Dick’s Bournemouth Advochaat: no passion or fight at The Vitality Stadium

Jake: 'things can only get .... worse'
Jake: ‘things can only get …. worse’
Malcolm Dawson writes…….you’d think that after more than 40 years of following Sunderland AFC I’d have learned not to build up my hopes and adopt an optimistic view of things to come. After enduring the debacles of the Leicester and Norwich games I thought there was enough evidence against Spurs to show we had turned a corner. I wasn’t wrong but the corner we turned only took us back to where we started from. I didn’t go to the Vitality Stadium today. I didn’t even go to a Northern League game having seen Crook win 4-1 in their local derby at Willington last night. I settled instead in the sunshine with a crossword and the Radio Newcastle commentary. After ten minutes I wished I had gone out. Listening to the radio was bad enough but I can imagine still what it was like being there. It’s not like it’s a new experience after all. Expect Pete Sixsmith’s account of the day sometime tomorrow but for now read what Meneer Advocaat has to say about today’s woeful performance which, together with a faltering Stoke City and equally bad results for The Mags and The Villa is quickly turning the relegation battle into a four club race so early in the season.

 Dick by Jake
Dick by Jake

Dear Colin,

Last Sunday we played really well, we lined up well and we fought for the ball. I didn’t see as much of that today and that was what I was hoping to see more of. We could not find the passion and aggression that we needed when you’re playing against a team like Bournemouth. We gave two poor goals away and we need to take a look in the mirror and try and find out what we’re doing wrong.

I would say we have more quality in our side than Bournemouth, but today they brought more commitment and you can see what that can do for a team. If [Jeremain] Lens had been given the goal it might have been different, but that wasn’t the case. Then [Younes] Kaboul was shown a second yellow card; we just didn’t have any luck.

Two points after six games is not enough. I am not downbeat, I am thinking about how to fix things. I’m happy with my squad, we are good enough to stay up but we have to work harder.

It’s a shame for the fans, we are all well-paid and today they paid good money to come to the game and they deserved better; we will try harder for them.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat

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Sixer’s Tottenham Soapbox: defeat but new boys (and Borini) earn their Spurs

Jake: 'bloody woodwork'
Jake: ‘bloody woodwork’

Malcolm Dawson writes….Pete Sixsmith and I had different opinions on the trip to the game yesterday. He thought that this could be a defining moment – a win would mean we could look forward to a a relatively comfortable rest of the season but a loss would result in another year of constant struggle and perpetual fighting in the relegation cock pit. My view was that I wanted to see the impact of the new boys and some seeds of hope that we could turn a corner, if not immediately then in the weeks to come. Losing was obviously not what I hoped for but a good performance was what I wanted to see. I shared Dick’s concerns that a lack of match fitness might limit Borini and Toivonen’s contributions but that with a few games under their respective belts they would lift the side and inject some much needed pace into the team. I expected them both to start. Pete thought the manager would go with Danny Graham and bring the Italian on later in the game. What neither of us predicted was a start for Jordi Gomez. And for two thirds of the game we saw a side that looked like they had played together for ages. Borini started on the left and Lens on the right. We had pace on the flanks and pace down the middle. Kaboul, another signing who had lacked sufficient pre-season action, showed how much a player can improve after a few games to sharpen up their stamina. This could well be Dick’s preferred starting XI and once fit should prove to be a handful for most sides we meet in this league if they continue to gel the way they did yesterday. Pete’s pre-match prediction may well still prove him right as we still haven’t played any of the so called title contenders and we are becoming desperate for a win, but this was nothing like the performance we saw against Norwich. Then I was wondering if a season ticket had been a good idea. Now I feel we have something worth watching. Here’s Peter’s take on proceedings from his usual seat in the East Stand.

SOAPBOXspursSAFC 0 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (H).

It could have been a momentous weekend. On Saturday, the Labour Party elected a dyed in the wool socialist as its leader for the first time since Keir Hardie in 1905. Many rejoiced, others shook their heads in dismay, but all accepted that it was something radically different.

