West Brom Soapbox: where on earth do we go from here?

Was yesterday the day we all finally lost patience? What is Ellis Short thinking now about the return on his hefty investment? Why in heaven’s name did we even think of letting Darren Bent go without having another striker lined up? How have good or expensive players suddenly become so clueless? Pete Sixsmith picks his way through the rubble of another disaster …

I once worked for a headteacher who, when things went wrong, would call meetings and ask us all to have a good look at ourselves and sort things out. Morale deteriorated, good teachers did things badly because the motivation wasn’t there and it looked like we would fail a forthcoming OFSTED inspection.

Then he left under a cloud and things got better.

A simple story, most of which is true and something which many people may think applies to Sunderland AFC and Steve Bruce this morning.

I steeled myself to watch MOTD last night and it looked awful. All three goals were avoidable, with poor defending for the first and non-existent challenges from midfield for the other two.

But what worried me more was the demeanour of the manager. Here was a man who looked more than shocked by what he had witnessed. He looked as if he did not have a clue about what to do.

Plenty of people who paid good money to watch this fiasco on Saturday would agree with him; we were awful. The defence was all over the place and previously reliable players like Turner and Onuoha looked like Steve Hetzke and Bernt Haas on a bad day.

Turner had a real stinker. He was taken apart by the excellent Odemwingie, persistently failing to get to the ball first. His distribution was atrocious and his body language suggested that he did not want to play. He is a player I like and I awaited his return, confident in the expectation that he would tighten up the back four. Got that one wrong, didn’t I!!

The four in midfield created very little. Richardson had a good twenty minutes until his knock – although his booking should be met with a large fine for stupidity – and Cattermole was excellent for 44 minutes.

He tried to get us going. His tackling was crisp, he closed down space and apart from one wasteful pass, he managed to find a red and white shirt with a regularity not always associated with him.

But once he was booked, his game fell apart as he knew that one more mistimed lunge and he would be off. As a result, what control we had in midfield disappeared as the other three were about as effective as a trio of Greek, Irish and Portugese bankers.

I had called for the restoration of Malbranque, Elmohamady and Zenden after last weeks humiliation. My wishes were answered, but those who doubted the effectiveness of these three were proved right and I was wrong. Each one of them showed exactly why they should not be playing – timid, no imagination, no punch. Can you ever see one of our midfield players scoring? I can’t.

Problem is, the forwards aren’t either. Welbeck looked as he had done in September – lacking in confidence and out of his depth, while Gyan worked hard but it is misguided effort as a succession of poor balls are thrown in his general direction.

Compare him with Odemwingie, who pulled Turner all over the place and then received a pass, to his feet, from the impressive trio of Brunt, Mulumba and Scharner.
Not only that, he had the presence of mind to take advantage of our inability to deal with a bouncing ball in the area to equalise. In our team, Odemwingie would be watching the ball sail over his head.

Albion are a good side. Man for man they could not compare with the names on the Sunderland team, but they made up for it with a pattern that Roy Hodgson has imposed on them. It’s dead simple. Win the ball, pass it to a player in the same colour shirt as you and keep on doing that. They are very well organised and are as safe as any team can be in this congested bottom half.

Where do we go from here? I don’t know and I suspect that Bruce and Black don’t either. Talk of “battening down the hatches” and “working on the training ground until we get our shape back” indicates that they are struggling.

Niall Quinn and Ellis Short must be extremely worried. This club cannot stand another relegation and that is becoming a distinct possibility. They need to look carefully at Bruce’s body language, gauge the mood of the players and, if a change at the top is necessary before the end of the season, make it. Jeremy Peace at West Brom did and it has worked for them.

Birmingham City next week, followed by Wigan Athletic; we need six points from those two, four as an absolute minimum. Do we stick with this management team for them? My view is “Yes” but it would not surprise me if there was a change. And, should we survive, it is likely that the club will be looking for a new manager for 2001-12.

How on earth has it come to this?

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18 thoughts on “West Brom Soapbox: where on earth do we go from here?”

  1. Michael.

    Who is the winger in the Alan Johnston mould that you would sign? Do you have a left back in the Mickey Gray mould that we could put him in tandem with as well?

    As for Pa’chenko and Bendtner I think the last thing we need is another couple of strikers that can’t score.

