Hutch’s Patch: one-word ratings from Watford make for grim reading

Rob Hutchison: why do I come home for this?

Rob Hutchison might have picked a better day to resume his one-word ratings, usually from away games since they are the ones he mostly attends. His verdicts – one word, one mark out of 10 – closely follow those of Monsieur Salut (for ESPN) …

Read moreHutch’s Patch: one-word ratings from Watford make for grim reading

Sixer’s Sevens: Watford 1-0 Sunderland. Au revoir to the Premier League?

Another meek surrender

Monsieur Salut writes: Nothing is actually settled. Losing 1-0 to Watford, deservedly as well, does not relegate Sunderland. But we know the game is up. We just aren’t good enough to do what Hull did in routine home game today, what Palace under Big Sam managed at Chelsea. A decent Borini shot late on and a pathetic strike by Januzaj (from am excellent position; Gary Bennett said it looked more like a backpass) was all we mustered. Pickford stopped it being worse, Pete Sixsmith stayed away; the seven-word verdict is Bob Chapman’s and see his stand-in Soapbox report here

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Watford 1-0 Sunderland. Au revoir to the Premier League?

Watford Who are You?: fondly remembering SuperKev, Rostron and Colin West’s hairdo

Del Day: ‘hey love, was thinking we could name our daughters Blissett’

Colin Randall writes: not everyone will share this thought but I needed cheering up on Wednesday. Getting back to sunshine in Marseille helped (as did the cost of the trip, return flight from Stansted at four euros each, the outward journey having been only 14). Then I saw our Watford interviewee Del Day‘s Facebook update: ‘Revolution anyone?’ Sixer would approve of that one. Del, when not feeling political and cross, runs an independent music publicity company, Ark PR, a small booking agency, Big City Lights, and the Maiden Voyage record company. He adored Graham Taylor to the extent that both his daughters have Taylor as middle names, his wife having baulked at calling them Blissett. Over to Del*, with some terrific thoughts on old player links between our clubs and a gloomy prognosis on our current condition …

Read moreWatford Who are You?: fondly remembering SuperKev, Rostron and Colin West’s hairdo

Sunderland and Hull, Middlesbrough or Palace? Swansea or Bournemouth? Not WBA, as Leicester take off

John McCormick
John McCormick: We’re  bottom and there’s now a gap

When I last reported in with the Salut Sunderland relegation watch we had had some recent wins but were still in the relegation zone, along with Swansea and Hull. (Swansea weren’t one of the clubs chosen in our start-of season poll but I included them in December on the grounds that some people did vote for “another club” and they  had begun to fit that bill after a decline).

That was only a month ago, just after the transfer window closed, since when new signings have had time to settle and new managers to generate – but maybe not sustain – a bounce. With a cup  weekend giving most of them a breather we have another chance to review  the situation.

But before I do, I have to congratulate West Bromwich Albion, who passed through our metaphorical barrier with ease. Would that we could reach such heights.

Read moreSunderland and Hull, Middlesbrough or Palace? Swansea or Bournemouth? Not WBA, as Leicester take off

Swearing loyalty: how Sunderland’s long-suffering fans give vent in gloomy times


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Monsieur Salut wrote: the old ones are not always the best, but our current plight – described with melancholy beauty in Pete Sixsmith’s report of Sunderland 0-4 Southampton – and the poor health suffered by a friend prompted me to dig out this piece, first published in November 2008.

The original article began with some references to racist behaviour, happily rare and irrelevant to today’s situation, so I will skip them here. The rest seems all too applicable now, though I have slightly edited it.

Fill in the gaps from your own experiences (mass walk-outs, instant social media responses etc have become features of some supporters’ lives since this posting first appeared) of following SAFC through thick, thin and thinner. And please get better Graham Noble, friend, former colleague and the subject of the final anecdote …

Read moreSwearing loyalty: how Sunderland’s long-suffering fans give vent in gloomy times

Sunderland, Palace, Hull, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Leicester – pick any three

John McCormick
John McCormick: We’re  bottom but the gap’s closing

When I last reported in with the Salut Sunderland relegation watch we had had some recent wins but were still in the relegation zone, along with Swansea and Hull. (Swansea weren’t one of the clubs chosen in our start-of season poll but I included them in December on the grounds that some people did vote for “another club” and they  had begun to fit that bill after a decline).

That was just before Christmas, not long before the transfer window opened, and just around the time struggling clubs might decide a new manager might help them take advantage of it. Now, with all that business done (free agents notwithstanding) it’s time to take stock before we head to the end of season crunch games, six pointers and desperation sackings that define the struggle for 39 points.

Read moreSunderland, Palace, Hull, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Leicester – pick any three

Hull, Swansea and Sunderland down? Bournemouth, Watford, Middlesbrough, Burnley, West Brom and Crystal Palace safe? Maybe, maybe not

John McCormick
John McCormick: We’re not bottom, so is it a Happy Christmas?