Something equally radically different was going to be needed 24 hours later at The Stadium of Light if we were to win our first game of the season and move up to the heady heights of 13th and plonk Chelsea into the relegation zone. And although we got closer to Spurs than Burnham, Cooper and Kendall did to Saint Jeremy, we still lost. For half the game we were the better side. For a quarter of the game, it was even-stevens. But for the final quarter, the one that really, really mattered, it was Spurs who showed their pedigree and won the game with a well worked goal from the tidy Ryan Mason.

We trooped out in disappointment. We had seen the team play well for much of the game and play very well for parts of it. The general consensus was that we like Toivonen, we very much like M’Vila and it was good to see Borini back. But there was that nagging, worrying feeling that we cannot yet finish teams off – and a patchy Tottenham side were there for the taking in the first half. The football we played was crisp and sharp and the players seemed to know what they were supposed to do. A year ago to the day, Spurs took us apart in the early stages of the game but there was to be none of that this year. Last year we had a debutant lining up in Ricky Alvarez, who spent twenty minutes wondering where the ball was. This year, we had the return of Fabio Borini who was involved from the very start.

What we needed was for Borini to open the scoring with one of those searing runs that he has. We didn’t get it, but we did get a performance that showed that he has an appetite for the game in general and Sunderland AFC in particular. He used his upper body strength to out muscle Tottenham defenders, ran into space and seemed to form a footballing “relationship” (nothing to worry about, Erin) with Van Aanholt and, later on, Jones. He never really looked like scoring but he brought zest to a forward line that, for the first time in a long time, had some pace and craft and skill in it.

Jake knows how to capture Fabio at his best
Jake knows how to capture Fabio at his best

No Fletcher and no Graham meant that Defoe got his chance to play through the middle and he looked a far more effective player there than he does when he is wide. He could, perhaps should, have scored when he hit the post in the first half when he outstripped a ponderous Spurs defence but his link up play was excellent and he was involved for much of the game – not something that always happens when he is made to play wide.

On the right side of the three, Lens had another effective game. He can dribble and he can pass. He can shoot and he can cover his full back. He is another player known to Advocaat who clearly fits in with the system that he wants to play. Compare Lens and Toivonen with Buckley and Bridcutt, the previous Head Coach’s “known players,” and it’s like comparing Timothy Taylors Landlord with Watneys Red Barrel.

Hola Ola - Jake in Spain welcomes our latest Swede
Hola Ola – Jake in Spain welcomes our latest Swede

But we did slip up and that looks to be as a result of a lack of match fitness and some disappointing performances from our substitutes. Toivonen was clearly struggling from the 60th minute while Gomez also found a full game difficult. Both played well. The Swede is a big man. He wins challenges in midfield and could be a very important player as the season progresses. His strength is in contrast to Gomez, a relatively lightweight player, but one who can pick out a pass and has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. The one thing they have in common is that they are footballers with experience and they are not quite the pampered products of the English academy system.

As they went off, Cattermole and Rodwell appeared – and both have to share some blame for the Spurs goal, well worked as it was. Cattermole in particular showed a complete lack of awareness as Mason and Lamela sashayed through the defence.

showing some quality in the middle of the park
showing some quality in the middle of the park

It was a well worked and well taken goal, but one that provoked groans in the East Stand as we could see that our midfield had stopped picking up. Rodwell hit the bar a few moments later and a draw would have been the least we deserved but it was not to be and another opportunity to get up and running was lost. But there were positives to take from this viz:

O’Shea and Kaboul look a solid central defensive pairing, with Kaboul doing the running and O’Shea the organising. Kaboul looks match fit. Yann M’Vila may be the “bad boy of French football,” but he can play the game. His passing and tackling were outstanding throughout. He is another one who will be even better when fully match fit.

A similar result last year (and the year before, the year before that …. ad infinitum) would have been met with groans and a few boos. This was met with warm applause as the support can see that there is a different footballing philosophy at the club. Having said all this, we need to start winning games. Bournemouth on Saturday is an important one as they are a mere two points above us. But the bottom of the table is not a nice place to be – but we may well be off it if West Ham can find some home form tonight.