  2. At least Michael comes up with some thoughtful comments . It would be ridiculous to sack the manager with 6 games left !
    I can’t inderstand this lack of confidence excuse – from the manager down , they are professionals and rewarded very well for their work . It’s not rocket science , its bloody football – when you have the ball , pass it to on of our players and score some goals ; when you dont have the ball , get behind the ball , pressure the opposition , and win it back .
    First half WBA were no great shakes at all , we gifted them a stupid goal , with no one making a challenge in the box . Richardson looked very good , Catts was playing well , harrying and tackling , and Malbranque was beating players easily , as is his wont . Losing Richardson was a big blow , as was Cattermoles booking which renedered him impotent for the rest of the game . 2nd half obviously WBA changed their tact – well done to Hodgson , who is a very good manager – and we retreated as far back as we could everytime a WBA player ran at us .
    The supporters throughout were fantastic – right through to the final 5 minutes , when we were pushing for an equaliser (which Welbeck should have scored ) We need to keep up this level of support for the manager and the team until the end of the season – then sort things out in the summer

  3. Baggie here in peace.
    please do not underestimate the quality of our side. I may remind you that before we went on a disastrous run we were in the top 4. Not saying we have the players to merit being that high…but it is not just because of Hodgsons influence but a combination of that and having players of quality. Most of the team you faced are internationals or ex internationals.
    Carson=England
    Shorey= ex England
    Meite=Ivory Coast
    Olssen= Sweden
    Reid=Ireland
    Scharner=Austria
    Brunt=N Ireland
    Morrisson= Scotland
    Mulumbu= Congo
    Odemwingie= Nigeria.

    Infact….the only player that we started with that is not an international is Cox. Fortune is carp but even Tamas who came on plays for Romania

    We have beaten Arsenal and Liverpool and should have beat Man U. We are no mugs and are on a great run right now wheras you guys are in a slump. It has happened to most teams in this division…its just that you guys are getting yours at the worst possible time. I think (and hope) you will survive and get to sort things our for next season. Selling Bent was a huge mistake and I hope you recover from it. Boing boing.

  4. I personally wouldn’t criticise the players too heavily, I have a certain amount of sympathy for players like Malbranque, who played well at the start of the season, was dropped and is then brought back in to save us when the replacements are found wanting. It was almost as if Bruce thought, ‘These players did well at the start of the season, I’ll throw them back in and hope it pays off.’ Except now they’re short of full match sharpness and the malaise at the club appears ingrained throughout the squad. When Richardson was on the pitch the majority of the first 45 was played in WBA’s half, their midfield appeared worried about Richardson running beyond them and held just in front of the back four. Richardson got injured and Bruce brought Zenden on, consequently we started to sit just in front of our back 4, Scharner found himself in acres of space and exploited it. Bruce then proceeded to watch us capitulate, again, before bringing on Sessegnon for an injured Ferdinand. What was he going to do if Ferdinand hadn’t been injured, would he have used another sub? Bruce is out of ideas, and as soon as the going gets tough our team go into hiding, this behaviour comes from the manager. Nice of him to blame the defence, maybe if the midfield and forwards held onto the ball for more than a few seconds, and relieved some pressure, they might be able to hold out. That statement from the manager smacked of someone looking for a scapegoat, can’t imagine it won him many admirers in the dressing room.

  5. This certainly is not what I expected with six games left.But it has been a funny season all round in the EPL so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I feel sorry for Bruce , he has had a lot of bad luck with long term injuries to key players such as Welebeck Campbell, Cattermole ,Meyler and Turner. Add to this that Menasah can never stay helathy for more than five minutes. If a Welbeck and Campbell had remained fit it could well have been a different story. The main thing was losing Bent , we just did not have enough time to replace him. Imagine if Bent had stayed and the rest and been fit, signing Sessengon and Muntari would have been the luxury additions to to the squad who could have been given time to bed in. Bruce could also have blooded Knott and Noble . Football however is seldom straightforward especially in Sunderland’s case . I am sure we will avoid relegation and hope that the manger sorts out the wheat form the chaff for next season. Perosnally I would get rid of Angeleri, Riveros, Mensah , Steed and Zenden. I listen to a sensible offers for Gordon and Ferdinand. Buy Onuha and Welbeck if possible, sign Muntari NZogbia and Paveluchenko or maybe Bendtner.I would also,like to see us get a winger in the Alan Johnson mould.

  6. Kable
    if you’d heard Gary Bennett yesterday, you’d have seen he must be coming round to your way of thinking. He sounded as critical of what was being served up as any paying supporter, and the groans were audible even when Nick Barnes was the one speaking.

