Pete Sixsmith’s season done, the baton is handed once again to Robert Chapman, ever present even though home games involve a 460-mile round trip. After the Swansea mess, he might have been forgiven for not bothering with the remaining away games, closer to home though they may be for him. He stuck to his principles and was pleasantly surprised at Arsenal, not by the predictable result but by the effort he witnessed from our side …
When we were finally relegated against Bournemouth the other week, my wife asked whether I would bother going to the remaining fixtures.
Even I, the eternal optimist, knew we were going to be relegated some time ago. I told her that as long as the team tried – by which I mean giving 100 per cent – I would carry on to the bitter end.
Driving back the 230 miles after Swansea at home last Saturday was hard work. It was an abject performance and I felt short-changed.
In my opinion a number of the team couldn’t be bothered and were just counting the days down to when they could jet off to their private villa or second home in Dubai. What many seem to forget, I thought, is that we – the supporters through the turnstiles or TV subscriptions – pay totally for their luxury lifestyle.
Being semi-retired I had planned to have a day out in London. The Hendrix/Handel House followed by the National Gallery seemed a good idea. However, on second thoughts I decided against it.
Why spoil a good day out by finishing it off with an expected big disappointment at the Emirates. Instead, I decided to spread some manure on my allotment, a much more appropriate activity for what I was expecting in the evening.
Muck spreading completed, I set off in the early afternoon.
With a couple of hours to spare before meeting up with Mick and Spena I decided to visit the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road.
It describes itself as a free destination for the incurably curious. I was intrigued by the exhibition entitled “Electricity: The Spark of Life”. A bit of spark or a walloping shock is what the Sunderland first team needs, I contemplated. Those in attendance last Saturday probably thought a bloody great big cattle prod was what was needed during half time!
After a couple of pints in the Betjeman Arms at St Pancras, it was off to the Emirates for my 10th visit. I didn’t know what to expect after Saturday, in terms of team selection.
To be honest I didn’t care who was playing so long as Cattermole was back in the side. Opinion is split on Cattermole, but at least you get 100 per cent effort and he is the real captain of this group of players.
If he had been fit for this season then we may still have got relegated but you can be sure we would have had more points than we currently have.
Fortunately, for once we got off to a decent start with Sanchez having a goal quite rightly disallowed for hand ball. If it had been allowed who knows what the final score may have been?
Almost immediately after this Borini made a strong run down the right and cut the ball back to Defoe whose shot was saved by Cech.
Pickford then made the first of many good saves. Despite being under pressure we were well organised and were getting in good positions on the break. Ndong and then Defoe had half chances which the keeper saved. Half time arrived to polite applause.
After the break Arsenal put us under increased pressure. It was no surprise when they finally took the lead.
We were still competing and playing well and heroics from Pickford were keeping us in with a chance.
However, class invariably pays off and Arsenal got their second and killed the game off. We battled hard right up to the end and I thought what might have been if Billy Jones had connected with a diving header and given us the opening goal.
The team left the field to justified applause. As a team they had given everything. I felt that I had got value for money and what a huge difference it had been to the dross served up last Saturday. May be David Moyes had used that cattle prod after all.