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Dick’s Tottenham Advochaat: not what we deserved

Malcolm Dawson writes….we looked like a team that knows what it’s about today. At least for the first hour or so. Borini, Gomez and Toivonen started but lacking match fitness began to tire after the hour mark. All the new boys looked good. M’Vila slotted into the holding role well and his tireless running and coolness on the ball meant that a more confident PVA also turned in a good performance. It is hard to fault anyone in the starting line up and we could have been ahead when a great run from Defoe put him one on one with the keeper only to see his shot rattle the post. An inch or two further right and it would have bounced into the net but instead it went safe. Not long afterwards he again broke clear and should have had a penalty when he was clearly pulled back and denied a clear cut shooting opportunity. That’s how it looked from my seat and I’ll wait for MOTD to prove my eyes aren’t that bad. One or two nil up and it could all have been so different. Dick is as happy as any manager can be when he’s seen his team lose but I’m in agreement with the sentiments he expresses in his post match e-mail to M. Salut and the rest of the SAFC supporting world.

 

 Dick by Jake
Dick by Jake

Dear Colin,

I think we deserved more than zero points but we can still be proud of the way we played.

The team gave everything to get a result and you could see that from the fans – even after the game was 1-0 they applauded the players. The way we played football-wise is also improving a lot and I think that is what the fans like to see. There is no doubt it is the best we have played this season.

We went for the attack, went to score goals and we had opportunities, but we failed score and at the end you get one goal which is unlucky but also because of the quality of Spurs.

If we keep working like this and keep playing like this the points will come.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat

Jake: 'bloody woodwork'
Jake: ‘bloody woodwork’



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Dick’s post Villa Advochaat: happy with a point after losing control

Jake: "asset or liability?"
Jake: “asset or liability?”
Malcolm Dawson writes…..we don’t have a great record in recent times against Villa so a point is welcome even if it does mean we go back to the bottom of the table – thanks to Stoke City shooting themselves in their metaphorical feet, against their former cult hero manager Tony Pulis. But for the second away game in a row our own cult legend Lee Cattermole shot us in the foot as well by again giving away a needless penalty. Just like at Leicester Dick took him off at the half way point. We know Catts can be an asset to the side but he can equally be a liability. Interestingly the Boss has commented several time on Ola Toivonen’s physical qualities so it will be interesting to see how Catts fits into his overall plans in the coming months – assuming he’s still with us after the daftness of Tuesday’s closure of the transfer window. Anyway Dick tells Colin and the rest of us that he is satisfied overall but that he knows what to work on before the next game.

 Dick by Jake
Dick by Jake
Dear Colin,

It was a difficult game but the boys worked really hard to get the point. We started well and Yann scored a great goal, but after the penalty Aston Villa controlled things.

Following the changes at half time we were the better side for 20 minutes and scored another good goal. After that it was Aston Villa again. Overall, I am very happy with a point.

Ola Toivonen is a good player who has a great touch and is a bit nasty. He needs a little more sharpness. He played as an attacking midfielder for me at PSV and he has that good touch and vision. I think we did well to take him.

It’s important to score goals from different areas of the pitch. We still have to get games under control and I have to discuss with the players how we do that.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat

Jake: 'WE WERE Jake: 'WINNING! (for almost three minutes). Good point though'
Jake: ‘WE WERE Jake: ‘WINNING! (for almost three minutes). Good point though’



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Dick’s Exeter Advochaat: six goals good – three goals bad

Jake: 'gorging on goals'
Jake: ‘gorging on goals’
Malcolm Dawson writes…..we would all have been happier with 3-0. Dick too by the sound of it in his post match e-mail to M Salut and the rest. A three goal margin sounds comfortable and in the end it was – but not before the defensive collywobbles took hold. The rest of the Premier League must be looking at our back line and rubbing their hands in glee. O.K. so JD got to keep the match ball and JR might be finally going some way to showing what it was that got the big spenders of Man City excited and him into the England side, but 3-0 would have been a much more satisfactory result. Watmore and Gooch got a run out too and have maybe given the coach something to think about.The Exeter support was a much bigger proportion of the total attendance than that of Swansea and they will probably be enjoying their long trip back, thinking of what might have been. One crumb of comfort from this evening is that our next opponents needed extra time to finally overcome their lower league opposition 5-3. Saturday’s game looks like it could be 7-6 so what odds on a goalless draw?

