Sixer’s Aston Villa Soapbox: some constructive criticism (and please go, Gus)

John McCormick writes: In his e-mail carrying this account Pete Sixsmith said he’s addressing his remarks to Colin, Nic and myself as Malcolm had the misfortune to sit through this live. What remarks? Just the three headlines below:


Are you ready?

WWW? nowt EBI? Insert your own answer...
WWW? nowt
EBI? Insert your own answer…

At the school where I am currently working, students’ work is not marked with a score out of 10 and a cursory comment (“Good”, “Needs more”, “Do you think that this is acceptable, Poyet?”), but with two abbreviations – www for “what went well” and ebi for “even better if”. The aim is to be constructive with criticism, because, as we all know, constructive criticism is helpful, while throwing your season ticket at the head coach or leaving at half time is not.

So, in the interests of good practice, let me attempt to use these criteria in assessing the complete and utter shambles that presented itself in front of me and 45,745 others (at least for the first 37 minutes) on Saturday.

What went well? Nothing.

You could argue that the team that was selected would have been the one chosen by the vast majority of the support, bearing in mind that Cattermole is suspended and Johnson is unavailable. Fletcher came in and actually did well and the goalkeeper was ok, but that was it.

Even better if? Where does one start?

Jake: 'this is a real low point for me - and I've been a fan since the Middle Ages'
Jake: ‘this is a real low point for me – and I’ve been a fan since the Middle Ages’

In games like this you look to experienced players like John O’Shea and Wes Brown to set high standards on the field of play and to encourage those around them. O’Shea has had a good season and looks a decent type of chap while Brown’s vast experience should get him through games like this.

Not in this one. From the opening seconds when Brown launched the first of many aimless punts up field (this one went out for a throw as did a similar opener at Valley Parade), we were on the back foot. No leadership from either of them, particularly when we were rocking at 1-0 down and the club captain makes the kind of mistake that Gary Breen and Danny Collins made in the 15 point season. Agbonlahor must have thought he was in for a good afternoon as he slipped this one in and knew he was when he sped past a lumbering Brown to finish the game off and spark the first crowd exodus of the afternoon.

The Villa right back, Leandro Bacuna had already exposed our defensive frailties by moving into the open space left by Patrick van Aanholt and setting up Benteke, who finished as all good centre forwards do. Van Aanholt goes forward well but cannot defend. He wanders out of position and leaves huge gaps. Larsson reminded him of this on one occasion and harsh words were exchanged. So much for good team spirit.

The buck stops with you, Gus
The buck stops with you, Gus

You can argue that Poyet is not responsible for van Aanholt’s desperately poor positional play. He signed him, he picked him, he plays him. The buck stops at the head coach’s door.

Trying to be constructive about our midfield is like trying to find something pleasant to say about Jeremy Clarkson. Let’s be honest, if there is a worse midfield four or five in the Premier League or Championship, I would be amazed. I would imagine that the engine room of the Hartlepool or Yeovil team is more effective than this lot.

Bridcutt showed some decent touches, but played so deep, he kept bumping into Brown and O’Shea. By doing this, he allowed Sinclair, Cleverley, Delph and N’Zogbia to weave pretty patterns all afternoon and to supply a steady stream of accurate passes to the two strikers.

That his role was not changed after the second goal is staggering; that he continued in this role for 90 minutes beggars belief. He was clearly following instructions as I don’t think he has the wit or the talent to do anything else.

Larsson ran around a lot, but, as is often the case with the Swede, achieved very little. He shouted at van Aanholt and avoided a booking but rarely picked up an opponent, allowing Villa to look like Arsenal in their pomp. The same applies to Rodwell – decent touches but absolutely no influence on the game. He is another player who comes to Sunderland with a good pedigree and fails. Is it his fault or is he sucked into the slough of despond that appears to be situated somewhere in the Stadium of Light? That can be your homework.

Fletcher was wasted on the left, of which more later, but I wish to do some spleen venting on Alvarez.

Here is another South American who simply cannot play in the Premier League. His performance was more like Andy Welch than Julio Arca and he simply is not good enough. Not for the first time, he was hooked at half time. Who signed him? Who picks him? Who tells him what to do? Poyet must be responsible for at least two of those.

Up front, Defoe did what he could. He is 5’4” tall, so the obvious tactic is to lump high balls up to him – sorry, sarcasm has no place in assessing work. With someone to lay the ball off to him, he is a very good player; up front on his own, he is no better than Andy Gray or Michael Proctor.

And to add to this catalogue of individual failings, we have the most damning one; this did not look like a team. Too many of them have spent their time at Sunderland struggling to avoid the drop. Those in their first season are either not good enough or have picked up the vibes from the others.

The body language of the players (I hesitate to call them a team because they were not) was awful and Poyet looked like a man who knew that his mission to educate the footballing public of Wearside had failed. Slumped shoulders, hands in pockets and sliding deeper into his coat all indicated a man who knew that the game was up.

As it should be. He was hired to improve the club and to ensure that there would be a period of stability after five years of turmoil and chopping and changing. He will leave the club with it heading for the 10th relegation in the 50 years that I have been a regular.

