowds are there to do. Singing is ok, but the Roar is the best. When the now execrable Michael Chopra notched the winner at Villa Park in Keane’s second season, the 3,000 Sunderland fans there knew that if we hung on, we would be safe. They outroared the Villa fans and showed them what a real football club is all about.

Next Monday could be the game that cements our place in the top flight for a record breaking seventh season since our first relegation in 1958. A Graham winner would be a lovely way to do it. There may not be 3,000 there for a Monday night, but the roar will be just as loud if we can win and heap the pressure on Villa and Darren Bent – whoever he was.

Monsieur Salut, by Matt
Monsieur Salut, by Matt
** For another Salut! view, try this at ESPN:


http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739

Sample (complete with an American ‘gotten’ imposed on M Salut) …:

Sunderland 1 Everton 0. After the barnstorming win at St James’ Park, different qualities were required against Everton and PDC seems to have gotten this point across effectively to his squad. There was organisation and determination, the need to show respect against more refined opposition and a fair degree of discipline whenever the ball bobbled around dangerously in the penalty area.

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13 thoughts on “Sixer’s Everton Soapbox: Toffees chewed up, now Bent on a Villa clincher”

  1. You make a lot of sense CSB and people have to balance their own beliefs, ethics and morality with their passion for their club and herein lies the dilemma. Football clubs command a loyalty that is rare in any form of enterprise that is not sporting.

    Those who feel that Amazon, Starbucks and Google are morally wrong not to pay their share of UK tax have alternatives. Liverpool fans who disapprove of Suarez, Chelsea supporters who think that Terry is a prat, followers of any team which employs Joey Barton can’t just turn their back on their team because of that individual.

    I’m willing to bet that those Sunderland fans who have decided to withdraw their financial support because of the PDC issue still wish the team well and are still as euphoric as they would have been after the last three games, even if there had been no controversy over the appointment. The performances, as well as the results have been uplifting.

  2. Despite a decade of capitulation against Everton the atmosphere at the game was phenominal. The buzz in the stadium created, yes by a momentus win over the Mags, but also down to a combination of PDC inspired players and supporters genuinely believing we could win the game.

    With an electric atmosphere and over 5000 additional supporters at the game I’d dearly like to hear from the doom mongers and social-political commentators why this was the case? What happened to the apparent split of our fans following PDC’s appointment?

    I suppose that the odd fan, see the latest issue of ALS, who claim they’ll only return when PDC has departed are basically wishing SAFC to fail in order to satisfy their selfish beliefs.

    Bit paradoxical isn’t it?

    Gary Hudson

    • There’s no paradox in loving your team and detesting a political philosophy, whether that be Fascism, Thatcherism or Stalinism.

      People make their own decisions about how they rank the importance of the things they feel strongly about. For some the team comes first and politics plays no part. For others there is a moral issue and they will not justify any support of a philosophy that they feel is wrong. Then there are others who are torn. There will be plenty of people who are more than happy to see the team doing well whilst remaining uncomfortable with the issues to which you refer.

      It’s a personal choice which is how it should be in a democracy.

      • That’s a good point Malcolm and you are right in what you say, but to me the real problem is that if you introduce a moral point in to sport how far do you take it.

        For instance some Liverpool supporters will be uncomfortable with Suarez’s latest antics, and it is pretty bad, but he is a gifted player who has a major impact for the side, how much bad are you willing to put up with for the good. Can’t imagine that there will be many Liverpool fans not going to games in protest at Suarez being at the club.

        Now this you may think is not comparable to the magnitude of the PDC issue but at what level do you draw the line, in my book it is better not to introduce it in the first place. Do people who are against PDC refuse to listen to Wagner, boycott products from Krupps, didn’t buy South African Wine, Israeli oranges etc as (my parents would never buy any Krupps stuff), but its a slippery slope, where and at what point do you stop.
        If PDC brings success and therefore joy to thousands of success starved individuals then the good outweighs the bad and it can only be viewed as a big fat positive.

  3. Now I’m just putting this out there, but am I the only one who is partly hoping for a Villa win against the odds at OT tonight to further fuel that little spark of hope that the Horse Thumpers might just go down?

    It couldn’t happen now, or could it? If I was a Mag (and the thought of that has me if a fit of hysterics), then I would be worried, looking at their fixtures.

    • Personally I’d rather Man Ure won and we too beat the Villa and then we’ll pretty much be safe. My own preference would be for Stoke to go down – like Geordie Doon South I’d rather the Mags were in the same division as us – as long as we have the bragging rights and finish above them.

  4. PDC clearly has advanced leadership skills. All top leaders know the awesome power of collective effort, and he has wisely opted not to try to change too much, but to put his faith in teamwork rather than chopping and changing players.

    The tactical differences are simple common sense: defend higher up the field, attack in numbers, and get people into the penalty area. None of which was present during O’Neill’s lamentable spell in charge.

    • Can’t quite agree William as when MON first came in the team did all the things that tactically you describe as common sense. He turned things around and most of us thought we would go from strength to strength.

      The problem came once he’d took us to safety in that initial few months, after which, as you say, his leadership was lamentable. There can’t be many Sunderland fans who think we wouldn’t have gone down if he was still at the helm.

      The last three games have seen the team doing the things lots of us were demanding and MON steadfastly refused to implement. Di Canio has certainly got the team playing to the level of their ability, which I have always believed was top ten and not relegation quality. I’m confident now that there will be Premiership football at the Stadium of Light next season. That’s when we’ll really see if things are on the up or whether it’s yet another false dawn. I hope not.

      • Fair point. I agree wih you about O’Neill’s first 7 or 8 games. I can’t fathom why he altered his strategy to one that clearly didn’t work?

  5. Don’t recall such a positive sixers sevens this season,and why not?

    I did also enjoy seeing NDiaye matching Fellaini.The big Belgian usually brushes us aside,but not on Saturday.Not only did we have a matching giant our midfield and defense nipped away at him too.I don’t think i can recall us ever putting in as many tackles as we have done last two games either.

    The work rate over the whole team has shot up,and that is down to the manager.We should be now good enough to stay up,well done ES and PDC.

    I even looked forward to the game,which I have not done in nearly a year.

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