Soapbox from West Bromwich Albion: when experience triumphs over hope

Sixer by Jake

Pete Sixsmith cannot rewrite Saturday’s result. He cannot make it seem as if we were a little unlucky. There were no Sunderland performances of the sort that won The Artist five Oscars. In fact, Pete struggles to find anything remotely positive to say. Just sit back and try to enjoy what follows for what it is, as fine a piece of writing as you will find in any of today’s sports pages …


One of the
pleasures of visiting the clutch of West Midlands clubs in the Premier League, (could be four next season – or could be one) is the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in Lichfield.

It’s a small city, about the size of Durham or Ripon, with a very impressive cathedral, a good market, some decent shops and cafes (although my favourite one has succumbed to the recession) and some mighty fine pubs.

It also has well known residents, both past and present in Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles and friend of James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and Matthew Boulton, David Garrick, the 18th century actor, not the 60s recording star who had a minor hit with Dear Mrs Applebee, and Tony Christie of Las Vegas and Amarillo fame.

The biggest star of all was Dr Samuel Johnson, the well known acerbic wit, lexicographer and critic and memorably played by Robbie Coltrane in Blackadder 3, in the episode where Baldrick used the proof copy of his dictionary to light the fire with.

The good doctor is remembered as much for his sayings as his writings. The best known one is probably “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” (not one that appeals to Stuart Pearce) and “When a man is tired of London (or Birmingham in Craig Gardner’s case) he is tired of life itself”. Not sure about that one; always pleased to get on the train home.

In his description of a second marriage as “a triumph of hope over experience” he touched on something that we Sunderland fans can relate to, particularly after the disappointment we felt as we were turned over at the Hawthorns on Saturday.

“To be happy at home”, said Big Sam (Johnson, not Allardyce), “is the ultimate end of all ambition”, and for Baggies fans that is a sentiment they have hardly experienced this season. They have won two home games this season and added a third, and very comprehensive one, when they demolished us.

They did this by playing us at our own game. One up front, a tight midfield and defenders who made sure that there was nowhere for their opponents to go, exactly the things we did against Arsenal last week.

See also: a damning Baggie view: “we made you look even worse than Wolves”

Our performance was as below par as you can get without being turfed off the golf course for playing like Jacques Tati. The defenders were slack, the midfield struggled throughout and playing a small man up front against big central defenders did not work.

It doesn’t help when a goal is given away three minutes in. A good cross was poorly defended and Richardson lost Odemwingie, who guided a neat header past Mignolet.

The second goal came from the same area as we stood and waited for a free kick to be given after we had fouled Thomas. Chris Foy, who had an excellent game, waved play on, Mulumbu easily beat the disappointing Bardsley and Morrison was unmarked to head in.

Changes at half time as Colback and Richardson were replaced by Bendtner and Campbell and we opened quite brightly, only for more poor defending to allow Fortune (Albion’s best player by a street) to set up that man Odemwingie to score against us yet again.

The goal came from a quick throw out by the impressive Ben Foster, which left Phil Bardsley, who had been supporting the attack, struggling to get back and looking more like the rather corpulent Dr Johnson than a super fit Premier League player.

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop. NB: the mug also says the team is a ‘work in progress’!

After that, we had a 20 minute spell where we might have got a consolation goal or even maintained our record of not having lost by more than a single goal, but the Baggies finished strongly and one of the Premier League’s unsung workhorses, Keith Andrew, rounded off the scoring, as Albion did a passable impersonation of Barcelona and we did one of Shildon Sunderland Supporters FC.

A bad day at the office then and maybe Martin O’Neill has gone as far as he can with this group of 11+. They have done wonderfully well but looked tired and jaded throughout on Saturday, none more that Sessegnon, who returned from his family time in Paris looking nothing like the player who was so impressive last week. Still, a midweek game in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, should do him a world of good before next week’s derby …

Can we take any positives from this? Well, Nicklas Bendtner looked sharp when he came on, and once Wayne Bridge arrived, after a bizarre 15 minute period where McClean played left back, we looked tighter down that side.

But not much else to take from it, I’m afraid. West Brom wanted the game more than we did after their crushing of Wolves last week. Roy Hodgson prepared them well, did his homework on us and got his team to play properly at home. We were nowhere near the standards that we have set over the last three months and this was a throwback to the previous management.

Once again, some of our fans make me wonder why we bother. The mythical “Bloke Behind Me” carped on for the entire first half and, according to him, 75% of the team were “useless”, “s****” or “rubbish”. There was no acceptance of the fact that the other team might just be playing well; it was clearly our players’ and manager’s fault that we were losing.

Fortunately, he didn’t return after half time, but it looks like he took note of another of Dr Johnson’s adage, “You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables”.

