Steadfast dieting has whittled away Pete Sixsmith, for it is again he in the guise of County Durham’s busiest descendant of Saint Nicholas. But he still looks the part, as he describes it, as “Santa in his grotto at As You Like It in Jesmond”.
Malcolm Dawson writes….. Since the advent of advent, Peter Sixsmith has been distributing gifts to the not so poor and needy up and down the Durham Dales, except to those wearing anything with a “Wonga” advert, explaining just why Saint Nicholas always wears red and white. But last night he got his manservant Pardew to layout the thermals, prepare a vaccuum flask of warming beef tea and dig out the insulated beard protector to save him from frostbite, as he braved sub-zero temperatures to bring us his take on events at the Stadium of Light. On Saturday afternoon we had agreed that no points and a goal difference worsened by only minus three would represent some kind of positive return from the three games in week ahead. The team exceeded expectations against Chelsea but were brought back to earth with a bump that could be heard as far away as Seaham and Shields. Let Pete explain.
MANCHESTER CITY (HOME) 2014
And so it came to pass that at the fifth time of asking, the team known as Manchester City came to Wearside and managed to win a game.
And the multitude assembled inside the Stadium of Light accepted that City had indeed played well and deserved their first win there for many a year. And few left that splendid palace of football without acknowledging that the Argentine known as Sergio Aguero is one of the finest players that has ever walked upon England’s pastures green. And although the names of Dennis Law, Gary Lineker, Luis Suarez and Dominic Sharkey were mentioned by some, the general acclamation in the temple of sense known as the East Stand Gents toilets was that Aguero was a decent turn.
And although the heroics of the past were not to be repeated, those warriors assembled in red and white stripes now have to pick themselves up and smite the men of Anfield on Saturday, followed by the tribe from East London and then take on the representatives of the Great Satan and all of his acolytes at the Gates of Hades.
After spending 90 minutes closing Chelsea down on Saturday, our game plan was based on the same premise. For the opening twenty minutes it worked. City looked rattled, the two central defenders were shaky and we should have been two up. Jack Rodwell should have opened the scoring when Will Buckley played him in. Some would argue that Buckley failed to take the responsibility thrust upon him and that he should have finished the move. Others (of which I am one) would say that he saw a colleague in a better position and passed it to him. Rodwell should have put his foot through it instead of trying to place it. The chance was gone.
Fourteen minutes later Connor Wickham started off and finished a good move with a little help from Zabaleta and the traditional Wearside score was up there on the scoreboard. It lasted for two minutes.
City had already shown that they had sufficient pace and power to worry our back four and when Coates stood too far off Aguero, the Argentine made a mockery of the Uruguayan and smashed home the equaliser. From then on, City were in control and try as we might, we were unable to get sufficient grip on the game to worry them. When Toure came forward, the game opened up and City struck me as a much more fluid side than Chelsea. The Pensioners clearly follow to the letter the instructions they are given by Mourinho. If they don’t they are toast.
Pellegrini’s philosophy is to create a framework and then encourage his players to use their natural talent and flair to work within that. When you have the likes of Toure, Navas, and Nasri, plus Aguero, you can do that.
We, on the other hand, have a team made up of players who are decent but limited. All worked hard but the physical and mental tiredness from Saturday was clear. Cattermole and Larsson both led by example, but were unable to win tackles and retrieve the ball with anything like the success that they had against Chelsea. Wherever they looked they saw a huge obelisk aka Yaya Toure standing in front of them. If they got too close, he swatted them away as if they were flies tormenting him.
At the back, Reveillere was given a torrid time by Navas and his 35 year old legs were struggling to keep up with the slinky Spaniard. In the middle, Coates was never close enough to Aguero and lost him at crucial moments. Not an auspicious league debut for Gus’s fellow Uruguayan although I doubt that many could have lived with Aguero last night.
And so, the assembled multitude went home, many leaving before the game was finished. A noisy minority would have experienced a pleasant and fulfilling journey home across the frozen wastes of Yorkshire before returning to their home city. The majority sat in their cars and buses and marvelled at the leviathan known as Toure and the assassin known as Aguero and posed some questions viz;
How on earth can any normal club compete on a regular basis with the huge amounts of money washing around the top two?
How can we ensure that two performances in a row are of similar quality?
How can we strengthen the squad and the team before the annual relegation battle starts in earnest?
Here endeth the lesson dealt out to us by a team that cost north of £200m.
Read M Salut’s account at ESPN here http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739
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… in which Bill Taylor assumes the unlikely guise of Papa Noël/Father Christmas/Daidaín na Nollaig/Ded Moroz/Saint Nicholas/Weihnachtsmann and hands out some presents to deserving characters …