 

 Jake - lost for words
Jake – lost for words

Dear Colin,

We scored six goals but gave some easy goals away.

With all respect I’m happy with 6-3 but I can’t be happy with the performance.

Jack [Rodwell] is getting better and I was also very pleased with the young guys who came on.

They did well and Duncan scored a good goal.

Jermain scored some excellent goals, as well. The goals we scored were good, but the ones we gave away can’t happen at this level. Jermain could have had five goals and when he is in front of goal you can see he is a goalscorer. I was very pleased with the six goals we scored.

I’m not sure on the injuries at the moment – maybe tomorrow we will have an update.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat



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Michael Gray and the grey area of when a ban isn’t a ban

Jake: 'sometimes you just have to meddle in other people's business'
Jake: ‘sometimes you just have to meddle in other people’s business’

How does anyone get the impression they have been banned from a football stadium when they haven’t? Monsieur Salut remembers being told he was banned from a folk club in Newton Aycliffe, after comments in his folk column for the now-defunct Evening Despatch, and having to attend a hearing by the club’s committee to get the ban lifted.

With Micky Gray and Sunderland AFC, it’s a little more mystifying.

Read moreMichael Gray and the grey area of when a ban isn’t a ban

Sixer’s Swansea Soapbox: Cats show Swans their dogged qualities

Malcolm Dawson writes…Last night’s downpour has passed and shadows in the garden indicate the presence of some sunshine so Peter Sixsmith has made his way to Chester le Street to see if Paul Collingwood and the boys can polish off Middlesex in the County Championship. But before he set off he sent us his customary personal report on yesterday’s game as seen from his seat high in the East Stand.

SOAPBOXswanseaSWANSEA CITY (H)

It was better. After the last two embarrassments it had to be and it was. We put the first point on the board, came back from a goal down against a side that have started the season well and showed the effort and commitment that we expect to see from our team. There was no mass walk out for Match of the Day to laugh at and absolutely no booing or jeering. The support was tremendous – not my words, but those of the admirable Gary Monk.

I wouldn’t say that I basked in glory on Saturday night, but there was more basking than slinking. The TV was not avoided, phone calls and texts were taken and objects were not thrown at Messrs Lineker and Shearer as they dissected our performance. All of a sudden, life looks better.

I had spent the last week becoming increasingly impatient (a trait I rarely show) with people who ask me “What are you going to do about Sunderland” as if I have a magic bullet that will enable us to win the League and relegate Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle at the same time. By Monday, I was shrugging it off with a “Well, I would sign Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Kompany and raise the money by selling Graham to Real Madrid and Bridcutt to Paris St Germain” but by Thursday I was getting heartily sick of it and told the man in the hairdresser’s that I would put him in charge and he could have a go at it – only I wasn’t that polite.

It looked as if Advocaat felt the same. His news conference on Friday was edgy and he looked and sounded concerned. Retirement and the liberal use of his Dutch bus pass and his Nederland Railways concession card seemed very attractive and there was a feeling that one more performance like the last two and Mrs Advocaat would be preparing breakfast for two from Monday. But he showed his calibre as a man and a coach by coaxing a performance out of his players that was reminiscent of the efforts that they made in April and May of last year and for that we should be pleased. There was a greater tempo about our game, a greater intensity and (or so it seemed to me) a greater understanding of what Advocaat and Petrovic wanted.

The return of John O’Shea made a huge difference. His personal performance was a good one, reading the game well, making the kind of interventions that we expect of him and winning headers against the combative Gomis. His effect on Coates reminded me of the great Irish steeplechaser Arkle, who insisted in his horsey way, that a donkey travelled with him wherever he went. If the donkey stayed at home, Arkle failed. If the donkey went with him, Arkle won. Without O’Shea, Coates can look like a donkey. Alongside him he looks relatively comfortable, if not quite in the Arkle class.

Throughout the team there was a dogged determination and some good individual performances. The Giant Pantilimon made two outstanding saves when Swansea were in the ascendancy with the one from Ayewe’s header straight out of the top drawer. M’Vila looked good in midfield, picking up the ball and rarely wasting a pass, something which is rarely seen in a Sunderland side. He could be a very good player for us and he controlled that darker side of his game very well. Lens did well in the final third of the match and looked to be coming to terms with the Premier League and its physicality, something which Giaccherini has never done. The ball he played in for Defoe’s goal was reminiscent of the one the Italian put through for Wickham at Eastlands in The Great Escape (Vol 2) season and there is no higher praise than that.

