Week after week, whatever the team, a supporter famous or unknown comes to the Salut! Sunderland ‘Who are You?’ hot seat and expresses horror at one of the scourges of the current game: the squalid combination of diving, feigned injuries and attempts to get fellow professionals booked that has become so prevalent we ask interviewees if the time has come to give up and devote a chapter to cheating in the coaching manuals.
We are as hard on Sunderland players who cheat as on opponents. But after watching another master class of play-acting, this time from Chelsea’s Under 21s, Pete Sixsmith wonders whether this is really how Jose Mourinho – the indisputably worthy title-winning manager – wants his teams to play?
The Under 21s brought down the curtain on their season with a rather splendid win over title chasing Chelsea. As usual, it was by a single goal and equally as usual, that single goal was scored by flying winger Duncan Watmore.
Last Monday, Watmore dispatched Everton with a goal early in the second half. A few days later, off went the first team to Goodison Park and two splendid goals from Danny Graham and Jermain Defoe brought the points back from the Mersyeside Blues.
This Monday, Duncan saw off Chelsea with a fine route one goal as he picked up Jordan Pickford’s careful clearance, ran with it, took two very confident touches and slipped it past Mitchell Beeney in the under-age Pensioners’ goal.
It was straight out of the Charles Hughes text book and would have brought a tear to the eye of any Watford and Wimbledon fans that gloried in the 80’s successes of their respective clubs.
Pickford had an excellent game between the sticks. He controlled his box, caught just about every ball that Chelsea threw at him and encouraged his young back four throughout. He looks the part and should make the step up to second keeper next season. His kicking is good and he can use either foot, so maybe he can take a coaching clinic with the Giant Pantilimon.
Watmore menaced the Chelsea defence all night and looks a player who should be in first team contention later rather than sooner.
Next season is a big one for him; should we end up in the Jaws of Hell (aka The Championship), he will be in the first team. Should we remain in the Land of Milk and Honey (aka the Premier League) he will eventually get his chance. He may even get a run out at Arsenal or Chelsea if they are mere exhibition games.
It was a good team effort, with all 14 participants working hard, getting behind the ball and breaking as and when possible. Robbie Stockdale has done a fine job with these youngsters, inculcating good habits and never being less than positive from the touchline. He too, has a future in the game as a head coach/manager, maybe at Sunderland.
Chelsea had some very skilful players on show, but unfortunately, they acted like the big soft babies that one expects from such a deeply unpleasant club. Rolling around was common, imaginary injuries de rigueur as they showed the clear influence of the antics of the first team and their hard-to-like coach [elder daughter shocked me by saying she thought he was ‘hot” – Ed].
It was just what the Hetton Irregulars, seated tonight instead of standing, expected from them.
Monday night football is enjoyable and I hope there is more of it next season. There are rumours that they may play some games at Bishop Auckland which would be easier to get to but which may be scuppered if the Bishops’ tenants, Darlington 1883, are forced to stay there for any length of time. The pitch will not take that kind of pounding.
A successful season, then, for the 21s who went into third place, although Chelsea could overtake them as they have two games left.
Some justification for the Academy as well as it gets some stick in media and on message boards for not producing players who will become regulars in the first team, Henderson and Colback being the last ones. Chelsea seems to have the same problem; John Terry was theirs.