A harsh reader would say Bob Chapman brings it on himself. A drive up from the Home Counties for the Villa game weould have been enough to put off most people but four days later, he was enduring more dross from the worst Sunderland team he has seen in 54 years of following the club home and away. If only the team could play football as well as the likes of Bob and Pete Sixsmith write, we’d be out of sight at the top of the Championship. But how both of them would love to be able to report on a day out with old friends, supping good ale and recalling bands from the 1960s and 70s, without having to describe how it was all spoilt by SAFC …
It was a long drive home last Tuesday after the Villa debacle.
Fortunately there was only one small diversion, a planned road closure on the A19 and I managed to crawl into bed at 2.30am. Needless to say I was still unable to sleep as I couldn’t get over the fact how poor we had been and that it had probably been the final nail in our coffin.
Whatever Chris Colman might say, he must know in his head that we are going to be relegated. He must talk to hundreds of fans who will have all told him that this is the worst Sunderland team that they can remember. It is certainly mine and I have been watching since 1964.
The table doesn’t lie and we have conceded 66 goals this season, almost two per game. We are lightweight up front without strikers who might make up for what we lack in defence.
QPR being a London fixture, this was a second successive Saturday with the day beginning in the Tavistock for breakfast and then the short journey into St Pancras.
We headed to Paddington to meet up with John Marshall at the Mad Bishop and Bear. This Fullers pub is definitely worth a visit and the beer is much more reliable than the train service provided by Great Western. John was late and then told us about the difficulty he had getting back to Bristol after the Millwall fixture. The sooner these rip off rail operators get nationalised the better I say!
From there we headed to the Swan on Bayswater Road opposite Hyde Park. Once again an excellent Fullers pub, an 18th century coaching inn with a variety of posters and prints depicting the free rock concerts that had taken place in the late 60s and early 70s.
There were pictures of the Stones, Blind Faith amongst others, but I was drawn to the one of Roger Waters, bass player of Pink Floyd. They played a concert that I attended in July 1970 where they performed in entirety the album Atom Heart Mother.
On the bill that day was the Edgar Broughton Band. I can still remember them performing a song called Out Demons Out. Always very political, Edgar is still playing these days. I don’t know whether he still performs the song, but if he does maybe he could dedicate it, no names mentioned, to some individual in Sunderland AFC.
Once again I couldn’t predict the starting line up, but there was no surprise that we had reverted to a back four. I thought there might be a chance that Max Stryjek could feature, having exhausted all options with goalkeepers.
Disappointingly for me. Steele found himself the choice for the day and it didn’t take more than four minutes for the first near-calamitous mistake. A Honeyman back pass necessitated a clearance. Steele in true John Kay-John Smith “hoy it” style hoyed the ball 50 feet into the air in his own penalty area. We managed to clear the ball while Steele berated any of his defenders within earshot. Classic case of a tradesman blaming his tools I thought.
Apart from that incident, neither keeper had been under any pressure and it was a typical Championship contest with nothing to show in terms of final product. We were forced to make a change when the inevitable injury to Williams occurred. Huff and puff ensued for the remainder of the half as we went in having, for once, not conceded early on or late on in the half.
The consensus at 45 minutes was that we hadn’t been under any serious pressure and that we should come out and try and win the game. That was soon shot to pieces!
Steele made his first error 3/4 minutes into the first half. He then repeated it at the same time in the second half. Coming from a punt up field he raced out of his goal, misjudged the bounce of the ball and handled outside of his area.
Straight red and thank you very much: League 1 now guaranteed!
The goalkeeping crisis is probably the biggest contributing factor to our sad demise. In a poor side, keepers invariably and unjustifiably take the blame. However in our case they are the major cause of our problems. If we had kept Vito Mannone we would probably be sitting mid table.
Asoro, our one bright spark was withdrawn for Camp. Having the numerical advantage, QPR applied pressure and their breakthrough goal came with 30 minutes to go, Eze slotting the ball in after making a surging run from outside the box which illustrated the pedestrian nature of both Cattermole and O’Shea these days.
We put up a spirited fight back in an attempt to get a point, but in reality we needed all three from this fixture.
Back at the Swan after the match, we discussed the results. For my sins I looked at the situation in Division 1 and the top of Division 2, trying to get a picture of what travelling away next season is going to be like. Let’s hope we have new owners by then, otherwise the rot will only just continue. Remember what happened to Northampton Town in those swinging sixties! Relegation from top to bottom in successive seasons.
As an afterthought I could never understand why a rock group would call themselves Blind Faith. Now I know.