Wrinkly Pete alluded to my dodgy numbers in his post earlier in the week so  here’s an overview on our performance to date, along with that of the clubs named in the headline, which were chosen by a free and democratic poll at the start of the season. I’m keeping it brief – only a quick trip to set the scene for a  “before and after” post early in the new year, and I’ve included Swansea this time, on the grounds that some people did vote for “another club” and they fit the bill, being as it were,  eleven Swans a sinking

Read moreHull, Swansea and Sunderland down? Bournemouth, Watford, Middlesbrough, Burnley, West Brom and Crystal Palace safe? Maybe, maybe not

Playing the sub v Watford: the view from the lower North Stand

Ed was away; he left me his season ticket and thanks to his generosity I watched the lads for free if I don’t count the 8 gallons of petrol, the couple of bottles of wine for Susan (my sister, who put me up) and a couple of pre-match pints for designated driver Paul.

John McCormick: bored
John McCormick. Subbing, but not for Sixer

Read morePlaying the sub v Watford: the view from the lower North Stand

Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: Watford come unstuck as PvA scores for Sunderland

Jake: ‘one nowt’ – that’ll dae

Malcolm Dawson writes……..Pete Sixsmith was at the match yesterday but today he’s tied up with festive duties spreading peace and merriment in the heart of Magland so it falls on me to leave the subs’ bench and step up onto the soapbox to bring you my take on yesterday’s proceedings.

Malcolm Dawson borrows Sixer’s soapbox

Sunderland 1 – Watford 0

It’s weird being a Sunderland fan. At least I find it so. The news coming out of the club this week should have had me feeling depressed – or at least a little pessimistic but strangely I wasn’t. The fact that Moyes suggests he was made promises that aren’t going to be kept came as no surprise. The revelation that there was to be no repeat of a January spending spree come the New Year wasn’t a revelation at all and the latest long term injury to Jan Kirchhoff just another setback in a long line of setbacks. Kirchhoff is in my view a quality player but the number of games he has missed means he is a luxury that the club can’t afford. I don’t expect him to be a Sunderland player next season.

The home defeat to Chelsea midweek wasn’t a surprise but I thought there were enough positives in that game to make me feel that we might just have enough to stay up again. If we do however, it will be because there are at least a dozen teams who are sufficiently lacking in quality to make the relegation struggle a contest. Watford, despite their relatively secure league position are one of those teams and this was a winnable game. For us not just winnable but one that we needed to win, Burnley being the next with anything gleaned from the Manchester United and Liverpool games a welcome bonus. I’m trying not to think about the effect that the African Cup of Nations and the fact we could lose players in the next window will have on the club with the visit of Stoke and a trip to the Hawthorns, early in 2017 other games we should be targetting. For now I’ll stay positive.

David Moyes didn’t have a lot to think about ahead of this game in terms of team selection with only thirteen fit, first team outfield players and Donald Love to choose from. Watford play a 3-4-3 formation similar to Chelsea but unlike in midweek Moyes decided not to go with the three centre back system and with John O’Shea rested, the personnel available meant that the team he put out yesterday was overloaded with predominantly attacking players. The good news was that Anichebe was back to add a bit of muscle to an otherwise lightweight midfield and forward line.

Watford on the other hand, physically resembled a pub team with a whole batch of top heavy, stocky, muscle bound players. Either that or they were wearing four shirts to fight the North East cold. Kone and Anichebe are pretty solid players but compared to Deeney, Zuniga and Ighalo they appeared svelte like.

Our record signing

With a flat back four, Denayer and Ndong were likely to be expected to do the bulk of the midfield defensive work, though Borini is tireless in his commitment and he and Big Vic covered the full backs whenever they could. Januzaj drifted behind Defoe, sometimes playing wide left and linking up with PvA, sometimes right with Love and Borini and looking more interested than he has in the past. He has undoubted ability and the way he can turn a man and hang onto the ball under pressure could be real assets as the season goes on.

So to the game. Unlike a fortnight ago I was in my seat with time to spare and ready for another immaculately observed silence to remember the players and supporters of the club who had passed away this year.

I can probably count on my fingers how many times we have attacked the North Stand end in the first half since the Stadium opened but we did so yesterday and forced a corner in the first minute when Kaboul tried to shepherd the ball out of play and instead nudged it over the line when under pressure from JD. He got a good reception from the home support and wasn’t jeered as some TV pundits would have us believe. I suppose “Kaboooooooul” might sound like “Booooooo” to the untrained ear. The corner was played short to Defoe and eventually he set up Djilobodji who could get no power on his header and the corner came to nothing.

Within a minute The Hornets had one of their own. It was cleverly worked with the ball sent straight to Amrabat, unmarked on the edge of the area. He crashed a volley straight towards the top right corner of Pickford’s goal and forcing the type of save which shows why he is being tipped as a future international.

