Soapbox: no problems knocking Norwich over, bring on Stoke

Another gem from Jake

Pete Sixsmith is a happy man. It is not always like this after football, but he saw so much to warm the soul last night that he even feels optimistic about facing up to the (alleged) Britannia Bruisers …

That was as easy a win as we have had since Southend United were brushed aside in Roy Keane’s promotion season. I was able to sit in the East Stand and never once worry about the opposition getting back into the game, as we totally dominated the Canaries and stopped them from singing until they finally fell of their perch.

In fact, we have now won our last two games against bird-related teams – the Swans 10 days ago and the Canaries last night.

Can we consider giving Stoke and the Boro avian names to guarantee two more wins? Stoke could be the Vultures as they seem to pick over the carcasses of our former players, while Boro could take on the persona of the booby, perhaps?

I digress. Let’s return to last night’s stomping win and to do it justice, we need to go back to September and our visit to Carrow Road, which convinced many people that Steve Bruce’s days were numbered.

I described it as a game between a team that was fluid and flexible and one that was plodding and predictable. Then, the first phrase described Norwich and the second us; four months later, the phrases could well be reversed as Norwich were ruthlessly swept aside by a rampant Sunderland side.

Once again, we scored superb goals. Fraizer Campbell’s opener was quite special; he picked up a neat pass from James McClean, brought it down and then sent a sumptuous volley across John Ruddy. Once again, off he went on a lengthy run around the stadium to revel in the adulation of fans who despaired of ever seeing him again.

If that was a great solo goal, the next one was a wonderfully crafted team goal (Andy Gray was positively drooling about it on TalkSport – ed). It started with Sessegnon (who had looked dazed and confused in the earlier game) picking up the ball and running at the City defence, then playing a pinpoint pass to Campbell. Fraizer took it on, looked up and delivered a fabulous cross right on to the head of Sess, who had sprinted ahead of the labouring Norwich defence, and he planted the ball firmly into the net. It’s what I call a Magnus Magnusson goal – “I’ve started so I’ll finish” (come on, Pete, surely Bamber Gascoigne – ed) and it took the game well away from the Canaries.

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That sealed the game as we tightened up the midfield and prevented City from creating anything. Gardner pushed forward while Colback sat in front of the back four. Both were equally impressive and Cattermole and Vaughan were hardly missed. With Larsson and McClean running the flanks and Sessegnon a constant menace situated just in front of the midfield, we were able to utilise the pace and enthusiasm of Fraizer.

The back four was tidy, with Richardson making it very clear to all and sundry that he was not prepared to sacrifice his place to the incoming Wayne Bridge. He pushed forward to support McClean and tackled and harried very effectively. Mr Peter Horan (not one of his greatest fans) marked him down as his man of the match.

Colback was mine. I thought it was his best game in a Sunderland shirt. He made it look easy as he broke up the Norwich midfield and seemed a perfect fit with Gardner; one goes forward, the other sits deeper.

But it’s the whole change in attitude that is different. No longer are we “plodding and predictable”. We have pace and power and we look a very competent Premier League side. We are happy to let the other side have possession, but the difference between now and then is that when we get the ball, we know how to use it. We don’t give it away anywhere near as much as we did earlier in the season.

The squad is full of good players and once again, all credit to the previous regime for bringing them in. But it is the new regime who have them organised and looking like a team and not a hastily assembled bunch of individuals running around with little evidence of a game plan. Now we have players who appear to be given clear instructions as to what to do and are trusted to go and do it.

This was a good start to a tricky month in which we face teams who we are equally capable of beating or losing to. Norwich came to us on a high, having gone six games unbeaten. Their 800 followers (good turn out for a Wednesday night in the middle of winter – brilliant fixture planning, that one!) must have had a thoughtful journey home, knowing that they had been well and truly cuffed by a far superior side. They looked short of inspiration and may need to be careful over the next few games if they are to avoid getting dragged into the nether regions of the league.


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Stoke on Saturday will be a completely different kettle of worms. They will attempt to batter us, but we should be capable of getting hold of the midfield and unleashing Sess, McClean and Campbell at them. Twelve months ago, we disintegrated in the last 10 minutes and barbs were aimed at the Potters rather than at our own defence. I would be surprised to see a similar capitulation this year.

