With a long wait before our next game, we must now endure a week of speculation about comings and goings (surely Ricardo Fuller, a sub more often than he starts at Stoke, is not really demanding £60,000 a week as reported today; what will Mr Bent make of that?). Pete Sixsmith, has all these things in mind as he returns from a happy trip to the seaside …
That’s more like it. After a week where of non stop chat from players, managers and fans, we finally got down to what the game is all about – actually playing football.
Some (final) comments on the DB situation. I don’t think anyone has come out of this particularly well. Certainly Bent has lost the respect of those who have supported him since he arrived forlorn and unwanted in August 2009. Villa protested a little too much that they have done nothing wrong and give me the impression of wanting it all ways. Houllier’s analogy about buying a house is ridiculous. I can’t persuade my pile of bricks and mortar to stay with me.
I’m afraid that Steve Bruce hasn’t come out of it very well either. Playing the loyalty card is ok for Ferguson or Dario Gradi, but for a manger who moves around and takes players and staff with him, it’s not really advisable. Let it go, Steve. We move on.
The fans sat in the permanent temporary stand at Bloomfield Road made it clear what they thought of DB, but they are Sunderland through and through. Bent is from another part of the country and works as a professional footballer. I think what stuck in the craw of many was him constantly saying how much he thought of the club and the fans. Let’s have no more of this nonsense. These guys are here to make money and if ours is insufficient, there will always be someone down the road who will pay them a teeny-weeny bit more.
We were left with a possible £24m to spend – and a huge gap in the forward line. At one stage it looked as if David Healy might have to play, but an injury against Gateshead on Wednesday scuppered that. Sighs of relief all round.
Instead, we saw the re-emergence of Kieran Richardson as a goal scoring midfield player. Playing in the hole behind the lone striker, as he had done in Amsterdam in 2009, he received two superb passes after making equally superb runs and slotted them into the net.
Comparing this performance with the dreadful one he turned in last week was similar to comparing Blackpool with St Tropez. M Salut is au fait with both, but he has probably never seen Richardson perform with such aplomb.
Credit to Bruce and Black for putting him there and credit to Asamoah Gyan and Steed Malbranque for feeding him the two excellent balls that split a rather pedestrian Blackpool defence. We were a little fortunate with the first one in that they had a man off the pitch, but both were high quality goals, the type of which we have not been scoring recently.
Gyan ran his legs off to the extent that he was forced to rip his shorts off at the end and throw them to the crowd, displaying his wee pants to the assembled multitude. He is a classic mixture of intelligence and intuition and will cause better defenders than Blackpool’s problems when he plays like this.
In fact, the whole team did well. Gordon made some very good saves and ran his box. The back four was solid, with Bramble recovering from the tousing he got from Ameobi last week and Ferdinand once again taking responsibility and perhaps making himself a long term fixture at the club.
Zenden and Malbranque passed neatly and incisively while Henderson and Elmohamady worked hard to create a base for Richardson and Gyan. Colback defended well when he came on and Riveros turned in a neat cameo in the final, frantic few minutes and showed some of the younger players how to keep possession.
That was the worry though: we have a tendency to give the ball away far too easily and sit too deep towards the end of a game. We did it at Wolves and we did it here, allowing Adam to run at us and others to shoot from 18 yards rather than 30.
The guys in front of me were critical of my exhortations to “Keep the bloody ball” and seemed to think that lumping it upfield was a good option. I would say: “No, it isn’t.” We need to follow the old Rugby League adage and stick the ball up our jumpers for a while. Malbranque, Zenden, Riveros and Gyan are all capable of doing this.
What about Blackpool? Not as effective as they were at the Stadium. They seemed less collected and more frantic and the smooth football that did for us that day was intermittent rather than continuous.
Campbell was a miss and the pitch was not brilliant, making flowing football difficult, but not impossible. I thought they would be ok for the season but now I am not so sure. If they lose Adam in the window, they may find it hard to pick up the 12 points they need for a second season at this level.
The day out was a good one. Ale was consumed in a fine pub called The Saddle in “proper” Blackpool, well away from that awful melange of pubs, clubs and bars that cluster along the Golden Mile. It sold excellent beer, had a smashing clientele who were Blackpool through and through and supplied me with a decent meal for the princely sum of £2.25.
Bruce has a week or so to look for new players. Will it be short term or long term? Will it be British or European? Whoever it is, he will do very well to replicate Bent’s scoring record, but he may be a little more honest with the fans: “Well, (Insert name here) what made you sign for this club? Was it the stadium, the manager, the chairman, the wonderful fans, the North East in general?” – “Nah, it was the money”
At least we know where we stand with someone like that.