Soapbox: Where do we go from here?

Soapbox

Unlike three-quarters of the crowd, Pete Sixsmith manages to stay to the end of the match with Bolton Wanderers, even if he spends a large part of the game with his eyes shut. As gloom envelops Wearside, he reflects on what is going wrong and what the future may hold for Sunderland….

I had plenty of time to think about this weeks Sixer’s Sevens, as I spent the last half hour of the game with my head retreating further and further into my coat and my body sliding further and further down my seat in reaction to the car crash taking place in front of me.

Without a doubt, it was the most embarrassing and humiliating afternoon I have spent there since Portsmouth did us by the same score three years ago and we came out of that one knowing that relegation was a certainty.

Any repeat of this fiasco in the next home game will write the club off yet again and will lead (in no particular order), to the manager leaving, the fans deserting the club yet again and the Irish investors looking for a quick way out, as the value of the Sunderland brand slips beneath that of Woolworths and MFI.

So, what has gone wrong? Clearly individual mistakes were made on Saturday which a quietly impressive Bolton side took easy advantage of. We can howl at Collins and Whitehead until we are blue in the face, but we need to pose deeper questions in our conversations on the web and in our bars and workplaces.

Sacking the manager is not an option – yet. It may not come to that and Roy Keane may well have the strength of character and the know-how to get us out of this disastrous and potentially fatal slump. I hope he does because I still believe that he has the potential to be a very good manager. This is the first serious problem he has had to face and hopefully he will grow stronger as a result of it. But, it has to be said, the problems are largely of his own making.

His interviews after the game were revealing. He seemed quite sanguine about things. There was no anger, no criticism and not much passion. You can look at this two ways:

1. He accepts it was a shocking performance, that he picked the wrong team and that there is no point in getting mad. Let’s learn and move on.

2. He accepts that he has done all he can and it is time to walk away before the situation is beyond recall.

Writing on Sunday afternoon, I’m not sure how all this is going to pan out. If he is going to walk away let him, but not before the board have lined up a successor. We need to have a replacement who can get us out of the bottom three.

Of course, by quitting when things aren’t going his way, he may well render himself unemployable in the game. Quitting because you don’t like the training facilities, or because you can’t motivate players you have brought into the club are not the signs of a man who is as strong as he thinks he is.

If he stays (and it has to be until we are safe or finished), there needs to be a long, hard think about the people we have brought into the club and who plays. Some of his decisions are bizarre. Gordon re-called after the press being told he was not ready. Ferdinand dropped, Chimbonda re-called and Bardsley switched to left back to disrupt a defence that (Chelsea apart) had done ok. Edwards brought back from loan and then left out of the squad for this game. Miller and Tainio on the bench, when they both do the same job. Diouf not used at half time when it was clear that we needed width.

On top of that, you can add decisions like splitting up Collins and Fedinand, Chimbonda openly angling for a move to Lyon, two forwards who seem to be as compatible as John Sergeant and the Strictly Come Dancing judges and a lack of width that confines us to a narrow stretch of the midfield. Not good, is it?

Compare us with Bolton, who are a team where the players clearly know what to do. It’s not pretty, but they know their roles and fill them instead of trying to be all things to all men. If Reid played for them, he would be told to get the ball down and pass it and not chase around all over the place, while the Gavin McCanns of this world (wasn’t he impressive!) do the tackling and covering. We have no-one like this and are so lightweight that we are easily pushed around by the bigger boys from the rougher areas who don’t think that they are as special and as precious as we do.

Let’s see what this week brings. Saturday was totally unacceptable and the strength of the management team and the players is now being well and truly tested. If Roy Keane is to succeed as a manger at Sunderland AFC this is the most crucial period of his time here.

Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

4 Responses to “Soapbox: Where do we go from here?” Subscribe

  1. malcolm December 1, 2008 at 12:25 am #

    Hmmm! I was at the rezzie’s game on Wednesday. So was Keane. His whole demeanour suggested someone who suffers from Seasonally Affected Disorder or just someone who is totally pissed off with life as it stands. He ignored the fans – his reserve team staff and Chimbonda when he came off – although El Hadj made him shake his hand when he was subbed. In fact the only time Keano got animated was when some cretinous railway worker on the embankment outside the ground said something challenging. Roy was more interested in having a go back, than at anything happening inside the ground. I wasn’t too bothered about the ongoing contract talks until now. But the sounds emanating from the club are changing. And questions are being asked – like where does Healy feature? How much is he on when he can’t even get a game at Dronfield midweek and after Chopra goes out on loan too? I am still behind Keane but won’t be surprised if we have a new man at the helm sometime in the near future. What odds Allardyce being in charge for the FA Cup third round? You read it hear first!

  2. Matt Forrest December 1, 2008 at 5:09 am #

    I accept much of what’s been said about the team selection and the performance in the Bolton match (and others!), but I’d like to point out that we aren’t in trouble as far as the table is concerned – yet.
    The mediocrity of most of the clubs in the league will give us until January before we’re really in trouble, or in a European spot!

  3. John Penman December 1, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    The grim reality is that 4 successive defeats at home suggests that all is not well at the SOL.We can’t bemoan the officials( although there wasn’t a lot wrong with the disallowed Jones goal on Saturday), bad luck or George Bush but we basically are not playing to our full or even part potential.
    Ironically as the knives sharpen around the manager one of the most galling things about this current side is the lack of a Roy Keane in the team.We are crying out for a man who can lift heads when they are about to fall, remind passengers that he is not happy with them and generally boss the team from the pitch.
    It is getting more difficult by the week to justify being patient with the current boss.The spineless and clueless displays and now far too frequent to be a dip in form.If ,as I suspect, he has lost the dressing room there is really little way back and he will be forced to quit.He will never be sacked by this board.
    Reading between the lines from his interviews over the weekend Keane is giving hints that a walkout may be on the cards.Sam Allerdyce would be my choice if that were to happen.

  4. Pete Sixsmith December 2, 2008 at 10:17 am #

    Some interesting information gleaned from the media in the last 18 hours;
    Eamon Dunphy, who was Keane’s ghostwriter, spoke on 5 Live last night. His view was that management was not for Keane and that he fully expected him to leave Sunderland sooner rather than later. He also indicated that the Drumaville Consortium was no longer in the ascendancy and that the US investor was calling all the shots.
    A piece by Louise Taylor in this mornings Guardian (Tuesday) makes a similar point and suggests that Keane had abruptly left a meeting with Short when his transfer policies were questioned.
    I believe that the three games after Old Trafford take on enormous significance for Keane, his coaching staff, the players and ultimately the club. A failure to pick up a significant number of points (I’m thinking of a minimum of 6) may well lead to Dunphy’s prediction coming to fruition.

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