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30 thoughts on “Soapbox: no problems knocking Norwich over, bring on Stoke”

  1. I think he has had a couple of “acceptable” games, but to say that “he has played well” is pushing at the envelope a little.

    I compare him with Marco at 19. I realise of course that this is a different time and clearly a different level, but at the same time it’s about matching yourself against adults. CW just isn’t doing it. We could have signed a proven striker for 8-9M as Tony says. This was a gamble, and a very expensive punt at that. It doesn’t look like it’s going to come off. I desperately hope that I’m wrong about him but we’ll have to wait and see.

  2. Sorry Pete I still agree with Jeremy. If he isn’t good enough yet then he was a waste of money, like some others we know of. It would be better putting efforts into Academy players for future development.

  3. He played well against Villa and against Blackburn. He twisted his knee at Spurs and has played when he is not 100% . He is 19.
    Two years ago, I doubted if Fraizer Campbell would cut the mustard at this level – which shows you how much I know and how it can be very easy to condemn players before they settle in.
    O’Neill has spoken well of him and he has every chance of coming good.

  4. Just picking up on your point Tony, it’s not the fee that is of a concern to me regarding Wickham. The fee isn’t the lad’s fault, but it’s the fact that he’s in a Premier League squad, and although I have no wish to be unkind and write the kid off at this point, in the game against Boro he looked as if he would struggle a couple of divisions below.

    I don’t really buy the argument that he will get better as there are hundreds of kids who look decent in their teens and end up dropping out of professional football in their early 20s. He’s defnitely not producing the goods, and from what I’ve seen of him there’s little indication from him that he really understands what is required. His positioning sense is poor and the early signs are to me, that he has been a complete waste of money. Ipswich saw Bruce coming a mile off.

  5. Colin’s logic seems to have been one of waiting to see how bad it could possibly get, and then wait another six months to make the decision that you should have made earlier. Bruce didn’t get worse, the same problems and lack of solutions just had to be put up with for longer.

  6. Pete, I have to agree with Jeremy if you are worth 8 million then you have to produce the goods. Just like the money wasted on Gordon.

  7. And there were others who advised Mr Short to do much as he ended up doing, giving him a fair run up to the end of November and then acting as appropriate.

    The sound you hear is of slightly moistened thumb being drawn lightly down lapel.

  8. There were some on here advocating another 22 Bill.

    He must cringe every time he sees our results with HIS players. What an absolute disaster he really was!

  9. I try not to think of where we might be in the table now if Bruce had been dumped sooner. What was that mantra we kept hearing: “Give him a couple more games…”

  10. That’s an interesting post Malcolm as I was just thinking about what MON is likely to do about both Angeleri and RIversos. Who’s to say that these lads will not be welcomed back into the fold with a new start ahead of them for next season?

    It’s often been said that Bruce is a good judge of a player but doesn’t know what to do with them once he has got them. This applies to both of these lads, neither of whom can be anything other than good players.

    It’s remarkable to think that James McClean who has turned out to be the sensation of this as well as many other seasons for us, would have still been trotting out at Eppleton on a Tuesday night if Mrs Doubtfire has still been in charge. We knew what a god awful manager he was when he was still with us, but the shocking and undeniable evidence of how clueless he really was is even more obvious now that he has gone.

  11. It may be a little harsh on Wickham Pete. You are right. He is very young, but I’m very sorry to say that I really don’t see anything in him (and I mean anything at all) that would have suggested that he is was worth even a fraction of the cost of 8-9M, or that even hints that he will develop into a decent player. For a big lad, he’s as weak as American beer, and he doesn’t have a decent first, or even second touch.

  12. Rest of the season squad has just been announced and Angeleri is in there! Is this lack of numbers (better in than 24 players?) or could it be another MON ploy?

    • I seem to recall reading somewhere l that if a club has less than the agreed 25 players over 21 years of age , and they have player on contract who is over 21 yrs, and not loaned out that he has to be inlcuded in the squad list. That is probably why the invisible Angeleri has been included and why Riveros isn’t……..I think.

  13. Harsh on Wickham, Jeremy. He is only 18 and will get better. Here’s hoping that Woodgate plays at right back for them; McClean could do well against him!!

