Back from Brighton at 5pm today. Off to Swansea at 4am on Saturday, back with any luck by midnight. That is dedication, Mr Bruce, and Pete Sixsmith is far from alone in showing it, game after game. In return, last night at any rate, they were shortchanged …
I notice that M Salut is running a competition called “A Monday Lie In”.
Well, that’s what I did this morning at The Kings Hotel in Brighton (I recommend it – looks a good place to take another man’s wife to). Instead of a quick breakfast and a look for an internet café, I took my time over the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon before a leisurely stroll back to Brighton’s splendid Victorian railway station, and an easy trip back to the North East.
Had we won the game in a comfortable manner (or even an uncomfortable one) I would have written this much sooner. I could have praised Brighton for their new stadium (impressive), their real ale (Harvey’s) at the bars, the way they handled the large number of rail passengers at the end (exemplary) and then patronised them about the good football they played – good, but not quite good enough, Premier League experience etc. etc.
Instead, it’s another dismal defeat to write about. Our Premier League quality never once shone through and we were beaten by a side who are very much on the up and who are managed and coached by a man who has imagination, verve and flair.
Imagination, verve and flair are the complete antithesis of the way we played. Replace them with predictability, one-paced and dull and you have something which describes the new Sunderland team, three games into what could well be a very long and difficult season.£11, post free in UK, from this link
The team selection was met by sharp intakes of breath and the shaking of heads. Sessegnon up front on his own and a midfield five to stifle a team just out of Division One and who had displayed defensive frailties in their previous home game against Blackpool.
It didn’t work. The ball was passed sideways and backwards but there was never a good enough ball put through to worry the Brighton defence. They had a flaky goalkeeper and a couple of youngsters in defence who were just finding their way in the game. We had experience in bucket loads and rarely threatened.
The longer it went on, the stronger Brighton got and the more predictable we became. Cattermole, Colback and Gardner are all similar players, so no variation there. Vaughan was looking for a forward to hit with his passes a la Campbell and Taylor-Fletcher, but there was nobody there, so, like the other three, he went sideways and backwards.
By the time we decided to introduce Wickham and Ji, the game was swinging towards Albion and they did nothing to change it. Both need to be introduced gradually and preferably when we have a commanding lead – should be around November then!!
Bruce cut a lonely figure stood with his head down and his hands in his pockets. This was his team, his players, his master plan. He has seen three decent halves from them and then two where all the confidence drained out of the players, almost as if they were saying to him “How the hell do we get a goal out of all this”?
How serious is this? It’s extremely worrying and for a man who has had 6 weeks to work with these players, the lack of a coherent attacking policy is, to put it mildly, not very good. Where is Plan B? Why is Plan A so limited? Why have the goalscoring and left back problems of last season not been addressed? Did he really think that he could get away with Gyan and two untested youngsters as his forwards?
What does Ellis Short do now? If the manager comes for more money to buy a forward does he give it to a man who, at this particular moment, is struggling to create a coherent team? And if he doesn’t, does he relieve him of his duties and bring in someone else, who may not fancy the players here and who wants his own brought in?
It could all look a lot better by the end of September and this may well be a mini-crisis. On the other hand, fail to take any points from Swansea, Chelsea and Stoke and we are in trouble.
But, to lose so limply to our local rivals and then go out of a competition that we had a chance to progress in, without even putting up a fight, does not auger well. Someone may well be polishing the pearl handled revolvers and quietly placing them in the library for Mr Bruce’s use.