The post-Christmas setbacks have left Pete Sixsmith in a gloomy mood. The possible absence of Welbeck and Gyan when we face Blackburn hasn’t lifted his spirits. But surely he is going too far down the road of pessimism to suggest we could find ourselves in trouble …
Two days later and a short viewing on Match of the Day have done little to assuage my disappointment after Tuesday’s result.
The Northern Echo sent Steph Clarke to cover the game. I assume she is a young journalist, finding her way in the world and has been told not to upset the powers that be at Premier League football clubs. She wrote in a positive vein and even gave Gyan and Bent a score of seven each out of 10. Maybe she confused the mark with the number of chances missed by each player. (Not as bad as the Sunderland Echo, Pete; its headline reads “Gary Rowell: How did Sunderland lose against Blackburn?” – ed)
I wondered what Frank Johnson, who wrote about Sunderland for many years in the Echo, would have said about a team who created 33 shots at goal and forced an eccentric and accident prone goalkeeper into making one difficult save?
Now, I hear that Welbeck and Gyan may well be out injured for Saturday’s game against Blackburn. We may have to field a lone striker in Bent as, in Campbell’s continued absence, we have nobody else to cover. Is Ryan Noble still at Derby? Maybe we will recall him and he will show the experienced lads how to put one or two in.
I notice that the manager is complaining about the number of games we have to play over Christmas and New Year. Hasn’t it always been like this? I can remember the days when the same team was played twice over the holiday, often on successive days. There’s nothing new about it.
Football is an entertainment and a business. You need people through the gates to make money. People are off work at Christmas and probably want a day at the football. It would be foolish and counter productive to deny them the chance to watch a game. We have already lost the two-game Easter and it would be an act of gross stupidity to reduce the Christmas list.
Mind you, we could have done without the extra game after New Year’s Day.
Why a game has to be fitted in then, I do not know. Oh yes I do – it is to accommodate the sides playing in Europe and the national teams in their Euro qualifiers. Tails wagging dogs yet again. We have a Wednesday night trek to Birmingham; this could have been left until later in the year as there is every likelihood that both sides will be knocked out of the FA Cup – the dates for Rounds 3-6 have been left blank; it used to be Rounds 3 and 4 only.
More thoughts on Blackpool and positive ones as well. They played like a Championship side in an FA Cup tie and it looked like they play that kind of game every week. If they win, they win, if they are walloped, they don’t change the style.
Do we have a style of play? I don’t think we do. We seem to switch from one mode of play to another, without ever really allowing our players to settle. Riveros may well have performed the same task that the admirable David Vaughan did for Blackpool and, when he went forward, Elmohamady was almost as effective as the excellent Matt Phillips.
I am just a wee bit disillusioned at the moment. The last two games have been a wake up call and we now need to retrieve something from the next two so that we have some confidence before the return against the Mags.
Are we any good or is this the start of yet another slide?
The Christmas results leave us looking over our shoulders for the first time this year. Three good wins will settle the nerves (I’m not including the Notts County match in that), so let’s hope that we have fit players who can hit the target. Malbranque and Zenden up front on Saturday?