Time for gloom to descend. Nothing Sunderland fans are not used to; happens at some stage of almost every year and sometimes lasts all season. But if you think the man on the soapbox is looking glummer than usual, it is not your imagination running wild. Pete Sixsmith is a worried man
The beautiful game? I think not.
In truth, I hadn’t expected much of a game at Derby, and in that respect I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
It was a real rock solid, bang on shocker featuring two sides that, on this performance, would hardly grace the Wearside League.
Derby were appalling, worse than we were two years ago. The rocket that Jewell gave them last week obviously had some effect and they did not collapse as readily as they had at the JJB but they offered nothing other than strongarm tactics against a side that does not like to mix it. Moore and Miller were the worst culprits, whacking Jones, Evans and Nosworthy across the face with gay abandon and being told off by the supremely ineffective Mike Riley, of whom more later.
But if Derby were appalling, what does that make us?
On this display, a little bit better than appalling. It was as poor a performance as the team have put in all season. Individually we were all right; collectively there was no spark and precious little imagination.
As the game progressed, we allowed ourselves to be dragged down to Derby’s level and the worrying thing is that we had no answer to their negative tactics, no way of overcoming a team that did not put together one constructive move in 90 minutes.
We have a centre forward who is left on his own for far too long and who has not been given sufficient help. On good days, Jones has been awesome; on Saturday he was awful.
He spent much of the time being battered by a journeyman and a has-been, getting no help from Riley, but even worse, getting no support from his colleagues.
Why is Chopra (who buzzed about a lot) not paired with him? Why leave Murphy wide? Poor Kenwyne can win the ball and there is nobody within 20 yards to give it to. The people responsible for our game plan need to have a look at themselves.
As for Riley, well those of a certain age would say that Arthur Lucan’s creation Old Mother Riley would have more of a feel for the game than this posturing ninny. He referees by the book and shows that he has never played the game at any level. Look at the way he runs in a game: all done from a referee’s manual. Best example – bringing the ball back for a Derby booking and a free kick instead of allowing the game to continue and waving the yellow card after the move had broken down.
His linesman was no better. They are told to count to three before they raise the flag. This gives them time to consider their decisions and reflect on what they have seen so that they get it right. On Saturday, the flag went up straight away: no time for reflection, because if there had been, he would have seen that Chopra got his run absolutely right and the full back played him on.
A dismal, dismal game and one which made me yearn for the warmth and luxury of Abu Dhabi rather than a bleak Pride Park.
The situation at the bottom is beginning to sort itself out. Derby have gone and Fulham are like Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton, hanging on by their fingernails. So, realistically, there is one place left. The heart says the Mags, but the head says us, Reading, Bolton or Birmingham (who won’t be able to count on playing a bunch of drunks every week).
The next four games are against sides in the top quartile of the league. Our record against sides of this ilk is worse than Derby’s overall record.
That MUST change. Roy and his coaching staff have a lot of thinking to do if we are to avoid another avoidable relegation like the one in 1997-98.