Some of you will have seen the various options Pete Sixsmith, having endured Sunderland vs Crystal Palace, offered for his customary seven-word verdict. Here, for the non-squeamish, is his fuller appraisal of our latest surrender …
Where to start? What about a wee skit on the excellent US High School movie 10 Things I Hate About You, which is itself a skit on Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew. Well, it beats trying to be serious and analytical about the absolute rubbish we had to sit through against Palace.
But here goes anyway:
1 The fact that we can beat our greatest rivals one week and then totally collapse the next.
Once is acceptable, twice is worrying, three times is shocking and to do it four bloody times in a row is unforgiveable.
2 The fact that when the chips are down, our players bottle it. This afternoon both O’Shea and Vergini threw in the towel for the third time this season and produced a performance that would have been a disgrace had they been playing for Hamsteels Sausage Makers against Esh Wining Over 60s Cycling Club FC. The second and third goals were truly something to be ashamed of.
3 The fact that we have an average crowd of over 40,000, people who go there wanting the team to do well and the club to succeed. If the crowds slumped to the level of say, Middlesbrough or Bolton Wanderers, maybe someone at the top would realise that loyalty cannot be taken for granted and that folk are utterly sick and tired of dreadful football, overpaid players and a succession of humiliating home defeats.
4 The fact that year after year we waste huge amounts of money on players who are, quite frankly, completely and utterly useless. £10m for Jack Rodwell? Do me a favour. He is now up there with the likes of Torre Andre Flo, Iain Bowyer and El Hadj Diouf as players who took the huge amounts of money thrown at them and did absolutely f*** all. Rodwell’s sole contribution to this fiasco was to commit a foul on 15 minutes which should have been a red card. Anthony Taylor would have done all of us a favour had he dispatched him toute suite to the changing rooms.
5 The fact that we believe that the corner has been turned and that two more positive results will save our season and give us another year with our snouts in the trough of the wonderful FA Premier League. Two decent performances gave us some optimism but, as the late, lamented fanzine said, “It’s The Hope I Cannot Stand.”
6 The fact that we now have two weeks to sweat and strain and probably end up in a relegation place before the Stoke game and almost certainly after it. Even the head coach has identified a lack of physicality about the team. Mark Hughes will already be beefing up Ryan Shawcross, Jonathan Walters and Charlie Adam by feeding them on steak, steak and more steak. Our problem is too much mayo on the salads.
7 The fact that any half decent coach (and Alan Pardew) can work us out. His half time team talk must have been so simple – something along the lines of “Right lads, you’ve lulled them into a false sense of security, now go out there and hit them – and score a goal for each of the successive derby defeats they inflicted on me.” It worked.
8 The fact that whoever we sign, whoever we appoint as manager, whoever owns/runs the club, we just cannot succeed at the top level. The last eight seasons in the Premier League has brought little other than anxiety and a fair degree of misery. I sense that others are preparing to give up the fight and find other things to do on a Saturday afternoon.
9 The fact that we can swing from optimism (6pm last Sunday) to pessimism (5pm Saturday) and that it affects our whole weekend. M Salut will be drowning his sorrows in the red wines of the Var, Jake will be sloshing Rioja until it falls out of his ears, Jeremy will be walloping down the Molson’s – and I am sat at a keyboard on a Saturday night trying to work my frustration and anger out after the most inept performance of an inept season. The only players to emerge with any real credit were Wickham, who wanted the ball and showed some of the strength that we should have had at the back and van Aanholt, who at least got forward.
The two central defenders were weak beyond belief and anyone who really thought Cattermole was anything other than a holding midfield player would have been disabused of that notion today. He was awful and was booked for shirt grabbing. Pathetic.
10 The fact that, after 50 years, I am gullible enough to be seduced by a win over a feeble Newcastle United team, to “pop into the ticket office with my bank details so we can renew your season card”. It is renewed. On this wretched, humiliating and altogether depressing showing, I should be watching 23 home games next season; can’t wait for Charlton and Cardiff to come calling.
In the film and the play, there is a happy ending. Petruchio/Patrick and Katharina/Kat do fall in love and do, presumably, live happily ever after.
But that is fiction. Football is fact.