A week that began with disaster (if being walloped at football can truly be one) and improved to mere disappointment ended without even a hint of bringing delight.
Pete Sixsmithdutifully turned out to watch Sunderland’s reserves taught a lesson by Manchester United …
Thursday night was the end of a miserable week on the pitch for SAFC.
A good thrashing at Stamford Bridge, penalty kick disappointment against Preston and then a plucky and committed, albeit limited, Reserve team bump into a Manchester United side full of players looking for an opportunity to get into the first team once the Glazers have sold the regulars.
It ended up 4-0 to United and it was a perfectly fair reflection of the gap between decent players and very good players.
They had Diouf and Welbeck up front, players with Premier League experience and Premier League goals. We had O’Donovan and Dowson. In defence they had three big, big lads who tackled and used their height and weight ; we had three small ones who were pushed off the ball far too easily.
That’s one of our weaknesses, the fact that we seem to produce so many small players. Chandler, Luscombe, Weir, Liddle, Reed all look like boys. They are skilful and have great work ethic, but they are not big enough or muscular enough. Standing on the touchline, the likes of Welbeck and Diouf looked like finely trained racehorses alongside our willing and clever little ponies.
The player who caught my eye was a Belgian defended called Ritchie De Laet. He’s big, strong and, based on what I saw last night, reads a game really well. He started out at Royal Antwerp (Phil Bardsley had a spell there, I think), moved to Stoke City and has had loan spells at Bournemouth and Wrexham. United have him on approval from Stoke and he looks to have real potential. He’s played for the first team, has two caps for his country and he might well be worth a sniff by the Brucester.
The main difference is in how players think and how they move. United have a system that brings players through because they have stability. Ferguson knows what he wants and it is up to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff to do that. In the 20+ years that the Grumpy Old Scot has been in charge, he has been able to appoint coaches who know what is expected of them in the long term.
On the other hand, we change managers regularly. Managers bring their own people in a, when they leave, the coaching staff moves on as well. Mick McCarthy made it clear that he wanted big players and all the small ones should be cleared out. Along comes Keane who wants footballers so all the big ones are cleared out. And so it goes on………..
The Kilgallon signing is a decent one. There are good defenders in the Championship – look at Johnson and Dann at Birmingham – and they are keen to do well. If Habib Beye comes in, that should strengthen the back four options and any one can see that is where our problems have been this season. The last three away games have seen us score seven goals, an impressive total. Unfortunately, we have conceded 13, which is not so good.
The Portsmouth game is a good yardstick for the rest of the season. A win lifts morale and, hopefully, a visit to the Hawthorns in Round 5. Defeat leaves a long stretch ahead until May, with little to play for. Let’s win it for the boys of ’73.