  14. I like the idea of putting Kyrgiakos on to play them at their own game and perhaps make a name for himself in the process. Maybe, just maybe, MON should give him a try up front as a big intimidating presence. Cattermole would be a bonus, too.
    But I suspect O’Neill has Stoke nicely weighed up. He knows the sort of football they play and he’ll respond
    accordingly. I very much doubt if he’ll try to out-muscle them. This will be the rapier against the battleaxe. Campbell’s wellbeing is a bit of a worry, all the same. I’d like to see stop-at-nothing Shawcross get an early yellow (for something non-lethal) and that’ll take some of the edge off his tackles.

  15. Fully agree with comments about how to play against Stoke. Suck them in and then hit them on the break and have their big defenders, who come up for the long throws , chasing back over fifty sixty yards a few times.This should tire them out and force them into mistakes. If all goes to plan we should win it in the last twenty five minutes.

    I’d start with Cambell but get him to play deeper and get the ball into his feet. With the pace and movement of him and Sess , plus the speed and strength of McLean Stoke will be run ragged.

  16. MON certainly let teams have the ball in their own half where they could not hurt us. But, you’re right, Stoke is a different beast.
    Looks like a very busy day for the lads closing down.
    If Cattermole is fit, he’ll be important for us.

  17. It will be interesting to see how we set ourselves up against Stoke Ian, because our approach of surrendering possession to the opposition in their own half may not be so successful against a team that likes to lump it forward from the back.

    It promises to be a very interesting game. In recent seasons Stoke away has been a fixture which causes apprehension and yields few points.

    We can beat them if we stick to fast movement and passing.

  18. I would agree w/Jeremy. We should not play to their strengths , but their weaknesses. Two very quick forwards will make them very wary. Not to mention McClean’s speed too on the left wing.
    I would also think that , at 6’4″, we might see the introduction of Kygriakos (sp?) to combat their ariel threat.
    One thing is for sure, – we’ve got a team that is capable of punishing Stoke on the counter attack, and they know it. As they all pile up for the corner or free kick, they’ll be thinking,”I’m not going to be able to outrun Campbell , Mcclean or Sess, I’d better look out.”
    Prediction: 1-2

  19. The problem with Wickham is that he is built like an outside toilet but goes down far too easily. He should have a physical presence given his size and height, but unfortunately he doesn’t. That was excruciatingly clear in the Boro game. He is intimidated by hardened, experienced defenders. He was awful in that game, and for someone like him, even if he isn’t having a great game, the opposing centre halves should know they’ve been in a game. Shawcross will be licking his lips at the prospect of getting all over Wickham.

    I’m remain unconvinced that they best way to play Stoke is to try and outfight them physically, because most sides in England don’t have what it takes to match them at their own game. That’s why they’ve been so successful, especially at home.

    It would be playing into their hands to try and take on the physicality of their defenders. We can pass and move the ball about and outplay them. If we do that we won’t be leaving the Potteries empty handed as we usually do. Having said all that, it may be that we see the introduction of the big Greek lad. It might be his day, kicking and grabbing the likes of Walters and Crouch.

  20. Biggest difference for me last night was actually having a centre-forward playing. I actually think Bendtner has done better than a lot of others do because he is NOT a main striker, he is a second striker, so we have been playing him out of position. He has tried hard but is not suited. He naturally runs wide, as does Ji. Campbell instinctively goes near post or far post and gives Sess or McLean (or Larsson) a target.
    I also would not play Campbell against Shawcross because I am sure that he is not above going specifically for the knees and I would risk losing the game to take a longer term view on Campbell. He and Sess as a pair look good and could be the difference between 10th – 12th and possibly challenging for 7th, which most seasons is Europe.

  21. Think I would contemplate leaving Frazier out for this one. Save him for the game down North Yorkshire on Wednesday night. Connor is more suited to playing against an Aussie Rules team (rugby sounded un-original and predictable). MON may play Sess up top in the system employed at Peterborough actually. If we take anything from this one I will preserve that s**t MON had on my bed (he took me up on the offer after reading my comments posted on the deadline day signings and assures me he knows what he’s doing) until we lose.

  22. “That’s not how you spell…”

    What Bill? Boro? ………….. or is it Borough, of Brough?

    I was never sure.

  23. Magnus, Colin. He always said that when the buzzer went at the end of a round and he hadn’t finished the question.
    Fell out with University Challenge when they changed the sig tune from that wonderful ding-dong sound to some poncey string quartet.
    Bamber had “Here is your starter for 10” – which he reputedly said to Mrs Bamber on their wedding night.
    I’ll get my coat.

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