Jamie Redknapp’s bits-and-bobs column in the Mail made depressing reading. ‘Will they (Newcastle) send Sunderland closer to the drop next week? … At Chelsea, PDC went for Wickham to lead the line – a young player I like – and he played well. But I worry where their goals are coming from.’ But there is hope. Robert Chapman is a home-and-away stalwart and left Stamford Bridge feeling a little perkier. Let’s hope his assessment proves truer than Young Redknapp’s and that PDC’s powers of motivation, and his own home tutorial skills with Young David, prevail …
Watching Match of the Day after the recent Man Utd defeat, when Gary Lineker uttered these words, “and now some breaking news”, I had an idea what was coming. However who could have predicted the furore that erupted over the next seven days?
I spent much of last week trying to encourage my nephew David, down from Heysham, to knuckle down and get on with some GCSE revision. My wife concentrated on the arts and English and I did science and maths. We both came to the same conclusion, as with Sunderland, that he is on a downward slide and that something drastic needs to be done.
Just like Sunderland, being able to concentrate for any length of time was proving tremendously difficult. Consequently we sought solace in the internet. He has been contacting his mates informing them of the boot camp regime being imposed by his auntie and uncle; I, meanwhile, have just been catching up on the latest news.
Obviously everyone has an opinion on the appointment and like many I find myself between a rock and a hard place. However, the sheer hypocrisy of some of the comments made me laugh, perhaps the most blatant being from that famous West ham pornographer, David Sullivan.
This man stating that Di Canio is totally unsuitable to manage his club, yet throughout last season his image was used by Sullivan to advertise tickets for home matches.
With all Sunderland news concentrating on one thing it was invigorating to read John McCormick’s 1973 Craic.
Like John I hitchhiked to Hillsborough without a ticket and managed to get in with five minutes to spare. It was good to see a post from Kev S who took the train from Stockton without a ticket. He and I went to university together and shared a house.Kev is based in Birmingham now but I still catch up with him a few times each season and I should imagine he will be pleased that MoN has been moved on. We often disagree about players. For my sins I always liked Kieran Richardson, but Kev begged to differ. However we are both of the opinion that April 7 1973 at Hillsborough stands as our greatest game (neither of us was able to get a ticket for the final).
Until I read the article I hadn’t realised that the match was played on April 7 1973 which was also my parents’ wedding anniversary and, 17 years later, the date my own marriage.
April 7, then, has great importance for me, a date associated with only good things. Having taken my wife to her first football match against Norwich only recently, she wasn’t keen on repeating the experience. The highlight for her, and I am inclined to agree, was seeing Delia!
So I set off on my own, on our 23rd wedding anniversary in the knowledge that we would probably get beaten but in the hope I would see some improvement in the team performance. I am quite superstitious and, as the season had been a disaster, decided a change of routine was needed. Out went the trainers and on went the shoes. Leather jacket back on, ski jacket off. Different route on the Tube. The Eight Bells at Putney Bridge rather than The White Horse at Parsons Green. No programme. Am I going mad or is this the price you pay for being a Sunderland supporter?
I arrived at Stamford Bridge early. With no programme purchased I watched the warm up and awaited the team news.
Because of the size of our squad there were no major surprises apart from Danny Graham. Correct me if I am wrong but I didn’t see him during the warm up and I am sure he didn’t appear at half time with the other subs. In addition I didn’t see him on the line during the match.
Is he injured or has he fallen out already with the new manager? (PDC has mentioned an injury – ed) Whatever, the decision to play Wickham is clearly the best option. From the start he caused problems and with the team pressing and closing down further up field the majority of the play was in the Chelsea half.
Early on Sessegnon found himself in on goal and shot into the side netting rather than passing to Wickham who would have scored. I looked at my watch after our third attempt on goal only to find 10 minutes had gone- surely a record for the season.
Later in the half Sessegnon broke down the left and then set up Johnson who decided to hit it early with his preferred left foot. It deflected off David Louis for a corner, when a better option would have been to take it another couple of yards and drive it across the keeper with his right foot. Still, this was promising stuff with Sunderland attacking the European Champions with conviction and causing them problems.
We gained the lead deservedly on the stroke of half time. A Johnson corner was headed on by O’Shea and Azpilicueta sliced it into the net. This was the least we deserved, although we were a little fortunate in having 11 players still on the pitch as Craig Gardner could quite easily have been sent off for a foul on Demba Ba.
Half time arrived and numerous programme sellers appeared. I resisted; the matchday changes I had implemented along with Paolo’s changes were having an effect. I watched the subs instead and was heartened that they were being put through a proper training routine rather than just having a kick about. Progress.
However this was quite clearly a match of two halves. With Ba injured by Gardner, Fernando Torres replaced him with immediate effect. His strong run down the wing enabled Oscar to get a shot on goal which deflected off Kilgallon and trickled into the net. Having gained the equaliser Chelsea soon took the lead with another fortunate effort. This time David Luiz had managed to get forward and shoot towards the goal. His shot took a deflection off Ivanovic, completely flatfooting Mignolet, and flew into the opposite side of the goal.
From then on Chelsea did enough to control the game and gain the win. However on this first showing under Di Canio, there was enough to suggest that we have a realistic chance of getting out of this mess.
Purely on the football front a lot has been said that Di Canio lacks experience at this level. The same could be said about Roy Keane when he took over. I think the most important factor is whether the players have respect for and faith in the manager. From what I saw at Chelsea I believe he has won the squad over already. Sadly for MoN I think he had probably lost the squad and was just hoping to muddle through and make changes in the summer.
With any luck we have turned a corner now. I am not so sure about my nephew. Sadly for him, as he doesn’t know it yet (he will now if he reads Uncle Bob’s report – ed), he is coming back down to his auntie and uncle for “extra training” during his Whitsun break.