Jake: 'starting to show his class.'
Jake: ‘starting to show his class.’

Every player played their part. Jones did well against Montero, a player who had caused problems for Ivanovic and who had got Janmaat sent off the previous week. Van Aanholt was more disciplined than he had been in the previous two games where he played like an ADHD kid who had forgotten to take his Ritalin. But he did leave the gap for Swansea to exploit for their goal. Cattermole looked more comfortable and was restrained after his booking while Rodwell turned in a performance that quietly grew in stature and he looked a good player for the first time since he arrived.

We are limited up front. Graham challenged and harried and started the move for the equaliser but he is not a Premier League player. Fletcher missed one good chance and always seems to be playing on the edge. A more relaxed approach may help. Both know that a replacement/competitor will be coming in in the next ten days and that they may well be calling in the removal men.

Ellis Short responded to criticisms in a dignified and honest way. Not for him the Ashley route of ignoring fans or the Oyston route of abusing them. His programme piece was balanced and fair. Yes, he has made mistakes. Yes, he is still paying for those mistakes. Yes, he is still committed to the club. Yes, Michael Gray is a gob*****; I gather he is not welcome at the club. No, he will not be walking away as there is not exactly a queue of wealthy owners wanting to take over.

The next few days are crucial for us. Between them, Short, Advocaat and Congerton need to bring in a creative midfield player, an accomplished forward who will bag us 15-20 goals this season and a top class full back. Names are relatively easy to come up with; getting them to come to Sunderland isn’t. Four years of struggle and constant change makes us a poor option for upwardly mobile players and a good one for those who heading in the opposite direction. Dick must have looked at Swansea and wished that he had the stability that they have which helps them to attract the likes of Montero and Ayewe. I liked their system, with Cork (available last season and scouted by Poyet) playing behind the ever so busy Shelvey and with Sigurdsson in front of the former Liverpool man, although I disliked the constant whingeing of the Icelander who appears to think that tackling has been outlawed – as did the terminally wretched Neil Swarbrick. It was a poor performance from a consistently poor referee.

The crowd backed the team to the hilt with even the genteel and reserved East Stand Centre Block roaring and shouting, showing that whatever the London centric media think, Sunderland supporters back their club when they are shown that the players are making the effort. I wonder if West Ham supporters get the same stick that we got last week – the booing and jeering as they were demolished by Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic sounded pretty loud to me on Match of the Day. But then, they are not in the North East are they?

Exeter on Tuesday and a chance for the likes of Watmore, Beadling, and maybe Josh Robson to show what they can do. No upsets please!

Sixer and Horan at St MAry'sPeter Sixsmith has been supporting Sunderland AFC since moving to the North East as a bairn in the 1960s. He is also a passionate supporter of Shildon AFC, who are currently top of the Northern League having won their first three fixtures 5-0, 8-0 and 2-0 and Leeds Rhinos Rugby League team. Pete blogs regularly for Salut! Sunderland and is much in demand by the local and national press despite not being a professional journalist. He appears regularly on Radio Newcastle’s “Total Sport – Fan’s Forum”. There is no truth in the rumour that he harbours ambitions to be the author of best selling New York based crime thrillers.



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Dick’s post Swansea Advochaat: passion on and off the pitch

