Pete Sixsmith lives for days like yesterday. He heard the tune he’d been waiting some time to boom jauntily out of the Stadium of Light PA system once again, musical confirmation that he had just witnessed a winning display …
As we drove past the seemingly permanent dereliction of the Vaux site on Sunday, we looked over to the Stadium and, seeing dark clouds hovering over it, feared for the worst.
After a soaking – and a decent lunch at the Glass Centre – we were blessed. The sun came out and proceeded to shine all over the 32,000 Sunderland fans inside the previously doom laden SoL. We all came out with smiles on our faces, a spring in the step and an opinion as to why we had gone from crisis to confidence in 90 minutes.
Sitting in the car at 2.15 and hearing Nick Barnes read the team out, I felt reasonably confident. Vaughan in, Cattermole and Colback on the bench, O’Shea to settle the defence and Sessegnon to play behind Bendtner; it sounded as if the Brucester had realised that attack was the best form of defence.
And so it proved. A goal up after three minutes, thanks to a crisp shot from Bramble that really should have been saved by Begovic. And then an own goal from Woodgate, a man who has managed to play for three clubs that most Wearsiders dislike (no, not Real Madrid, Spurs or Stoke), settled the nerves of the crowd.
By this time we were playing some grand football. Vaughan was able to show his talents to good effect – a mixture of simple and complex passes and the ability to go forward instead of turning back on himself. He looked every inch an international player with his neat, unfussy style. The Dario Gradi and Spanish experience has paid off for him.
Gardner, freed of the clutter in central midfield, put in some sharp tackles and pushed forward and was rewarded with a well taken goal on the half hour to set the first win of the season in cement.
Up front, Bendtner had a fine game and led the line like a proper centre forward. He hardly gave the ball away and chipped away at the Stoke central defenders. Woodgate’s og came because he knew that the Dane would challenge him, something which neither Gyan nor Bent would have been likely to do.
At the back, Brown and Bramble were focused and concentrated throughout, giving Crouch nothing and making sure that Jerome was marginalised. Both full backs did well, with O’Shea showing that he is still a player of some quality while Richardson was quietly effective.
Larsson had an outstanding game on the left. Look at the ball that he put in for the second goal. It was a real tempter, aimed at his one time Birmingham team mate, Bendtner and far too good for old concrete boots Woodgate. Add to that a goal scored direct from a free kick (yes, you read that one right!) and he showed what a very good player he is.
He was able to score from it because of the persistence of Sessegnon, who snapped at the heels of Huth before forcing him into a foul. The MOTD 2 commentator described him as having “twinkling feet” a phrase not heard by me since Lionel Blair was in his pomp. Whether Sess is as good at Charades as Lionel was I don’t know, but his quick feet and brain made the Stoke defenders look positively John Sargentish at times.
Credit to Bruce and Black; they made a very difficult decision and got it right. Dropping a player you have signed twice, have made club captain and have defended for his on and off field behaviour can’t be easy, but what a difference it made. We saw a rejuvenated Gardner (now more of a Tony Towers than a Shaun Cunnington) and brought in a player in David Vaughan who had vision and who wants to keep the ball and use it. Cattermole and Colback have been guilty of giving it away too much.
Stoke were out of the game at 3.10 and showed little more than their traditional long ball game. Crouch was spectacularly awful and the few Potters fans who made the journey must be having nightmares about investing £10m in a player who seems to play in clown shoes. And before they bite back, I know that we were in for him. Sighs of relief all round …
I thought that Tony Pulis was very dignified in his post match interviews. No excuses about travelling, just an acceptance that Stoke had been beaten by a far better side on the day. As for Steve Bruce, he was clearly biting his tongue and wanted to say something about the rough ride he had had from journalists and bloggers this past couple of weeks, and he was probably sensible to say as little as he did.
What we have to do now is to go to Norwich and play as we did yesterday. Believe in the positive aspects of the game and push the defensive mind set away and we will continue to move up the league.
They had a good win on Saturday, but if we can push the ball around as effectively as we did on Sunday, we could well have Delia choking on her Spinach Ratatouille.
And wasn’t it good to hear Paint Your Wagon as the sun shone on us as we skipped out? You bet.