The worrying thing for me, and I hope the coaching staff is the movement of our players at set pieces. We didn’t concede yesterday but watch the replays and see all the red and white shirts move away from the centre of the goal towards the ball, leaving one or two Watford players unmarked behind them. It would have only taken a slight flick at the near post to leave an opponent with a clear shot on goal.

Donald Love who did well when he replaced the injured Billy Jones on Wednesday was having another decent game and it was his touch which diverted a Deeney cross just enough to take it away from the foot of Ighalo who would surely have scored.

Just before the half hour mark, Denayer committed a foul a yard from the goal line and just outside the box. The ball found its way to the far post and with three Watford players queuing up it found the head of Britos, who found the head of Kaboul who showed why he was such a useful defender in red and white as his deflection sent it harmlessly wide of the post.

That said we had a few chances ourselves, the best falling to Anichebe whose powerful run down the left wing took him into the box, towards the near post where his side-footed shot was blocked by a covering defender as he attempted to curl it around Gomez into the far corner.

We had another when PvA received the ball in an offside position but the flag stayed down and he forced Gomez into a save at the near post just as the half time whistle was raised to Bobby Madeley’s lips.

Some lovely touches

We did what we had to do in the 2nd half. Denayer had been industrious all game and won the ball inside his own half and gave a short simple pass to Januzaj. The Kosovan/Albanian/Belgian turned his man beautifully and released a peach of a through ball to JD who looked up and found PvA on the edge of the six yard box. Van Aanholt was in the right place at the right time to swivel on a sixpence (look it up younger readers) and slot home what would prove to be the winner.

Despite my concern at our defensive co-ordination from set pieces the Djilibodji/Kone partnership is starting to repay the faith that Moyes has had in both players. It is rare that clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea ever sign duff players and both Jason Denayer and Papy Djilibodji are beginning to show the potential that made them attractive signings, even though both were loaned out and saw little first team action. Ndong on the other hand, did some excellent covering work and was winning the ball well in midfield only to let himself down by being caught in possession or by making a misplaced pass and giving the opposition the ball back. Fortunately Watford had players who could emulate him and we had more possession in the second half. Defoe had a decent long range effort that went wide then in a carbon copy of the move that had brought the goal Januzaj won the ball deep in our half, slipped his man and pushed forward before setting up Defoe. This time with no supporting player JD drove into the box but lost possession before he could trouble the keeper.

Sixer off the soapbox and on the sleigh today

Watford entered into the festive spirit as their subs warmed up looking a lot like Santa’s elves – that post match analogy care of Mr Sixsmith which he delivered complete with a Government elf warning as we trooped back to the car. Even at a game he is obsessing about his festive duties.

Despite my arthritic knees, I was on my feet to celebrate Victor Anichebe’s 62nd minute goal until I realised that it had flashed just wide. Januzaj on the right wing back heeled the ball to Love whose cross found the big man on the edge of the penalty area and from my seat in the East Stand it looked for all the world as if it was on target. Not to be but we were having the better of the second half and the crowd who had been a little subdued in the first period were in fine voice. Keep it up lads and lasses – it can only help the team.

There were a few more heart in mouth moments, I am never happy when two goals up never mind one and Pickford made a great save from an effort that was flagged offside before making two in quick succession as the clock ticked down.

Watford will probably feel they deserved a point but we just about edged it in my view. We have come away with nothing on plenty of occasions when we should have had something so it’s nice to get a battling three points.

For once we are not on the bottom at Christmas. Can we hope that we are out of the bottom three by F.A. Cup weekend? Well the Swansea result should teach us not to count our Christmas turkeys but we can hope.

Merry Christmas and Ha’way the Lads.

Moyes on the Boyes post-Watford: ‘Donald Love my man of the match’

Jake: ‘one nowt’

David Moyes‘s post-match messages may have become more impersonal – no ‘Dear Colin’s or ‘all the best’s, but we can live with that as long as the team is winning … the manager and Monsieur Salut differ on the identity of Sunderland’s man of the match in the 1-0 win against Watford (I chose Denayer at ESPN)

 

 

“Thankfully we’re back to winning ways with a massive victory, which we needed to get ourselves in a stronger position.

It was one of those games you look at and say you need to try to win it.

Today was always going to be tough because of the opposition. They’re strong, powerful and have some really good players in the team.

It wasn’t pretty, I would say that.

Donald [Love] was arguably our man of the match. I thought he and Victor [Anichebe] were excellent.

After coming into the team having been out, Donald played really well today, and good on the boy. He’s been out for a while and stuck with his training.

Hopefully he will continue to improve and we’ll have a player on our hands.

I don’t think we got up to speed in the first half, but in the second we looked more like it. Watford faded a little bit and we were able to capitalise on it.”