Soapbox: robbed by the Reds

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If only. If only Kieran Richardson hadn’t done football’s equivalent of Roman Polanski making a high-profile visit to a country with a massive extradition treaty with the US. If only Malbranque had got to that ball before Carrick and made it 3-1. If only Anton … but no, this is the way to even higher blood pressure. It was still a resounding performance, the result as predicted by Bill Taylor (ex-Bishop, now Canada) on these pages and the game as described here by Pete Sixsmith


One of
my first Soapbox pieces was after our 3-2 defeat at the Emirates two years ago. I said this was the first time we had looked like a Premier League side since Reidy was in his pomp and that it was something we could build on.

Alas, since then, we have done very little except beat weaker teams and scrabble around the nether regions, prompting commentators to dismiss us as also-rans and one of those sides that act as cannon fodder for the big boys.

Well, that was effectively brought to an end on Saturday as we gave Manchester United a lesson in how to retain possession, how to mark tightly and how to score goals. Yes, Sunderland gave Manchester United a lesson. Never thought I would write those words, but, dear reader, it is true. We did. So there!!

If you saw the game, would you have Bent or Berbatov? Nani or Malbranque? Foster or Gordon? Welbeck or Reid? Our players outperformed theirs in every area of the pitch and had we managed to keep 11 on it, we would surely have won for the first time since I was 17, Mike Clarke winged an apple at a bobbies head and Manchester City won the League.

The Brucester and his impressive co-worker Eric Black got this one absolutely right. Play two up front, push down the flanks, sit tight in the centre of midfield and mark closely at the back. It worked. We outthought and outfought Sir Alex.

For this plan to succeed, the players attitude and ability to follow a game plan had to be absolutely right, and it was. Two weeks ago, Anton Ferdinand gave a passable impersonation of a man looking forward to three months of bench warming and then a move back to London. On Saturday he looked every bit as good as his big bro and was desperately unlucky to deflect Evra’s shot into his own goal.

Phil Bardsley was another one seemingly on his way out; he turned in a great performance (admittedly against a wretched Nani) with brilliantly timed tackles and interceptions. If only he could pass a ball!!

Michael Turner has looked shaky at times since his arrival from Hull, but he began to justify his potentially huge fee, with a performance that reminded me of Jonny Evans when he was with us a couple of years ago.

We expect excellence from the rest and we got it. Mobilility, power and pace from Jones and Bent; commitment and crunching tackles from Cattermole and Cana; penetrating runs and passes from Malbranque and Reid; solid goalkeeping from Gordon. And still we didn’t win!! Why not?

Well, to Uniteds’ credit, they battered us for the last ten minutes and their players are obviously terrified of Ferguson and his hair dryer. They came at us in waves but we looked like holding out and the magnificent Kenwyne was foiled by the width of Evra’s studs from making it 3-1. That would have been game over and cue for booing in Korean, Japanese, Russian, Irish and West Country (all accents and languages heard outside the ground prior to kick off).

They were helped by an act of complete stupidity by Kieran Richardson. Stupid is not a word to use lightly. Teachers no longer call students stupid (we can say “You are behaving in a stupid way” – sometimes up to 30 times in a single day/lesson/minute), but the use of the word is banned as a personal observation.

However, surely it can be used against an experienced 20 + year old, with international caps and Champions League experience, who had put a good shift in at left back. It can be justified because kicking the ball away when already on a yellow card is stupid, stupid, stupid.

We had to rearrange the team. Malbranque, who was a good outlet in the last twenty minutes, had to come off and we resorted to hoofing the ball anywhere. It upset the balance and Kieran really ought to go and sit in a darkened room and think about what he did.

So, as we trooped back to the coaches, past the hordes from Seoul, Galway, Bristol, Tokyo, Leningrad and Urmston, we were disappointed and they were celebrating taking a point from Sunderland. As one of our intrepid band of hardened travellers said “If you’d have offered me a point at 5.30 I would have taken it. Instead I feel like my bank account has just been cleaned out by a Nigerian scamster. Still, it’s better than drawing at home to Bristol City.”