Jake: 'better ... much better'
Jake: ‘better … much better’
Malcolm Dawson writes…..it’s usually a good sign when I can watch a game and not spend time thinking about what I’m going to have for my tea when I get home. Last week I could have planned the entire banquet for the Women’s Institute which is the current focus of BBC’s “Great British Menu.” Today I suffered no such distractions. Whether it was the “clear the air talks” that Dick promised to hold last Sunday, whether it was Lee Cattermole’s post match comments and the response to that, whether it was Ellis Short and Jermaine Defoe publicly stating their loyalty and ambitions for the club during the week, I’m not sure – but this was a different Sunderland team today. It was the sort of performance Sunderland fans respect. The effort was there. The commitment was there. The quality may still be a little lacking but we’ll put up with that if those who represent our club are seen to be giving their all. I was proud of the fans today too. Before the game kicked off they were vocal and supportive of all the players. Every tackle was cheered, every bit of closing down and every bit of skilful play likewise. Even when we went one-nil behind the response wasn’t boos and jeers but an exultation to the Lads to get stuck in and fight back. It was noticeable that there were more empty seats at the kick off than last week but those who were there at the start stayed till the end. We know that one point doesn’t make a season. We know there is more to do but it’s a start. Dick thinks so too and tells us so in his e-mail to M. Salut and a few others.

 Jake: At least it's a start.
Jake: At least it’s a start.

Dear Colin,

I think the team responded very well today. The way we trained was good; everybody showed commitment and I think the players did well.

It was a difficult game because Swansea are a good side with good individuals. With our spirit, we gave them a really hard time.

The supporters were great. Even with the score at 1-0 they stood behind us and that’s the reason the team kept going and fighting. It was great support.

We had some good moments today football-wise; it wasn’t only the passion.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat

blockquote>

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Sixer’s Soapbox: on song Canaries leave pathetic Cats for dead

Malcolm Dawson writes…I have seen some dire Sunderland performances in my time but I can’t think of any previous season when I sat thinking I had wasted my money on a season ticket after half an hour of the first home game. Last week after thirty minutes we were three down. Yesterday we were only two behind. Does that constitute progress? What I have seen in the two games this year is a lack of running to close the opposition down, a lack of running to create space when we do have the ball and a lack of running to get back into position when caught out in the wrong area of the pitch. I know it’s not all down to running but there seems to be little desire amongst this lot to actually work off the ball. I thought Steven Fletcher did put himself about a bit second half harrying down opponents just before he went off but didn’t see much evidence from anyone else, other than Watmore who had a point or three to prove. It was as depressing as it was disappointing yesterday and as always Pete Sixsmith tells it as he sees it from his soapbox.

NORWICH CITY (h)

SOAPBOXnorwichI was strolling through Darlington on Thursday when my eye caught a poster in the window of a William Hill’s offering the odds on a five team accumulator. “Bet £10 to win £150” it said to the passing punters. I looked at the list of teams; Celtic (certs), Middlesbrough (ditto), Sheffield United (look good), Northampton Town (need to check up on that one) and….. Sunderland, the bookies saviour, because any mug tempted to part with his tenner would have had little idea of how terminally useless we appear to be.
Hill’s would have made a tidy profit on that bet. Five of the six won leaving us to let the poor punter down and bemoan the fact that it “woz the Mackems wot let me down.” I know how he/she feels.

Why were we there on Hill’s list? For that ultimately disappointed punter, here was an established Premier League team under the command of a Head Coach who has been a success all over Europe. The team is made up of allegedly top level players, some of who have played at international level and who would be eager to bounce back after the trouncing they had received at Leicester the week before.
The opposition were newly promoted, retained much of the team that had seen them slide out of the Premier League two years ago and who had been active at the bottom end of the market. Their Head Coach was young and inexperienced at this level and would surely be outthought by the wily old fox in in the home dugout.

But bookies know a thing or two and they would realise, far more than the casual punter in Doncaster or Dorchester, that Sunderland are in a mess and that this had all the potential of being the game that would ensure joy for the shareholders and misery for the punters, not to mention those whose allegiance is unfortunately with Sunderland.
And as they usually are, the bookies were right because we turned in a performance that was even worse than the one the previous week. Worse in that the errors in team selection had not been heeded, worse in that players continued to make the same individual and organisational errors that had been made at Leicester and far, far worse because this shambles was played out in front of a sceptical and ultimately cynical home crowd.

Over 41,000 turned up for this, a number that will be greatly reduced next Saturday and on subsequent home days unless something drastic is done. Mutterings were heard all over the East Stand section that I sit in – an area that contains some of the club’s most loyal fans, people who are not prone to vocal demonstrations but who are the heartbeat of the club. And that heartbeat is getting fainter as they look at the mess that that manifested itself on the pitch.

