Soapbox: lucky or what?

SoapboxSunderland 2 Northampton 2, the Lads making it to the next round of the Carling Cup on penalties. Stories abound of the Cobblers stringing 30 or more passes together without Sunderland touching the ball, of derisive taunts from the travelling fans, of Murphy’s appalling judgement or greed in failing to complete a sweet extra time move with a pass to the better placed Richardson.
Roy Keane* described it as one of his worst and longest nights in football career. Asked whether the players may at least have learnt something from the experience, he reportedly replied: “I couldn’t care less.” He also had a go at the crowd. If there was abuse aimed at him, the abusers should stop and remember what the man has done for the club. In mitigation, the crowd – not many of them well-heeled – had paid good money to watch footballers – all of them comfortably off – turn what should have been a midweek party into a nightmarish endurance test. Pete Sixsmith wishes he’d stayed in…

Had I stayed in on Tuesday night, I could have watched Griff Rhys Jones presenting a programme about how not to get angry. I didn’t and instead sat at the Stadium of Light and watched a model lesson in how to get angry as we turned in a performance of such staggering ineptitude that I thought my brain was going to burst.

The fact that we managed to squeeze through does nothing to divert attention from the quality of performance – or more precisely, the lack of quality – shown by too many highly paid professionals.

A stream of misplaced passes, poorly timed headers and clumsy tackles made many in the crowd howl in despair as a steady, if unspectacular, Northampton side seized the initiative and looked to be heading for another giant killing.

Not that we were giants. Pygmies would be more appropriate and the manager must shake his head in disbelief at how players fail to seize opportunities given to them. Bardsley, Nosworthy, Edwards, Whitehead, Leadbitter, Murphy and Healey looked as much like Premier League players as Gordon Brown looks an election winner.

Not one of them did anything to convince me and many others, that they are top level performers.

All Northampton had to do was to make sure that they passed the ball to one other, which they did with some aplomb, and also keep tight on our players and force us into errors – not that we needed any forcing.

They should feel proud of what they achieved and the applause for them at the end was merited and given graciously, as it would have been if they had won.

So, another Great Escape. If this continues, Roy’s going to have to sign Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasance in the January window.

* The Villa preview will ease back to the top once Pete’s rant has had chance to breathe a little.

** Keano on last night: “It was one of the longest nights I’ve ever had in my football career. I’ve done my cruciate, been sent off, lost titles, lost cups, but this is up there with them. I couldn’t wait to see the back of it; it was a bad, bad night.”….

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