Another empty weekend unless you’re a groundhopper like Sixer or a local league fan like Malcolm, which means it’s time for a relegation review. With six games to go in a compressed framework and a holiday coming up this is probably the last one I’ll be able to fit in.
It has been a long and tedious season (as have been the last four apart from that trip to Wembley, only three years ago although it seems like a lifetime, those six wins in a row, a sequence of wins against Citeh and wins at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge *[see below]) and while some of our chosen teams have reached safety we haven’t and are still awaiting a conclusion.
And according to my calculations, as if you needed them, that conclusion isn’t good for us.
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
During the close season we gave readers the opportunity to select their relegation favourites from the entire Premier league. Then we asked readers to select three candidates from the eight clubs which came top.
By the season’s start some 3,500 votes had been cast in our relegation poll
Hull were firm favourites to go down, with Burnley and Sunderland giving the North a full house. Watford weren’t far behind Sunderland, then came ‘Boro, Bournemouth and West Brom, followed by one hundred votes for “another club”and finally Crystal Palace, whose 67 votes (we got three times as many to become third favourites) must surely mean safety for them.
It was June 12th when I first put up this season’s relegation poll and July 1st, when the transfer window opened, that I gave you the preliminary results.
Every Premiership club received some votes. Man Utd got thirteen. Spurs and Arsenal (last relegated in the year the Royal Flying Corps established its first airfield) both got ten. Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea received six each, as did Stoke. West Ham were the second best fancied team, with four votes, while Everton received only two votes and are thus deemed most likely to stay in the top division (something they have managed every year since the end of rationing) but not entirely safe.
Given such wishful thinking I had to do some winnowing so I chose 100 votes as the cut-off, which gave me a reasonable number of 8 clubs to watch, and you can see the results in the title above.
I’m getting a bit tired of the title (and Monsieur Salut should apologise to any reader lured here by thoughts it was a poll on religion; the word inexplicably replaced relegation in the headline when published and still appeared some time later at the newsnow.co.uk site) .
But just because we have some decent players, led by one of the Premier League’s most experienced managers and backed by a tremendous crowd, we can’t assume we’re safe.
Our record is not good. We’ve been one of the survivors for too many seasons and we can’t take anything for granted. Even now there will be some fans somewhere rubbing their hands as they look at the fixtures and thinking ‘Sunderland, that’s an easy three points’.
It feels a bit surreal talking about being safe with a game still to spare, writes Stephen Goldsmith. You always assume these things will be decided on a last gap win somewhere, or someone else being more rubbish than you, basically. So what on earth has happened here then?
We asked Tom Lynn, editor of the now extinct fanzine The Wearside Roar, to answer that very question. He was joined in the studio by Gary Foster from the Shields Gazette. I tend to give a little talk to our guests before the mics go live and generally encourage them to speak up and dive in where they feel like they have something to add. That isn’t required in the case of these two passionate and vocal Sunderland fans.
You know you’re doing well in the league when a victory away at Manchester United isn’t even discussed on the very next podcast! Remarkable. As it is, we’re too wrapped up in talking about the more recent West Brom game and the overall situation at the club at the moment. We also chat Swansea City with Matt Harrison from JackCast, an independent podcast on which our very own Gareth Barker made an appearance this week.
Make sure you subscribe on iTunes or listen by clicking below; have a voyage through the site while you do so.
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John McCormick writes: Some time in the sixties I can remember congratulating a group of Baggies in the Fulwell end after WBA had undergone a terrific cup run. Since then we’ve both experienced the highs and lows that come with supporting also-rans. Most recently we’ve been on the up and they’ve been yo-yos. Are circumstances changing once more? Back from The Hawthorns, Pete Sixsmith gives us his opinion:
I think it goes without saying that we all just KNEW that Q.P.R would have an appointment sorted in time for our game. But, at the old cliche goes, one game at a time n all that! let’s see how many go for the tactic of predicting Sunderland to win and Newcastle to lose this week.
It certainly would have bagged people points last week, adopting such methods. Dinner time kick off (not lunchtime as I’m Northern and working class) and the Sky cameras for the lads today. And it’s coooold. My toes are numb and spirits surprisingly high, despite watching the horror show that was Plains Farm Under 9’s losing to a far inferior opposition. Oops, I’m not allowed to speak like that in junior football, as it’s the sole reason England are crap at senior level. Apparently.
The predictions are:
Sunderland v West Brom
Bill:The Baggies have been playing above themselves and look rather like a square peg in a fourth place round hole. It can’t last. The Cats have a bit of momentum going, have rediscovered where the net is and should knock them off their Chelski-beating pedestal. There are half a dozen of our guys capable of scoring the goals. 3-1.
Colin: Wins back-to-back are not something we tend to do but if we want to be taken seriously, we must build on the Fulham result and show we can beat 11 men as well as 10. I’ll not be as bold as I’d like to by predicting goals galore for us, coming from midfield as well as Fletcher, and will suggest an edgy but just about deserved 1-0.
Goldy: If we hadn’t had grabbed that win at Fulham on Sunday, I’d be bricking it about this fixture. West Brom are having the season we were supposed to be having – keep an eye on Steve Clarke. I love a good theory based on law of averages, and that’s what I’m going on here. Only whipping boys and top four side are normally good/bad enough to break the wonderful concept of law of averages and I’m hoping we are above the whipping boys level. West Brom shouldn’t win two consecutive Premier League games away against mid table sides and we shouldn’t lose two at home. That’s my rationale. A nervous 1-0.