The performance was a catalogue of errors. The first goal came after Cattermole lost the ball in midfield and from a corner. Norwich worked a short one with no Sunderland player coming out of the box to challenge, allowing Brady to have a clear shot at goal. Pantilimon parried it (could he have caught it?) and it hit Martin and went in. Heads dropped on the fields and on the terraces.
The second one was an embarrassment for us and a tribute to Norwich’s crisp play as Hoolahan and Whittaker played a one – two inside the box (!!!) and the Scottish full back finished with aplomb. Van Aanholt failed to pick him up and Kaboul was not quick enough to tackle him. Game over.

The third goal was very similar to the second. Hoolahan, playing just behind Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond, set up another one-two with Redmond and the England Under 21 winger tucked it in, followed by the clattering of upturned seats as the bar staff in The Colliery Tavern braced themselves for hordes coming through the doors.

A shanked goal from Duncan Watmore made absolutely no difference, although it could keep us off the bottom if both Arsenal and Bournemouth lose heavily, though I am not sure what odds you would get off Hill’s for that.

Jake: 'hasn't everybody who watches the reserves been talking up this lad for ages? Why do we wait to be 3 nil down to give him a chance?'
Jake: ‘hasn’t everybody who watches the reserves been talking up this lad for ages? Why do we wait to be 3 nil down to give him a chance?’

So what do we do after that? Dick Advocaat struck a forlorn figure on the touch line as all he had hoped for disintegrated as comprehensively as Buckaroo did when you placed the sticks of dynamite on its back. Afterwards he said that the players did not follow instructions – we may ask why that was.

What about the players? How bad were they? The answer my friend, is that they were atrocious. The two full backs are clueless. Neither can defend properly with van Aanholt turning in a performance that Ian who sits next to me, rated as the worst he has seen from a fullback in a Sunderland shirt. I would find it hard, nay impossible, to disagree. The central defenders were better than they had been at Leicester but that is like saying that cholera isn’t quite as bad as bubonic plague. Kaboul, allegedly a thoughtful footballer, hoofed the ball up field at every available opportunity, making us understand exactly why Spurs were so keen to offload him. His first two appearances have us looking back to Titus Bramble with some fondness.

They were not helped by a total lack of cohesion in midfield. Cattermole gave up in the second half – a fine example from the team captain. M’Vila stared off well enough but his legs went in the second half and Larsson was as anaemic as I have ever seen him. He set the tone with a free kick in the third minute that surprise surprise, failed to clear the first defender. The groans from the crowd said it all.

Lens also gave up in a wretched second half, while Fletcher was beaten to the ball by Bassong with regular monotony. Defoe was anonymous and the arrival of Graham at the start of the second half to replace Larsson was greeted with incredulity by the crowd. I can only assume that there was a scout there from Sheffield Wednesday or Blackburn Rovers who were keen to see him. They won’t have been impressed.

They might have been by Duncan Watmore who showed an energy and enthusiasm that his elders, but by no means betters, would be advised to take heed of. He ran at defenders and created a couple of quarter chances before he pounced on a poor clearance and drove it home with his shin. May we see more of him please? But he is no saviour.

Do we have a saviour? Advocaat’s body language during the game and words afterwards suggest that he does not know what to do. He can demand new players until the cows come home, but how many players are going to be interested in signing for a club that stumbles from one crisis to another? How many agents will be looking to place good players at a club that changes its manager as frequently as we do? The answer, my friends, is very few.

Team selection was poor. John O’Shea must return for the Swansea game and I would not be against putting Wes Brown back in. Matthews must be better than either Jones or Van Aanholt. Where was Giaccherini yesterday? He could have played the role that Hoolahan played for Norwich, sitting behind the front two and playing them in. The Italian didn’t even make the bench for this one; Bridcutt and Graham did.
There are 36 games to come, 108 points to play for. On this performance we will be lucky to get into double figures and the ghosts of Christian Basilla, Anthony Le Tallac and Tommy Miller are gathering above the Stadium of Light no doubt saying “We know that we were rubbish, but we weren’t as rubbish as you.”

I may well pop down to Hill’s and wager a few quid on Derby County’s record being beaten but I suspect that the odds will be reducing by the minute.