We have a little too much of that at the moment; maybe MON may hit the wall of expectation that Steve Bruce kept banging into.

Or maybe we will be as happy as a Gooner or an Owl next Sunday.



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14 thoughts on “Soapbox from West Bromwich Albion: when experience triumphs over hope”

  1. I agree that we were dreadful.

    However, something that I have not seen mentioned anywhere was our “goal” that was chalked off.

    Being in Thailand, I cannot go to the matches and have to watch on TV and whilst this can never compare to being there it can, at times, have its’ advantages.

    When Campbell was pulled up for offside, when he hit the bar, TV replays proved two things beyond doubt.

    1) He was NOT offside.

    2) When the ball bounced down, from the bar, it was over the line.

    In other words,as Trevor Francis said “That was a goal”!

    Now, I’m not suggesting that it would have changed the outcome of the game but, who knows?

  2. A charity game would be a great idea,love to see Quinn putting his boots on again (even for 15 mins anyway), alongside Kevin Phillips.

    It would also be a coup to book Jason McAteer and Roy Keane to pair up in the centre of midfield too……..now that would be worth buying a ticket for.

  3. Great report.

    Turner was equally at fault for the first goal, in my opinion. Richo was slow to get near him but it could be argued he should have been a covering defender. Turner or ‘Tina’, looked at the goalscorer before he scored and decided against jumping with him or getting tight to him. Don’t worry about your fullback being there, take them both out if need be. Had he advanced forward and cut the ball out then, sure, great decision making. He didn’t though, and it was awful defending, again. When players who were never particularly sharp to start with get serious injuries, their attempted comebacks tend to go like this. Shame, i was a fan his first season.

    Micky Gray, Makin, Summerbee et al are speaking of a tribute game for Quinn on twitter. Even names like Stefan Swh..Stefan Swar….(not again, like that damn Greek), that Swedish bloke who played for us, are getting mentioned by Gray himself.

  4. I think another testimonial would be in order. Rock bottom prices – just enough to make another sizeable donation to charities of Niall’s choice. Then maybe an annual pre-season game at the SOL against Irish oppostion for the Lord Sir Niall Quinn Of The Discopants trophy.

  5. The fact that NQ has (essentially) now decided that he wants, absolutely, no involvement with the club concerns me.

    As I posted, I could understand him deciding that his time was best spent developing his new business but, surely, the position of a Foundation “Trustee” would have involved minimal demands on that.

    Also, I found Bob Murray’s words rather strange when he said that he will be “remembered fondly”.

    Hardly a glowing tribute!

  6. Sometimes it is best to make a clean break with work, Phil. If anything has happened, it will come out sooner or later. Let’s not get too down; we have a lot to look forward to.

  7. Something happened today that saddened me far more than NQ’s departure from the board of SAFC.

    It was announced that he has, also, stepped down from his position as a trustee of the SAFC Foundation.

    http://www.safc.com/news/20120227/quinn-steps-down-from-foundation-role_2256213_2625958

    That, for me, seems that he wants to sever all ties with the club and I have to ask why?

    I can understand him wanting to be able to be able to concentrate more on his new satellite, internet business BUT this suggests that there is something more than that!

    • Phil, I agree that something has gone on beyond just Niall’s desire to develop his business. Otherwise I would have thought that he would have waited until the end of the season to make his announcement and now as you say he has withdrawn from the Foundation. I agree Pete, that we shouldnt dwell on the past and we will move forward, but it still feels a bit like unfinished business.

      There has been no word of any public leaving ceremony. Is he just going to go without the event being properly marked by Club and fans ? The truth will be revealed no doubt in the fullness of time but it still takes some digesting and I think given what Quinn has meant to the Club many of us would like a fuller explanation and certainly an opportunity to show our gratitude.

  8. I think our team has to take some repsonsiblity for this terrible result.OK WBA played well but it takes us to step off the gas to allow them the space and time they appeared to have on Saturday.
    Maybe it was a case that the players believed they were the better side and id not have to try too hard,always a fatal state of mind.They also look tired.The FA cup run taking its toll.

    We seem comfortable defending,but when we go behind we do struggle to get at the opposition and score without leaving huge gaps.Our achilles heel is conceding goals early and then having to take the initiative to attack.We had better keep it very tight against the Mags,an early goal conceded could well result in yet another rout.
    But we must have faith in MON.

  9. Every season all teams will have a sublime 90 minutes. Every season all teams will have a ridiculous 90 minutes. If the sublime happens to meet the ridiculous then Saturdays Hawthorns result is what happens. No damage done, no injuries just wounded pride. No better place than the SD Council Dump to put matters right.

  10. What a wonderful piece of journalism, as gracious as it was informative. Unlike the muppets on MOTD who harped on about Sunderland’s deficiencies ignoring a near “perfect” performance from the Baggies.

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