The rest: Jake 2-0. Malcolm 3-1. John Mac 2-1. Jeremy 2-1. Robert 1-1. Sixer 2-0.
Southampton v Newcastle
John Mac:Nufc’s lack of form continues and they struggle to contain Southampton’s attack. 1-1, with at least one red card
Robert: A draw against Swansea and a win against QPR will have Southampton
full of confidence. Newcastle will be short on confidence as results
haven’t been going their way and Cabaye just had surgery which will
rule him out for awhile. All that adds up to a 2-2 draw.
The rest: Jake 1-0. Malcolm 2-1. Bill 2-2. Jeremy 2-0. Colin 1-2. Sixer 2-1. Goldy 1-1.
Swansea v Liverpool
Jake: After Swansea’s great, nae, magnificent win against the enemy last week, they will keep up the good work and win 1-0.
Malcolm: You’ve picked another toughie here. Both sides are playing reasonably well but for the Scousers it will all depend upon whether Suarez fires or not. I’ll sit on the fence 1-1.
Jeremy: Liverpool are anything but predictable it seems. I do foresee and away win here at Rogers returns to his short lived stomping ground in the west of Wales. Two nout to the Scousers in this one. 0-2.
The rest: John Mac 1-1. Bill 2-1. Robert 2-3. Colin 2-1. Sizer 1-1. Goldy 1–1.
Suppose it had to happen really. A little fun being poked at Colin’s struggles resulted in him scoring in all three fixtures this weekend, including an exact prediction in the Wigan v West Brom game. Despite the potential amount of points on offer every single week in this format, the table has somehow remained fairly structured and consistent throughout. Colin flies up it this week, however, and Robert really does need to pull the proverbial finger out.
Jake and I continue to be neck and neck and seem to match each other point for point, while Sixer and Malcolm threaten to pull away from the rest of us. Sixer even opts for choosing the lads to win at Everton and still manages to leave most of us in his wake. If I took things like this to heart I would go for a lie down.
Newcastle continue to let us all down in every capacity, by losing home games against the likes of West Ham. Not that it was an unwelcome result, more that it is harmful to our collective point tallies in this feature. The North East’s big two are so unpredictable it makes you wonder whether you should always back them to do the opposite of what you feel they will. Well following my instincts certainly isn’t working.
Stephen Goldsmith writes: Enough of all this Man Utd v Arsenal and Liverpool v Man Utd nonsense, Wigan and West Brom will provide us with the third fixture to mull over this week. I actually think it’s an intriguing fixture. Seriously. West Brom have made an interesting appointment in Steve Clarke and I am genuinely interested as to how his managerial career is going to pan out. He’s worked for some big names – all with vast managerial methods it seems. Wigan are decent at home, however, and it could be a good yardstick for both teams.
Sunderland travel to the wonderful Goodison Park this weekend. I have seen us draw there at best and will never forget the Boxing Day massacre of 1999 – where a soon-to-be Sunderland bound Don Hutchison netted twice in a 5-0 rout. That game is a decent summation of our achievements in this particular fixture.
I have faith in this side, I really do. We are a top central midfielder away from being a very decent side and if Gardner, Colback or Larsson pull their finger out and take responsibility we have a chance against anyone.
Everton v Sunderland
Bill:I have little to base this on but blind faith in the probability theory – the one that says that sooner or later we’ll probably start playing better. We know the squad can do it, we’ve seen them do it and O’Neill desperately needs to get them doing it again. I don’t see us taking all three points at Goodison so, for once; a draw would be a decent result. Even better if Sess starts looking once more like the player we were all so afraid the Cats were going to lose. 2-2.
Colin: Since I am always wrong, bottom of the league and cannot even score sitters (e.g. Man U v Arsenal as a home win) I will be honest with us for a change instead of loyal and hope to be utterly wrong on both scoreline and winning team. Everton 2 SAFC 1
Jeremy:A home win comes as standard in Everton v Sunderland fixtures. No reason whatsoever to think that this one will be different even without Tim Cahill. 2-0 to the Toffees and more pressure on O’Neill.
The rest:Malcolm 3-0. Sixer 1-2. Robert 1-2. Goldy 2-2 Jake 2-0 John Mac 1-1.
Newcastle v West Ham
Sixer: How sweet would it be if Nolan levelled in the 82nd minute and Carroll headed the winner in the 93rd? It could happen! 1-2.
Robert:Newcastle still don’t look like a great side. On paper they’ve got quality all over the place but it doesn’t seem to have come together yet. And this week they’ll be without Coloccini in the middle so I expect West Ham to trouble them all day. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.
John Mac:NUFC lack ball winners/holders who hold midfield together and dour Sam-organised defence keeps them at bay for much of the game. 1-1.
The rest: Malcolm 2-0. Bill 2-1. Colin 1-2. Goldy 1-1 Jake 3-1 Jeremy 1-1.
Wigan v West Brom
Malcolm:The Martinez way is, I feel, beginning to click – at least enough to overcome the Baggies. The Midlanders may be a force to be reckoned with at The Hawthorns, but they’ll come unstuck up in the land of Uncle Joe’s mintballs. Latics 3 WBA 1.
Goldy:Since that little bit in my intro bigging this game up, I guess it’s only fair I comment on it. Wigan, rarely expected to finish above the bottom six, are very decent at home – while West Brom has had the kind of start we all hoped for here. They don’t always travel well though and I’m going for 2-1.
Jake:Can’t waffle – really don’t care 1-1
The rest:Bill 2-1. Sixer 1-2. Colin 1-3. Robert 1-1 Jeremy 2-1 John Mac 1-1.