Scroll down and, if your eyesight is good and your mouse control true, you’ll see that in an article for the Irish Mail on Sunday, published the day we hammered Luton and went up as champions, I wrote: “For all Keane’s welcome promises that he is not approaching next season as a manager who would be happy with fourth bottom, plenty of Sunderland fans are setting their sights no higher.”
Pete considered all the money Keano had to spend strengthening for the season ahead, and looked for something better. In the Victor Meldrew version of his end-of-season review, he identifies what went wrong enough for us to end up in a relegation scrap which, happily, we survived – by finishing just two places above my minimalistic expectations…
After the optimism of Pollyanna, there needs to be an alternative view. The opposite of Pollyanna’s unbridled positivity is the constant stream of negativity and criticism that comes from the more Victor Meldrewish of our fans – and looking through back issues of Soapbox, there are times when I could have been well and truly included in that classification.
So, let’s see if the negatives can outweigh the positives for 2007-08. Yes, we avoided relegation but not by much and a great deal more was expected considering the outlay on players.
Too many of Keane’s signings did not pass muster and our more consistent players were those who had served us well in the Championship the previous year.
Of all the big summer buys, only Kenwyne Jones looked a Premier League player while Craig Gordon might grow into one, once he realises that balls knocked into the box are there to be caught and not left for defenders. Stephen Pressley and Andy Webster don’t play for Sunderland.
Of the others, some were plain disasters (Halford, Cole and Harte), others flattered to deceive (Richardson, McShane and Chopra) while others just disappeared off the radar (Anderson).
He did better in January with Bardsley, Evans and Reid becoming important figures in our eventual survival. However, there was also Prica.
Too often we started with negative tactics and had to chase games. The Premier League statistics suggest that teams rarely win once they go behind. We bucked the trend against Boro and West Ham, but can’t rely on that happening too often.
One player up front did nothing for our reputation on away grounds. Few went to see Sunderland expecting free flowing football – and they were not shown anything to challenge their low expectations. The crowd at the SoL were remarkably patient as we made it clear that there was no point in attacking certain teams (Arse, Chels, Pool, Red Mancs) and that with others, we should try to catch them on the break.
There were some dispiriting performances as well – including at least three as bad as any in the 15 point season. Anyone who witnessed Bolton away, Wigan in the Cup and the trip to SJP live deserves a medal as big as a frying pan. That may be a cliche, but I want mine and I want it now.
15 Sunderland 38 9 3 7 23 21 2 3 14 13 38 -23 39
So, do we look forward to August 16, or should we hide under the sheets and hope it all goes away?
Will Roy bring in players who are the kind that he wants and the kind that will make us a side that the better teams look at with a little trepidation, or more?
Can we have a decent cup run and perhaps even win one? Can we take six points off the rudderless London based circus up the road? All this and more will be answered in the next series of the Premier League. I’ll be there.