Regulars at Salut! Sunderland know the drill well enough.
We try as best we can to tell it how it is from the moment one match finishes until it seems right to suspend hostilities/stop gloating (usually the former, alas) and get behind the team for the next one. We try not to be, in the never-to-be forgotten words of one reader, a cauldron of negativity.
It is just as well Steve Bruce would probably never dream of reading a supporters’ site. But the other day he was complaining, again, about the pressure from fans and North-eastern media.
If he did read Salut! Sunderland, he would know he has been offered kindness, patience and understanding to an extent frankly unmerited by what he has achieved given all the money and time at his disposal. Plenty of level-headed readers think we’ve been utterly bonkers in our reluctance to jump on the Bruce Out bandwagon at the various signs that far from all being well, much is very unwell indeed.
For better or, as things look just now, for worse, I am stuck with the position I argued here two weeks ago.
A defeat at the Emirates, though enough taking account of previous offences to do for Peter Reid nine years ago, is not the test of Bruce’s managership I would apply. I remain committed to reaching my own conclusions after the three November games. That does not mean I think Ellis Short should be idle between now and then; I have also said that if a candidate, a really strong candidate, happened to be available at any time before then, Bruce should go for the greater good of Sunderland AFC. It is just that I fear rocking the boat without a rescuer in sight would make sinking inevitable.
However, Short must beyond question have a Plan B should it become clear after those next five games (and probably after the first two of them) that we going nowhere except the Championship.
Others, Pete Sixsmith included though he has been patient too, take a far more hard-headed view. Pete felt the starting line-up at Arsenal, with Sessegnon – not a recognised striker – alone up front, was right, but he felt so only because we have no options if Bendtner, merely on loan, is unavailable.
I share the disbelief of many supporters that this is the case and am not remotely convinced by Bruce’s defence on Radio Newcastle: that he “thought Sessegnon would cause them problems” and that for different reasons (Korean international exploits, raw youth), Ji and Wickham could not start. We have continually asked why Sunderland AFC should find itself so bereft of attacking strength, considering what we have let slip through our hands, and there has been no acceptable answer.
If Bruce’s remaining supporters or even waverers think that is harsh, they should consider the tone of most of the comments that appear here, never forgetting that Salut! Sunderland tends to attract rather more mature, sensible and even-handed readers than many forums. Confidence is ebbing away with each dismal result.
Mike Allcock, Ols to those who know him, posts here infrequently but has previously given consent for his views, as expressed at the Blackcat e-mail list, to be reproduced.
And this, brilliantly put but not for the squeamish, was his response to a fellow-subscriber’s question about the substitution of Larsson:
He took him off because he’d done his job. The whole of the second half was simply an attempt to waste as much time as possible in order to eke out a draw. As I (and several others) have mentioned before, some of us for well over a year now, what is really galling is the look of shock on Bruce’s face when the inevitable happens and the winner/equaliser goes in.
The whole thing makes absolutely no sense at all. Pygmy tribes in Papua New Guinea who haven’t had any contact with the rest of the world since 1752, drooling chavs somnolent from Temazepam shacked up in the YMCA opposite Mowbray Park, Republican senators, and Paul Daniels could predict what is likely to happen but it’s still a surprise to Bruce. And all of the former (well, OK, other than Paul Daniels) can predict when he’s going to bring Ji and Wickham on too.
If Ji and Wickham aren’t considered good enough to start against the poorest Arsenal side in the last 30 years, then they really shouldn’t be in the squad at all. And if they are then he needs to start one or both (if Bentdner is unavailable) of them. Taking off the two players who did make a difference (as he almost always has done) really just illustrates what a poor judge of the game he is.
I can’t knock him completely; if he hadn’t have signed Larsson and David Vaughan then we’d have no points at all this season and would be, in effect, relegated already. He’s beginning, seemingly, to get the message about Cattermole too. But the whole situation is simply incompetence papered over by Short’s money; he has taken what did work (wins or draws secured by last minute goals from Bent or Gyan last year), thrown it away due to a deluded belief that the difference was the manager (and not a bit of fortune and a couple of reasonably sharp forwards) and is now puzzled that it’s not working out. Oh and to boot he waits until we get our second home win of the year and has a go about the fans and the media being delusional.
Et tu, Brucie.
We are not anywhere near the depths of the McCarthy era – Mick, not Senator Joe – when one disgruntled SAFC supporter used win-lose-draw initials at a newspaper website to summarise his record as a Premier League manager of Sunderland:
But leave aside our disgraceful cup surrenders, and also – in fairness – a very good January in the league (three wins and a draw), and you get this:
In other words, just four wins since Feb 1. It is hardly disloyal to suggest that, in win-draw-lose language or any other, that is relegation form.
I cannot put it more bluntly than this: even my end-of-November deadline does not obscure the fact that Steve Bruce probably has no more than Bolton away and Villa at home to show that he can get his team to perform and win points. And for the record, I still want that to happen.