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9 thoughts on “Soapbox: robbed by the Reds”

  1. I’m pleased to see Colin, as SalutSunderland, mention Wiley’s collusion with Rooney – calling him Wazza, apparently, and not quite managing to give him a card of any colour even though he deserved it for kicking at a opponent (the Fulham player sent off for tapping an opponent on the cheek deserves to feel done by; rules are rules, except when Man Ure are playing at Old Trafford. Although the general view was that Ferguson’s bizarre attack on Wiley’s fitness was designed to deflect attention from the team (which it did do) I couldn’t help but wonder if it was actually designed to deflect attention from the cosiness of the refereeing that United enjoy at home. In the circumstances, Richardson was a twit – he knows first hand that United get that benefit, and he played into it – but he would have probably got away with his foolishness at least half the time at other grounds. And if I’d been Ferguson, I probably wouldn’t have complained so soon after the Manchester City debacle that Wiley had only played the 4 minutes added time indicated by the fourth official. But as a Sunderland fan, I think that shows the pressure we’d put him under.

  2. Jeremy you have to hand it to Anton though that was a natural strikers instinctive finish though, wait no scratch that.

  3. Superb read Pete. Totally agree with everything you say there. Just wanted to comment on Bardsley and Ferdinand’s performances. The fact that both of these players pulled out such tremendous performances speaks volumes for Bruce’s management. According to reports and the willingness of Steve Bruce to clear “Keane’s deck” were soon to be heading out, yet both Bardsley and Ferdinand arguable had their finest performances in Sunderland colours.

    There was an almost heartstopping moment in the second half when Bardsley passed the ball square to Clatter ’em all who got the ball stuck underneath him and lost it. It was a poor ball and a poor choice of ball. Bardsley had defended magnificently but offers little going forward. Rather than try to make what he thinks is a telling pass he should learn to give the easy ball to someone who can do it properly.

    A truly memorable and magnificent performance which more than makes up for the late equaliser.

  4. Being very old and cynical I was there the day Ces Irwin booted Best after 1 minute and he disappeared up his own backside, Sunderland won and how we partied on the motorway service station with the City fans. Watching Saturdays game the feeling came back maybe we could help avenge the cheating that happened in the Manchester derby and thoughts of another booze up with the City fans was on my mind but I forgot about Plan B, it was obvious that Fergie and the ref could not pull the extra extra time stunt again so Plan B came into force because we had the temerity to lead the plan swung into action send off a Sunderland defender then everyone pile forward if we had not scored an own goal the betting was we would concede a penalty. It was quite hilarious that Fergie forgot about Plan B and after they scored he wanted to go back to Plan A.

    Today the same refs who have allowed Ferguson to get away with murder for years want the book thrown at him, however I bet nothing happens and we go back to the love ins between Fergie and the officials for the next game.

  5. What bugs me is everyone saying Man U didn’t play well. How about we didn’t allow them to play well. I agree with Bill about Ferguson. With him it’s always someone else’s fault.

  6. Is it just me and Steve Bruce who think that Kieran is a fine modern day leftback?

    Also I feel for Anton he had a fine game with Turner in the middle of defence. It seems that Mensah being there has given him the proverbial ‘kick up the backside’ he needed.

    And ‘The Racing Snake’ on the left is a revelation this season, if this form continues he will surely get player of the year(which he won’t as Dazzler will for getting 30+ goals, OH HAPPY DAY’S!)

  7. It seems that people would rather revel in KR’s gift to Rudolph McTaggart from the Ref than concentrate on what was in all essence a true test of what SAFC are shaping into. Let us all look back rather than forward, no hold on I got that wrong……….

  8. I read Joe’s report after posting this, but the fact remains that KR was on one yellow when he appeared to commit a second booking offence. So Kieran brought it on himself.

    Mr Wiley also had the wise counsel of his pal Wayne Rooney as to the course of action to be taken (the same Rooney he’d let off with a telling off in the first half for what most would consider a straight red offence, kicking out at an opponent).

  9. Joe Lovejoy, in the Guardian, is a little more charitable toward Richardson’s kicking away of the ball: “to the impartial eye, he appeared merely to have toe-poked it back to where the foul had been committed.”
    That doesn’t make the loss of two points any easier to bear. Nor is it pleasant to listen to the bleating of the egregious Ferguson as he blames the referee for Brand United not being allowed to win. It may be true that good losers don’t win but he’s reaching the point where all that’s left will be for him to take his ball and go home.

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