John McCormick writes: I started Pete Sixsmith‘s report on yesterday’s game at 11.01 on Sunday. It took me about 20 minutes. I can’t tell you how long Pete spent writing it but given its usual high standard you can be sure he put some effort into it.
If you felt so inclined you could calculate how much Jack Rodwell earned in that time*. Or estimate how much effort was made yesterday. Alternatively, you could ask yourself – why bother?
Where do we start with this one?
It could be with the appalling defending that allowed Ipswich to score with their only shot on target in the whole game.
It could be with the complete lack of movement in the team after the initial buzz of the opening 25 minutes.
It could be with the mood of resignation and apathy that now populates an increasingly desolate Stadium of Light.
Or it could be with the fact that I now, officially, no longer enjoy my visits to Wearside and that I shall be curtailing them if I can find a more attractive and relevant fixture between now and the inevitable demotion to Level Three at the end of the season.
I wondered if this game saw the US Cavalry coming over the hill to save us from a terrible fate – a footballing version of She Wore A Yellow Ribbon or Fort Apache where the cavalry triumph against adversity. We needed a rousing John Ford type performance against Ipswich, something that would rouse us and stir us up for the difficult but ultimately winnable struggle ahead.
What we got was Carry On Custer as yet another weak and insipid performance was served up by a set of players who seem to lack any kind of direction or genuine desire to retrieve what is now becoming an increasingly hopeless situation. Kenneth Williams at his most limp-wristed would have made a better effort at tackling Joe Garner than Billy Jones did for the opening goal while Barbara Windsor would have got closer to the Ipswich attacker than Lee Cattermole did for the second. What a carry on!!!
We had started reasonably well and in Ovie Ejaria we seemed to have a player who could run the game from the middle of the park. He moved well, picked out a good pass and until Mick McCarthy told Cole Skuse to mark him tight, there was hope that we could actually control a midfield.
But it was not to be. He was not able to find as much space as the game went on and Skuse had done his job. Add to that the alarming lack of movement or perception from his colleagues and Ejaria may well be on the blower to Jurgen Klopp and demanding to know what he had done that was so bad he deserved to be sent to the footballing equivalent of a Siberian power station.
There was one incident in the second half that summed up how bloody awful we are and why we are where we are. Ejaria won the ball, moved forward quickly and then had to go round in circles like a dog chasing its tail as not one of his new team mates had made any attempt to get into space. Welcome to the Stadium of Light Ovie. I hope it doesn’t suck the life out of you.
Ashley Fletcher did OK but faded as the game meandered on. He played Asoro in well in the first half and a goal should have resulted from it but it didn’t as the young Swede pulled it wide when he really should have scored. Fletcher is big, has an element of physicality about him and a decent touch. We’ll see how good he is next week when he is up against the best centre half in the division in Aiden Flint.
As for the rest, there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said already. Defensively, we continue to commit errors that lead to soft goals. Our midfield is poor and is easily overrun and we have little attacking punch. Matthews and Oviedo are not wingers (some would argue that they are not even full backs) and it is time for the manager to drop the 3-5-2 system and perhaps look at a 4-4-2 that involves a genuine attacking threat down the flanks. Seeing as the wingers are any two from McGeady, McManaman and LuaLua, I don’t expect much from that.
Coleman is not beyond criticism for this and needs to have a look at his team selection. He has been dealt a wretched hand by the owner and previous managers and that is where the real problems lie. If we are to survive (and I don’t think we will – Bolton and Birmingham are winning difficult games – we are losing straightforward ones) he needs to do what Allardyce did two years ago and get the back four organised and build from that. I don’t see many teams in this league playing with three central defenders, especially when two of them are either on their last legs or terminally hopeless.
As far as the support is concerned, we have given up. A friend of mine who sits in the row in front, left at half time and won’t be back. His daughter has already found better things to do on a Saturday afternoon. The chances of a huge banner appearing castigating Short a la the Mags and Ashley is remote, as there are far too many gaps for it to be held up and we are nowhere near as self-regarding as our friends from the north. But the club is dying and another generation of support is being lost as we slip down the leagues and into what could be an almost permanent oblivion.
The next detachment of cavalry riding over the hill needs to be some sensible investors who realise the genuine potential of a fine club with loyal (if disenchanted) support and a decent manager. Short is desperate to sell but it doesn’t appear that anyone is desperate to buy.
As for me, the Rugby League season has started so I shall be watching a game where there is no cheating, diving or refusing to play for a club that pays you well. This afternoon (Sunday) I am at the iconic Post Office Road to watch Featherstone Rovers play Halifax where the part time players will give 100% for their clubs, because that is what rugby league players do. Maybe some of ours could tip up and watch what commitment means.
*It took me 20 minutes. At £70,000 per week Jack Rodwell earned £138.89 while I was preparing it. Of course he has to pay tax, so don’t think too harshly of him.