  7. Great article. Sadly I have had enough of the false promises. We need Martin O’neil in now and I hope Ellis Short and Niall implement this ASAP otherwise I will not be giving of my support any longer.

  8. Having lived in the Midlands for thirty years Pete I know only too well that irony and the North East sense of humour is lost on the people of Leicestershire and South Derbyshire.

    Brummies are no different!

  9. The Baggies fans need to think carefully before knee jerking. The names in our team are far “better” than theirs – Gyan, Welbeck, Zenden, Mensah, but they don’t do it. I was actually complimenting West Brom on having the team ethic that we have lost.
    Maybe its time to ignore any opponents from the Midlands – they don’t seem to have any sense of irony.

  10. Steve Bruce has campaigned long and hard for a mid season break this season, his pioneering work has been there for all to see over the last eight games. He also presided over a mid season break last season and apparently, the previous year at Wigan.
    He needs reminding that, as yet there is no mid season break in the Premier League – yesterday was truly appalling.

  11. Here we go again, experiencing the same capitulation as we did last season. SB did what most wanted to see and changed the team only for the ones to come in to let us all down. The players lacked heart almost as though they couldn’t be bothered, Zenden you have had your day you are no longer good enough! I would seriously think about whether to sign Elmo as he has produced very little and lacks spirit. I wouldn’t bother with Muntari as he has showed nothing either. So where do we go from here? to be honest I think we have to persist, but SB needs to show his strength as a manager and get the players back under control. This is no time for weakness and some of the players need to be brought down a peg or to, poor Jordan seems to be the scapegoat yet he gives 100% for the cause and yes he may be a bit jaded, probably because he had to cover more ground because of the slackers! It’s such a shame we all have to suffer this again, but all one can do is keep faith as always. How I wish I could address the players!!

  12. Last Monday evening Gary Bennett argued with me that this was the best Sunderland side ever with more quality in all positions across the park. I was ridiculed and almost accused of being delusional. Not perfect by any means but all I can say is bring back Peter Reid’s team!
    Anyone witnessing that shambles yesterday cannot be left in any doubt that this manager is grossly incompetent. He puts out teams, call it what you will, devoid of shape or pattern, no commitment (unlike pre-Christmas so what’s changed?), no attacking ideas, defensively inept and to top it all he’s still bleating about injuries.
    Further he has been given an unprecedented amount of transfer funds and his dealings in the transfer market are iffy at best.
    The World Class manager you promised us Mr. Quinn, I think not. Don’t let this man drag you down with him. Time for “Bruce the Excuse” to go.

  13. Apologies if anyone’s comment is delayed – first time posters’ replies are subject to moderation (anti-spam). But all-comers welcome, within reason, and I do unblock them as quickly as I’m able.

  14. Relagation fodder, are you jocking, have you seen whats below you.I dont think you will go down.But you was totally out played in the 2 games we played you, so to hear you say that man for man you have a better team than us makes me laugh.
    On another note i think you will survive an d you need 4 points out your last six games. hope you do it.Hoping Villa, Wolves and Wigan go down but ithink Wigan Wolves and Blackpool will go down.
    Boing Boing no more yo yoing

  15. “Man for man they could not compare with the names on the Sunderland team”

    really? are you saying that brunt / odemwingie / scharner / mulumbu / olssen / thomas to name a few wouldn’t get into
    a insipid sunderland side?

    don’t kid yourself mate, your team can also be considered to
    be canon fodder these days. you’re lucky that you had a relatively
    good start to the season (which we did also) or you would be
    right in the mire with everyone else.

    i still think sunderland have enough about them to achieve
    safety soon, but this season is unique in the fact that no-one
    in the bottom 10 or 12 can consider themselves safe by any
    means.

  16. I agree with all of the above but bruce seems like a dead man walking.he in my opininon has lost the dressing room for whatever reason and at present are relagation fodder. Nail and the owner have some hard thinking to do over bruce.he is payed to get results and if he can,t then he must go before its too late.

  17. This article sadly mirrors my thoughts. I instinctively baulk at the knee jerk reaction of ‘sack the manager’, however, yesterday was truly awful. Bruce has been backed beyond the wildest dreams of most SAFC managers yet quite patently lacks the managerial skills of Moyes, Coyle & obviously Hodgson. I think that Short has sent out an unequivocal message that his minimum expectation from this season is a top ten finish. Failure to secure that (which sadly I now expect) will I think justifiably see the axe fall. That said I think it would take Bruce to acknowledge he had failed and resign to bring this about as Quinn seems to have aligned himself too closely to the manager to sack him.

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