We cannot guarantee these will be the very last words – Salut! Sunderland clings to democratic values – but, speaking for himself, Monsieur Salut proposes to post no more items dealing purely with the St Mary’s Massacre. We need to move on. But just in time, Peter Lynn pops up with a mixed bag of thoughts …
Southampton 18/10/14 – The Positives: just don’t mention the score!
Having begun, after three days, to recover from witnessing the debacle at St Mary’s, I can see some positives arising from the ashes.
Firstly, our fans. Well, 2,547 of them. They were magnificent, most staying to the end, to join in – as Southampton fans did too – a splendid rendition of “If Sunderland score, we’re on the pitch” and more importantly to applaud the players who made the effort (I counted nine- Ed) to walk across to the away section after that merciful final whistle.
The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that figure of 2,547. Yes, I feel I cannot include the young man two rows in front of me who, at kick off, when politely asked to sit down (there was nobody stood in front of him) so that the person behind could sit so that I could see, seated, responded “F— Off”. Lovely. Thankfully, the Southampton stewards, aided by the police, eventually got everyone seated. Nor could I include another young man who, when a contrite and sheepish Mannone came closest to us away fans after the game, proceeded to make onanistic gesticulations towards him. Even here I can see a positive. They are both young and may yet improve their social skills.
Secondly, the players have agreed to underwrite a refund. I personally disagree with this as I think it sets a dangerous precedent and I felt entertained by what I saw. So, I will not seek a refund, but am pleased that a worthy cause will benefit. I can also see that their gesture may help the players in their bid for “closure” to move on from the event.
Thirdly, following on from Gus Poyet’s humble after-game interview in which he said “he had learnt things about his players”, I would like to put forward a few observations.
Wickham is not a left winger – Johnson is. Is Wickham being played there to “keep him sweet” so he signs a new contract? Why is Johnson, our most creative player, with the most assists, not being fully utilised? Is he not fit enough for 90 minutes?
Bridcutt is not a right back – surely we have one in the Academy who could go on the bench as sub.
Watmore looks every bit as good as Buckley as an attacking winger. As such neither need defend, which Buckley clearly cannot do.
In the team that finished Saturday’s game, we fielded four Championship players: Bridcutt, Buckley, Gomez and Wickham (the bulk of his career with us). It is too much to hope that they can all step up on the same day.
O’Shea was a good player surrounded by outstanding ones at Man Utd. He has improved, especially his distribution, under Poyet, but is now surrounded by either ordinary or improving (?) players.
Larsson is another who Gus has got much more from. I used to be one of his harshest critics but can see it. I do not understand the “fans” booing him when he was substituted. The score at that time was (only) 0-3!
Cattermole is the most obvious beneficiary of Poyet’s man management skills. He should not have been booked by Marriner for a comic book challenge. To make matters worse, he should have booked Bridcutt for the first of his two cynical body checks not just the second. Furthermore, he did not give the blatant penalty for the foul on Fletcher by Forster which might have been 2-1 AND versus 10 men for the bulk of the game. See what I mean about positives, another few sentences and I will have us winning the game!
Much has been said about the players giving up on Saturday. I didn’t sense that and can think of far worse displays in very recent times – Norwich away and West Ham home last season to mention just two. I don’t think they gave up. More worryingly, I think that, collectively, they may simply not be good enough.
While worrying/being pragmatic, I recall that we fell apart in similar fashion in Gus’s first game in charge, only one year ago, 0-4 v Swansea away, when you would expect the players to be on top form in order to impress their new boss. Equally, it was only April 29 2013 when we were thrashed 6-1 by Villa!
So, for all the talk of a tighter defence in recent times, I think there is a fragility lying close below the surface. By way of illustrating this, if you were there, think back to the recent Stoke home victory. Did you feel comfortable until the final whistle blew?
When the September 2-2 home draw with Spurs ended, I said I felt we had played our “get out of jail free” card as we had been torn apart ceaselessly without being destroyed.
So, where do we go from here? I still think Gus is a good manager even though his selections sometimes puzzle me. As mentioned above, Johnson’s exclusion is mystifying. Will he be another Cabral figure? I am told that v Fulham in our first game of last season he (Cabral) was outstanding, never to feature again. Did he shoot Ellis Short’s dog? With our midfield in tatters at half time on Saturday and our only “enforcer” compromised by his yellow card, would not Cabral for Cattermole have worked better than Bridcutt for Brown? Was Brown injured? And why did he play a weakened side v Hull in the FA Cup?
Seriously, Gus has made many more selections which seemed puzzling to me that have proven successful than he has ones that did not succeed. That’s why he is a manager and I am not.
I will be there on Saturday praying for a miracle but hoping for a spirited draw.
* Will Wrinkly Pete’s prayer be answered? Guess the Score and win, in you are first to be right, two Sunderland (or Arsenal if you’re a Gooner) mugs, a result of the kind sponsorship of Personalised Football Gifts, and a box of After Eight mints, sponsored not by Nestlé but by our own Pete Sixsmith … https://safc.blog/2014/10/after-eight-a-mint-sunderland-vs-arsenal-edition-of-guess-the-score/
Still time to vote for Salut! Sunderland in the Football Blogging Awards: see https://safc.blog/2014/09/football-blogging-awards-make-your-yes-vote-count-for-salut-sunderland/for details