Pete Sixsmith set his sights admirably high in demanding nine points from the three home games starting with Portsmouth. Then he accepted that a tally of seven might be more realistic. But with Pompey out of the way, we now face a pair of relegation rivals at the SoL and our uselessness on the road forces him back to his original view
A few weeks ago I wrote that the home games against Portsmouth, Birmingham and Wigan were absolutely vital.
As we approach the middle one of the trio we have three points under our belts. But such is our miserable away form that we cannot afford to drop anything at the Stadium of Light against opponents in our section of the four-part FA Barclays Premier League.
It looks as if Phil Bardsley will make his debut at right back, freeing McShane to kick the ball up in the air in other areas of the pitch.
Whether our underwhelming signing from the might of the Danish Premier League plays is a matter of debate. Prica has scored frequently in the land of Lurpak and Plumrose but Caarsten Fredgaard was said to be the greatest thing since sliced Carlsberg – and we all know what happened to him. Nothing.
A disappointing transfer window so far. And with only three days left, the chances of a dominant, experienced centre half; a creative, thrusting midfield player and a proven goal scorer coming into the club are receding (see the Salut! Talking Point in the top right corner of the page).
These are the players we need if we are to survive, and Birmingham and Wigan have strengthened in the areas where we are weakest. Yet I still believe we have the players and the wherewithal to finish above both of them.
What Roy must do now is to decide on a settled side. The chopping and changing needs to stop and a squad of 16 or 17 should be enough for the rest of the season.
By now, the coaching staff should have a clear idea of who plays best with whom and who is capable of what. They are responsible for getting players to improve and to ensure that needless mistakes are not made. It should be drilled into players that balls should be cleared if under pressure and that passing to an opponent is not the way to win games. If players can’t do that, they have no future with us no matter who they are.
This is the lineup I would like to see against Birmingham:
Gordon; Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans Collins; Whitehead, Miller, Yorke, Murphy; Stokes, Jones
Subs; Fulop, Prica, O’Donovan, Connolly, McShane.
It will be a tense and nervous evening and I guess that good football is not the priority – it’s points that count at this stage.
The late start, cold weather and TV coverage may affect the gate, but these are the games when the crowd can make a difference. Crowds influence games by roaring and shouting, not by singing prearranged songs and clapping along to music.
The thing that drew me to SAFC all those years ago was the Roker Roar. I first heard it at its finest in 1964 when we beat Everton in the FA Cup (no weakened sides then), and Sunderland fans have always known the right time to get behind the team.
Two years ago it was a waste of time trying to spur on a team that was so clearly out of its depth, but this time it is different. Survival is a must and management, players and fans can all play a part in outplaying and outshouting the likes of Birmingham, Wigan, Derby and Middlesbrough. Ha’way the Lads!!!!!!