Wrinkly Pete: sing your heart out for SAFC, but know our limitations

Peter Lynn: Ol' Blue eyes is back
Peter Lynn: Ol’ Blue eyes is back

“I did it my way” by Gus Poyet

Peter Lynn writes: I’m not actually listening to Frank Sinatra while writing this but I guess that just about everyone knows the lyrics and I would like to suggest that Gus’s mantra for football management (or is it coaching?) not only embraces most of them but that he is absolutely right to continue to insist on doing it his way.

Let me explain.

He was chosen to save our team from relegation and did so.

He achieved this by being very pragmatic and choosing to play a “possession” game, reasoning that if we had the ball the other side couldn’t score and we would at the minimum get one point for the 0-0 draw which ensued. Of course, from the position we were in at the time of his appointment he knew that would be insufficient but probably reasoned that if the defeats stopped then the players would have more confidence and perhaps get breakaway goals that would give us enough wins and therefore sufficient points to stop up. That is exactly what happened.

So, why would he change the system that worked last season? He has many of the same squad of players and the new ones brought in during the summer have either failed or been injured, or both!

Now, I am not suggesting for one moment that I particularly enjoy watching our present style of play and certainly don’t like seeing my team lose but I think an honest appraisal of our current players rather than contemplating replacing the manager/coach would explain why we are (continually?) in a relegation fight.

Mannone A good keeper who lost confidence and rightly was replaced.

Don Vito Mannone: once a hero,
Don Vito Mannone: once a hero, by no means a zero

Pantilimon A good keeper who looks better at dealing with crosses than Mannone.

Jones. Not enough games played, through injury, for me to make a judgement.
Van Aanholt Looked really good after shaky start. Has restarted shakily despite his cup goal.
Brown. When he is error free he is superb. Unfortunately I think his body has aged faster than his football brain so gets caught out too often.
Reveillere A great find. When fit again I should like to see him play in his preferred position of right back instead of Jones.
O’Shea Like Brown, at his best you are reminded why he had such a long and successful career at Man Utd. Fortunately, under Poyet, he is at his best much more frequently than under all three of his previous Sunderland managers – coincidence?
Vergini Has done his best out of position at right back. I worry about his always wanting to dribble the ball. He will get found out at this level.
Coates A reminder of the risk of using the loan system. For every Alonso you will get four of these. If he was good why would Liverpool let him go?
Roberge I (and everyone else?) have seen too little of him to make a judgement.
Rodwell What a disappointment (so far). Has not reproduced his Everton form, for whatever reason, maybe injury? I am hoping his time with us is like Johnson’s, who had a similarly disappointing start.
Gomez. Well, post Liverpool home, he has really taken some stick and rightly so but all is not lost as you will see from my summary. (skip there now if you are bored!)
Buckley Sadly, his pace is not matched defensively by awareness but he could improve. Personally, I feel sympathy with what is now expected of “wingers” defensively but Johnson has learnt to do it – he didn’t do it when he first joined us.
Larsson I used to dread seeing his name on the team sheet – too slow, caught in possession, poor passing choice when we broke, not covering back, guilty of poorly judged tackles that cost penalties against us, waving his arms too much. Now, the only one of those he still does is the last. Under Poyet he is showing why Sweden choose him all the time.
Johnson Another changed player under Poyet. He now does exactly what is asked of him in the modern “winger” role. My only regret is that this means he cannot be further upfield more often where he can do real damage.
Giaccherini An almost perfect replacement for Sessegnon, accompanied by all the same frustrations, and regrettably, much more easily brushed aside. I believe that a better side than us could accommodate him, we cannot.
Bridcutt I was pleased when he finally arrived as I had lost patience with Cattermole and saw him as a like for like replacement. I haven’t seen enough of him to make up my mind if he can close the gap that I presently see between them. Saturday’s red card was, I think, more naive than Cattermolesque. (could that be an entry for the New Oxford dictionary?)

Jake: 'Lee Cattermole - now pleasing the crowd, pleasing the pundits'
Jake: ‘Lee Cattermole – now pleasing the crowd, pleasing the pundits’

Cattermole When he is playing I still often have my heart in my mouth but when he is not playing we lack energy, heart and pace. I have changed my previous opinion of him and now always want to see the new “Catts” – inspiring the Black Cats.
Mavrias I have only seen him play once and that was in an FA cup game so I don’t really have an opinion.
Alvaraz The couple of times I have seen him play he has looked as if he could create us and cost us goals in equal measure. I therefore think, like Giaccherini, he is a luxury our team cannot afford.
Cabral. I have written about him before and nothing has changed except that he has been on the bench and still not been used on occasions which to me cried out for him to do so. I can only conclude that he is unemployable for some reason which we will probably never know.
El Hadji Ba Exactly as with Mavrias, so I really have no opinion.
Fletcher When fit, I think he does a very good job for us and is head and shoulders above the other three strikers. Unfortunately, I think his susceptibility to back injury is known and thus he is now targeted by opposition players.
Wickham I would like to think that he can prove to be of Premier League quality but at present, even when played in his preferred position, there are only glimpses of that required quality.
Altidore The complete enigma. He can do it in the Dutch league and for the USA but he has proven that for us (and Hull before us) he cannot make it in the Premier League. On a personal level I feel so sorry for him because he really gives everything for us when on the pitch.
Graham Will we ever know? It could be that by the time you read this he will have moved on, either on loan or permanently. If he had been afforded the game time that Altidore had, could he at least have reproduced his Swansea form?

