What are we to make of Sunderland? How long ago does that barnstorming 3-1 win over Spurs seem now? Lee Mason, referee at both games, was so incensed at how bad we’d become again that he decided to send off all our players, and failed in this mission only because time ran out.
Pete Sixsmithlaments the bitter let-down of our final game …
So, that’s another season over. Seems only a short while ago that Salut! Sunderland‘s esteemed editor and proprietor and his faithful sidekick were running down from Durham station to pick up a Football Echo and enjoy a cup of frothy coffee and a pie in the original Bimbis after clinching promotion against Charlton Athletic.
The end of this season saw Proprietor and Faithful Sidekick together again, this time in the sanitised atmosphere of an over policed, over stewarded and distinctly overpriced Molineux.
After the 1964 promotion, Molineux was one of those grounds we craved to visit. It was one of the most distinctive stadiums in the top league, with its gable ended stand running the length of the pitch and its huge uncovered North Bank at one end.
Now, it has four stands that are well populated and named after prominent figures in Wolves history Bull, Wright, Cullis and Jack Harris, the club benefactor. Nice idea and much better than North, South, East and West. What about a Stokoe, Hurley, Carter and Doig stand for the Stadium?
Anyway, a pleasant trip down, spoiled by some drunken Neanderthal Mags at Tibshelf Services (they were on their way to “support” Whitley Bay in the FA Vase final at Wembley) but made up for with a few pints in the Queens Head Lichfield where a chat with a local celebrity (not Doctor Johnson) set us in good stead for what we hoped would be a rousing finale to the season.
I was hoping for a Motherwell Hibs type game (6-6 if you missed it and slightly better than the miserable 0-1 between St Mirren and Aberdeen that Mr Horan and myself dozed through on Saturday) and it started off like that with two early goals, both avoidable.
Kenwyne’s shot took a big deflection off our fellow contributor Jody Craddock to put us ahead, but we forfeited the lead within a minute when Alan Hutton’s tardy tackle on speed merchant Matt “Martin” Jarvis (moonlighting between his William Brown readings and appearances in the next Dickens blockbuster) meant Hutton won “the clearest cut penalty of the year” award.
Both sides continued to attack in the sort of carefree expansive style that is prevalent at season’s end. Steed hit the post, Turner was booked for a clumsy foul but a Wolves player was spared this fate despite attempting to slice the Gauloises loving Walloon in two. That the hacker was Adelene Guedioura and that he went on to score the winning goal added insult to injury (that’s what the Wolves fan on the train thought, too, but the one report I’ve seen today that mentions the culprit has him as Karl Henry – ed).
I would imagine that the dressing rooms at half time were in direct contrast. In ours, the Brucester would be offering soothing words along the lines of “Keep on playing like this, the chances will come, here’s an opportunity to show our Premier League quality”, while next door MickMac would be urging his gallant men to up the ante and stuff this lot of overpaid, underachieving wussies.
MickMac got a lot of things wrong in his Premier League time with Sunderland, but experience is a great teacher and he got it right here, because that is exactly what they did.
Our not so gallant lads were clearly lulled into a false sense of superiority and performed as they did at Fulham, Burnley, Portsmouth, etc by showing a lack of commitment and intelligence and making some of us doubt verdicts on the season that had been passed earlier.
A crossfield ball to Kilgallon was easily cut out by the impressive Zubar, who stormed forward with strength and determination, passed to Guedioura who then drilled a good shot past Gordon. Four minutes later, Turner brought down Jarvis (who had clearly upset our centre half by doing his Violet Elizabeth Bott voice) and Mr Mason brought out a yellow followed by a red and Turner walked out of the first game of next season.
We had been hopeless with 11 men, never mind 10, and an equaliser looked as remote as a Gordon Brown/ David Cameron love in. Jack Colback, fresh from his exertions at Portman Road managed to pick up two silly bookings in 13 minutes, leaving us with 9 men and a disciplinary record that is something to be truly ashamed of.
Add to that a spat between Black and McCarthy and a Mexican Wave (how I loathe them; if Mr Cameron wants to offer me the job of Home Secretary, I would make it my first priority to incarcerate all Mexican wavers on an island next to an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano). It all added up to a miserable second half and a realisation that we are nowhere near as good as we (I) sometimes think we are.
A long journey home, passing the highest number of boarded up pubs I have ever seen in the Wolverhampton, Walsall conurbation. Clearly the lure of cheap supermarket booze is more attractive than a street corner local in Rushall.
Back at Tibshelf, three Sunderland buses pulled in at the same time as a number of Bay buses. The Neanderthals of the morning were there but were strangely quiet when they realised that the Sunderland fans this time were not older people, women and children. Glances were exchanged but no words. Perhaps they realised that it won’t be all cakes and ale for them next season.
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