There will be no “Great Escape” this year; relegation is a cast iron certainty as we are incapable of scoring goals and the allegedly “good” home games are almost at an end. With Newcastle, Southampton, Leicester and Palace to come, I cannot see a point let alone a win coming in any of those.

Should he go – and I believe he should have resigned last night – there is no obvious candidate to come in and give us the lift and self-belief that Sherwood has given Villa. Besides, the players are probably immune to short term shocks having had so many over the years.

It is a desperate situation when loyal and knowledgeable supporters like the ones who sit around me, bale out at half time. You can’t fool people like these. They know a dud when they see one and Poyet has shown, most emphatically, that this is what he is.

For the club, it would be even better if Poyet left quickly as little has been done well this season. As Macbeth said, in the words given to him by Shakespeare,

“If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well
 It were done quickly.”

Join the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group – click anywhere along this line

And follow us on Twitter: @salutsunderland … click along this line

Click anywhere on this sentence for a glance at the home page – and highlights of all the most recent articles …

Jake flags the new feature allowing you to have your say on topic or off
Jake flags the new feature allowing you to have your say on topic or off

Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the made-for-purpose feature – – and say it there

Share this post

26 thoughts on “Sixer’s Aston Villa Soapbox: some constructive criticism (and please go, Gus)”

  1. Good posting Jonny. We are supposed to be a football club, not a concert venue. We used to have theatres for that.

    Pete H. Just saw your mail mate. Seeing you at the match for the first time in a long long time might have lifted my spirits. If I get hold of your email I will drop you a line in private. When you were looking for me I was about 3500 miles away. Not for much longer though mate.

  2. This season signals the death of our club as we know it. I’m sorry to say but this is down to poor leadership from Ellis Short. He has failed to get the right people in time and time again and there’s been little or know planning for the future when it comes to player recruitment.

    The club is rotten to the core and yes Ellis you might be turning the club into a sustainable business with concerts and seaside cafes but I think I have the support of my fellow season ticket holders when I say…we don’t give a toss about attracting superstar acts to play at our stadium and we couldn’t care less about a trendy little café that many of us will never go to. Get it right on the pitch then look at these things once we have genuine sporting success. I would even go as far to say drop our efforts in partnering with American & African feeder clubs and the Foundation of Light. SAFC is a Football club not a f’ing not for profit charity.

    My patience has totally ran out and I will be hard pressed to ever spend another penny on supporting my club after yet another season of total and absolute embarrassment and disappointment. Many people will say I’m wrong in this respect, fact is this is an entertainment industry and I am not being, nor have I been entertained in a long, long, time. I’ll always love and wish my club success, but it’s like being in a failing marriage and it’s time to go our separate ways.

    Good luck to the next generation of match going Sunderland supporters, I hope you get to experience some genuine success. I’ll miss the banter with the people I sit with but I just cant go to that place and waste my time anymore.

  3. Pete,

    Go into speech writing for Chris Foote Wood; he deserves your talent much more than that useless, spineless, gutless overpaid bunch of mercenaries. I agree totally with Jeremy, that is the worst performance I have witnessed in 50 years. Jeremy, I went looking for you at half time, but the pub we occasionally drank in together is no longer there and you are elsewhere. I need to take another pill????

  4. There have been so many abysmal performances this season. After the destruction at Southampton we thought we had reached rock bottom and couldn’t possibly contrive to put anything worse on show but fear not we still had Hull and QPR at home along with the Bradford debacle to throw in for good measure.

    Although Poyey takes much of the blame for the inept tactics and dull performances where do the players stand in all this ?

    This shower of overpaid wasters stroll around not seeming to care whilst taking home a pay cheque every week that far outweights what the vast majority of us long suffering fans earn in a year. When Poyet departs the majority of them will have seen off 3 managers, seems a bit excessive. PDC may have been as daft as a brush but he had them sussed. They are rotten to the core.

    A short term replacement for Poyet to get the 2-3 wins that will keep us up is the highest priority. A number of names being touted ,some very scary. Hopefully big Sam will arrive in the summer to clear out the dead wood festering at our club and signal another new beginning.

  5. I just heard that some bookies have stopped taking money on Dick Avcocaat to be our new manager. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    • That’s the rumour , Poyets gone , Advocaat untill the end of the season . CV as long as your arm including PSV, Rangers , Holland and Russia. No spring chicken at 67 but as a short term appointment , why not . # stats supplied by Wikipedia !#

  6. The malaise of our club starts at the top where there are no “football people” – only young women or people intent on the next band to play in the summer. There is no contact with the fans anymore – remember Niall’s meetings round the local clubs. The dialogue with the fans is just as bad as the Mags.
    How can “small” clubs like Swansea, Southampton, Stoke etc. constantly outperform us – BAD management all round. Get Poyet out now and anyone as manager can do as well until the end of the season when we can go for someone like Michael Laudrup etc

  7. Possibly seeing how the stadium looks and feels half full, will prompt some action from him. If he thinks that there’ll be anything like that number of people buying STs next season I think Short is in for a shock, regardless of how this season ends (if there is still any doubt about that, at this stage).

