Lars Knutsen was downbeat ahead of Chelsea and said so in a piece he submitted early on matchday but which no one among Salut! Sunderland‘s regiment of editors had time to post. Rather than rewrite the whole article in the light of the famous victory that followed, Lars tells us what he originally wrote, massages his own thoughts and shares his h*** that all is not lost after all …
I am the first to admit that I originally wrote this contribution on Saturday morning, and e-mailed it in to M Salut, aka Colin Randall. I was not expecting the win at Chelsea, and was resigned to relegation for our beloved club.
Happily, Colin was preoccupied with the game and, having experienced that excellent win, I was left with egg on my chin. Happily again, a Salut! Sunderland page Facebook message came in from Colin (“Haven’t had a chance yet, Lars.. Just tweak it and re-send if that makes it easier”) and I was off the hook. It could have been a “publish and be damned” scenario, with a later retraction from me.
The original started with: “The false dawn that prompted my last piece of Salut! writing (“Mid-table obscurity for Sunderland?”) has now been displaced by a level of dark despair among Sunderland fans. The team has seemingly lost its way, and the turnaround, which had previously been very positive, has now expired. In a way the midweek performance at the Etihad was a teaser, showing what the team could have done this season. Most Sunderland fans I speak with are resigned to relegation.”
And I continued: “Ahead of the clash against Chelsea, the Black Cats are winless in their last nine Premier League games, earning only two points, since beating Newcastle on February 1. They have scored only six times in those nine games. I must admit I loved seeing them ‘almost’ win against Man City and that was a morale booster, cementing Connor Wickham’s great potential, but the fact is that was another ‘must win’ game, and we did not hold on at the end.”
My tone picked up a little with the next paragraph: “We should not throw the towel in yet, but the club’s situation is not looking good. So this being written before the Chelsea clash, I have read the editor’s case for a win at Stamford Bridge, and yes, it may happen. I did not expect to see them win 3-0 there under Steve Bruce in November 3½ years ago – as Colin underlined, easily the best result of “Brucie’s” Sunderland reign. I use the term “Brucie” advisedly; it means the old Geordie whinger is moving towards “National Treasure” status, but that 3-0 result was terrific.
Anyway, now to my post-match comments – that 2-1 at Stamford Bridge win was an amazing result, one of the most stunning in the whole of the Premiership season, given Chelsea’s 77 home games since their last defeat. We have effectively, in the course of four days, handed the title to Liverpool.
For we, read Fabio Borini – he has surely had a few choice texts from his Merseyside teammates after that decisive penalty. But this was a great team performance, which Henderson and Mignolet will have appreciated.
I am a great believer in sports psychology, and it is clear that success breeds success, as we have seen with Liverpool in their recent amazing run which now looks highly likely to bring them the title. The downside is that a series of morale-sapping defeats can have totally the opposite effect, and two points in nine games told their own story for The Lads. That must have been like playing with sub-standard boots in cloying mud, and it is hard for any manager to lift a team that have been slipping and sliding to too many defeats.
But Gustavo Poyet has done his job with some verve, lifted The Lads after that terrible run, and the team have been a revelation in the last week. We have yet another “must-win game” coming up against Cardiff on Sunday. There will be a huge crowd at the Stadium of Light, where we have been undefeated in the cups this season, but have mustered only three wins in the league.
This is one of the games where a performance of passion, skill and intensity can again change the course of our season. A win can pull us out of the bottom three, and give us hope of avoiding day trips to Doncaster and Millwall next season. Sunderland fans can once again believe that a future in the Premiership is possible.
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