Soapbox: bye bye, Wembley dreams

Soapbox

Can anyone be blamed for not bothering with last night’s FA Cup 4th round replay at Ewood Park? When he read Ricky Sbragia’s pre-match threat to send out a “weakened side”, Pete Sixsmith probably felt he’d seen enough of the reserves already, and without having to cross the Pennines in winter. Let alone seen enough of Blackburn. As a result, he says, Soapbox will be “not very insightful”. But read on; absence has merely made his art grow stronger……

Having declined to make the journey to Blackburn, I listened to the game courtesy of BBC Radio Newcastle.

Being a renaissance man, I did the ironing, thumbed through The Guardian, read a book and half watched that dire Everton vs Liverpool game on TV (would have been interesting to hear how ITV tried to talk up that dross) while concentrating on the news from Ewood Park.

The team selection wasn’t as bad as feared – in fact, it looked quite well balanced and gave the likes of Healy and Leadbitter a decent run out. Good to see Michael Kay making his debut and a welcome comeback to Craig Gordon.

BBC Radio Newcastle has an excellent commentary team. Nick Barnes describes the game well and Gary Bennett is shrewd and amusing. The running joke last night was about Benno doing his milk round. Has he bought one in Sunderland? Does that give him the opportunity to meets lots of ladies in housecoats as he drops off their pintas and creamy yogurt?

In fact, I am a great fan of the BBC. Compare the way that they handled the FA Cup with ITV’s cackhanded approach. Look at the wonders of David Attenborough talking about Darwin, the comfort zone of New Tricks and the greatest kids’ programme ever, Bear Behaving Badly. Add on the excellent radio stations, the Bitesize revision programme and the i-player and you have an institution to be proud of.

However, that pride dissipates a little when you look at the Sports Website report on last night’s game. According to the harassed journo pasting it up, we had Gordon Kay playing at right back and Dean Gordon in goal.

Now, I will say this only once: Kay’s first name is Michael and as far as I am aware he has never seen The Madonna with the Big Boobies, but it is understandable that a player making his debut will not be as well known as a current international player.

So, absolutely no excuse for calling Craig Gordon Dean. Dean Gordon was a decent full back who played for Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Crook Town. Craig Gordon is the most expensive player in Sunderland’s history, is a regular International player and is a name – unless you work for BBC Sport.

The game sounded like the Newcastle one in reverse. We were off the pace in the first half, but it sounded as if we dominated in the second. Once again, the inability to kill off a game by scoring that all important second goal was our downfall. Portsmouth, Villa, Mags and now Blackburn – in all of those games a second goal would have won it for us.

Saturday is a key game in our season. A win will put open water between us and the real strugglers. A draw will make little difference. A defeat is unthinkable, especially against a side with lots of endeavour but not a great deal of quality. I don’t underestimate Stoke but I don’t expect a lot of football from them. I do expect football, and goals from us.

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