  8. There is no shame is leaving a game at half time when that garbage is being served up, after all the other unacceptable displays this season. the humilation at St Mary’s. giving QPR their first away win for almost two years, and exiting the FA Cup at Bradford.

    There shouldn’t even be the need to debate Poyet’s future. Poyet out, and out before the sun sets Ellis. Get a grip. You own this club, but you are ruining it.

    • Not only is there no shame in leaving at half time, in truth it is what that pathetic performance warranted. Had everyone left, Poyet’s fate would be sealed.

      I said after the Southampton disgrace that GP should go. We have a pretty useless lot of players but I do believe that a half decent coach could have got a tune out of them. We also might not have lost Colback and Gardner, and might have acquired one or two decent one’s in January rather than the semi-skilled novice’s and invalids favoured by Poyet.

      I am afraid, as Jeremy said earlier, that our Board are useless. Villa, WBA and Palace all saw the writing on the wall, and acted in time. Our management have sat frozen in a state of catatonic stupor, watching our club become a national laughing stock.

      Only the fans emerge with credit. But who cares about them?

      • In truth no one gives a hoot about us, but they do care about our money and an empty stadium looks terrible when your trying to build our ‘ brand ‘ worldwide , as if ! That was a genuine spontaneous protest yesterday ,totally different to the calculated attention seeking from the bed sheet brigade up the road . Short must act ,as owner and lest we forget chairman , everything stops at he’s door .

  9. I left at 1/2 time , not proud of it but in my view and that of my mates it was the only legitimate way to show our disgust at both that shamefull surrender and the continued employment of that charlatan slumped in the managers seat. It may well be too late to save our season but by continuing to employ Poyet is tantamount to giving up . He’s negative tactics and bizzare selections have drained the fight out of our already fragile squad and they’ve reverted to type , quitting . Championship signings and good players leaving have weakened us even further while to some we’re nothing more than a retirement home or a shop window for other clubs failures , Alvarez and Coates .What a total mess but hopefully this was the lowest point reached however the season finishes .Ellis Short , act now !

  10. I think the performance yesterday was epitomised by Fletcher and Van Aanholt. Fletcher may have played better than usual but he is, by and large, useless. I ‘ve always thought if anyone deserved to be described as a “big girl’s blouse” it’s him – every time he falls over he wants to go off, and sure enough, he falls over yesterday and off he goes.

    However, despite Fletcher being red hot favourite for the softie award he has in fact now been beaten into second place. Van Aanholt’s complete non-tackle and girlie like skip to get out of the way of Agbonlahor’s second goal makes him the unbeatable winner of the “Soft Shite of The Season” award.

  11. We have an owner who is even more clueless than Poyet That’s the only reason he remains in a job. No other.

    My first game was in 1969. In the subsequent 46 years there have been few highlights, countable on the fingers of one hand. There have been many lows, the drop the Third Division, the Buxton and Butcher eras, and now this. I’m not even going to dignify that trash yesterday by calling it a performance. It was the worst in my time, and despite the fact that we didn’t conceded in the second half, the character of the second period was even more humiliating than the previous 45.

    These players, manager, and those upstairs are ruining this club in the most shameful fashion. Poyet has to go and go soon. If he isn’t then that’s me done with the whole shebang. It’s reached the stage where it’s no longer support a club that’s been run in this manner from top to bottom.

  12. A change of manager? Probably too late to be effective with this bunch of mediocre players. Poyet will be gone soon and the club will need a good championship manager, I also believe that relegation is a dead cert. As regards Poyet: Pete is right, a complete and utter flop and just to clear the air, he should be dismissed. I cannot see him resigning because he is simply too arrogant to do the decent thing.

  13. For god sake Poyet,,,, GO! and get as far away as possible,,,,,,We dont want you anymore….GOOOOOOOOO?

  14. Oxo now produce 3 brands of stock for sale in Sunderland – Beef, Chicken and Laughing. I’ll get my coat.

  15. Don’t apologise it is an easy mistake for anyone to make. After supporting the lads for 65 years we have finally found a team and manager that is making the club a laughing stock.

  16. Get on the bus Gus and take these with you: Vergini, Revelliere, Brown, O’Shea, Coates, Jones, Alvarez, Bridcutt, Buckley, Rodwell, Gomez, Graham and Fletcher. Apologies if I’ve missed anyone out.

    • There’s a team just down the road who would be grateful for some of these, and they would be playing at their level. Don’t get excited Smogperson, I’m talking about Hartlepool.

      • If your honest with yourself Eric you’d like nowt better than to see Karanka get on the bus with Konstantopoulos,
        Kalas, Gibson, Ayala, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah, Bamford, Reach, Vossen, Tomlin, Ripley, Forshaw and the rest and drive them up to the LoL to play for you lot. Sorry I mean the SoL

      • I’d maybe give Cattermole a run out with the reserves but I wouldn’t give any of the other buggers a first team place. You might not fancy the Boro squad but they play entertaining football and they get results. And aye I know its not the premier but you lot don’t play that class of football either

Comments are closed.

Next Post