If you made it this far, thank you. Now I will give you my opinion on

What is wrong with this club?”,

“Why does Poyet come out with these statements?” and

How can we beat Newcastle away and yet lose to Hull at home?”

For me it is quite clear but you might not like reading it any more than I like writing it:

The players are just not good enough

Individually, some of them are but football is a team game and I regret that collectively we lack the individual quality in sufficient numbers to ensure success consistently.

Consequently, you get outstanding team performances like Newcastle away followed by dross against Hull at home. It explains why you get rubbish in the first half of the Liverpool home game followed by a complete contrast in the second half – with only 10 men.

There is nothing “wrong” with our club. It simply cannot attract enough of the very best players, due to the lack of funds or the (inaccurate) view that the North East is unattractive to live in. (Just read what Vergini has recently written at safc.com).

I think Poyet has done a remarkable job considering the situation he inherited and the players he has since been provided with. I suspect that he is unhappy with either the lack of acquisitions or the quality of some of them which would explain some of his statements.

Some team performances would totally explain other statements – like “some players are taking a long time to learn the basics of how I want to play”. How many people in their working careers as managers in other fields have not felt exactly the same – and said it? I certainly have. As to whether or not football managers should say it in public or “keep it in the dressing room” is a moot point. Personally, I think it is perfectly acceptable assuming it has already been said separately and given the parlous state our league position is putting the club in. By this I mean that with the unwelcome (I deliberately don’t say unthinkable; we must think about it and then we, yes us supporters too, might be able to do something about it) relegation would inevitably come financial restraints way beyond what Gus is presently enduring. We could then find ourselves “with something wrong at our club”.

In conclusion, here is what each part of the club can do

The Chairman: You employed Gus and therefore considered him the best possible option for the club. He has not changed so back him.

The Players: Football is a simple game to play, made up equally of ability, effort and mentality. The difficulty is combining all of those at the highest level all of the time. That is why you are so highly rewarded. You only have brief careers – don’t look back with regret that you didn’t try hard enough – especially at this wonderful club.

The Fans: Sing your hearts out for The Lads.

Wrinkly Pete says: Sing your heart out for the lads
Wrinkly Pete says: Sing your heart out for the lads

Wrinkly Pete

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8 thoughts on “Wrinkly Pete: sing your heart out for SAFC, but know our limitations”

  1. I think we’re going backwards and the players look confused . Why does it take a calamity for us to wake up ? Two down against Citeh , a player and a goal down against Liverpool . When we take the lead ,against Hull for example we don’t know what to do , to stick or twist and we come unstuck , we nearly came unstuck against Leeds . This is down to bad organisation from the head coach which turns into bad decision making from the players . I think the squads underperforming to be honest and the clock is ticking on Gus’ time here . I hope we turn a corner .

  2. I feel we will be safe. Poyet is learning a new game. The Premiership. He will grasp it eventually. Do not force him out. He is learning.

    • Rob

      Sadly, I fear that he is NOT learning, and that is the problem.

      It was crystal clear by the end of last season that GP’s tactics did not work. with 5/6 games to go we were nailed on certainties for the drop.

      We then had the ” miracle ” which, IMO had nothing to do with Poyet. In fact, if you recall, he stopped messing about with the team, and our experienced players, O’Shea, Brown, Cattermole, and Larsson [ with a notable contribution from Mannone ] hauled us to safety.

      I believe that Poyet was about to walk prior to that miraculous run of results, and I also believe that he was a very lucky manager to generally be credited with bringing about the change in fortune.

      The reason that I don’t think he is learning is that he has gone straight back to his previous ” philosophy ” of play, which unsurprisingly, is as ineffective this season as it was last.

      An additional problem is the fact that he has failed to replace players that left [ Borini, Ki, Alonso, Colback, Bardsley ] with some as good.

  3. Pete
    Sorry but I simply cannot agree that Poyet is getting the best out of the players available. As a group they are better than 6 or 7 other teams in the league and I am not sure that will will finish above those 6 or 7. As an example, our squad is much better than Burnley’s but they try to win games rather than hold out for a draw.
    Rodwell has looked decent to me in his last few games but Gomez, who is not even half decent, has been picked far too often ahead of him.
    My biggest criticism is that he is way too negative and is not prepared to risk losing in order to win. 3 points for a win means that it is worth the risk. Lose 1, win 1 draw 1 is better than 3 draws but he doesn’t appreciate that. Liverpool can’t defend yet we didn’t have a shot on target and I cannot agree that our second half performance was good. It was better but better than abysmal is not saying much.
    Poyet has done a lot right but also a huge amount wrong. I don’t think anyone would pretend that our great escape was magical management, rather than an awful lot of luck. If he is prepared to change and try to actually win then maybe he can turn into a good manager but I have my doubts. I think he is too stubborn and convinced he is right.

  4. If the “‘North East’ is unattractive to live in” how have our neighbours 12 miles or so to the north attracted half decent players in the past? Or is it that Sunderland is so much colder than N******le. Is THAT what Mr Balotelli was trying to say on Saturday, that the weather in Sunderland fair freezes your (butt) off? Or maybe it’s that we’ve always been rather stingy with wages?

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