Robert Chapman: 'ever the optimist'

Robert Chapman: ‘ever the optimist’

There seems consensus that Sunderland showed vast improvement at West Ham – they could hardly have been worse than a week before – but that the crowd saw two fairly poor teams, neither truly deserving to lose or, for that matter, win. Bob Chapman‘s ascent of Sixer’s Soapbox was a little more painful than usual – read on for medical news – as was his hobbling tour of east London landmarks beforehand. But he left the Boleyn head intact and predisposition to optimism unshaken …


With a debate raging
about whether some of our current squad are fit to wear the Sunderland shirt, I awoke on Saturday morning to a similar discussion with my wife.

I had had a painful ankle for the previous couple of days, which had got progressively worse; so painful in fact that I was unable to walk without a walking stick. The stick itself was a relic from my own playing days when “Big Jim” from Leighton Town put me in hospital overnight with a massive haematoma. It’s a big bruise really, but haematoma sounds better. Periodically, the walking stick appears at Sunderland matches, usually when I am struggling with gout, but the last time at Villa three years ago was because I had fallen out of the attic at home!

If this had been a Friday morning I would have phoned in sick, but with a 5.30pm kick off I knew I could get to the emergency walk-in doctor’s and let them look at my ankle. I have had gout repeatedly in both my toes and knuckles. Very painful, it’s like having sand grains in your joints, but I have never had it in an ankle.

My wife suggested that because of my age it might be a thrombosis and that I had all my priorities wrong by attempting to go to the match, half crippled. Any way I returned back from the doctor, who confirmed that it was gout once again and so in my mind I was fit enough to go.

With medication ingested and backed up with painkillers I set off an hour later without the stick for the short 40-minute trip into London. With the knowledge I couldn’t have a drink I decided to make a day of it and visit the Cutty Sark at the Naval Museum in Greenwich.

I had a nice couple of hours here which brought back memories of a visit I made with Sixer, Doug Bones and Ian Douglas, 35 years ago to the month for a Charlton match. We decided to take a Thames cruise to that match. We boarded a tiny boat at the Embankment. The skipper claimed the boat had been used in the D Day landings, but we were not so sure and felt he was just after a bigger tip. We alighted at Greenwich pier and the only Cutty Sark we visited was the pub of that name.

We won the match 4-0. Those were the days of 2nd Division success and I wondered whether that would be better than the constant struggle for survival these days.

With time to spare and the gout problem receding I travelled up to Stratford to the Olympic Park, to have a look at our opponents’ new ground. Unfortunately, just like the last, pre-Olympics time that I visited, it was a building site and you could view only from a distance.

I quite like West Ham, but have little respect for their current owners and managing director. Pity the treatment of poor old Sam, who could well end up at the SoL next season, and I asked myself who had financed this rather lavish move for them?

Jake modestly presents his new word: it is the generic totle for however many post-match emails we see from Dick*

Jake modestly presents his new word: it is the generic title for however many post-match emails we see from Dick*

I wandered into Upton Park wondering what changes the new manager would make after last week’s debacle. From the start he has my vote as there was no place for Bridcutt in the absence of Cattermole. In hindsight Poyet was too stubborn. He wanted to play a system and didn’t have the players good enough to work it. What he needed to do was play a system that suited the best attributes of his players. He also believed that the best Championship players can do it at the top level. Bridcutt is the classic example that the majority cannot.

Once we started the match it was interesting to see that we were essentially playing 4-4-2 with Wickham at the top of a midfield diamond and Larsson in the holding role. The first half was even with half chances falling to both sides. Lacking width we were playing on the break trying to get Defoe in behind their makeshift back four.

This seemed to be working well and led to an early volley from Wickham. However the best chance fell to Defoe himself, who should have done better than shooting just wide. If only we could get that opening first goal I thought. Still, it was good first half and we went in four goals better than last week, without anybody leaving the ground early!

Although we found ourselves under more pressure in the second half, the whole team were defending properly for once, in light of the manager’s observations of the players walking last week against Villa. Without a goal I kept looking at the clock, counting the minutes down and at the same time checking that all the players were still running. Didn’t spot a walking player once, which has to be progress.

However the pressure was building. Van Aarnholt had a decent shot from outside the box, which on another day may have gone in, but with the players on their last legs and with minutes to go Sakho scored. Everybody knew the game was up, but very few left and when the final whistle came the team were applauded off the field.

So, another defeat and no goals again. I left Upton Park disappointed, but hopeful that this will not be my last visit. On this display and the fact that nobody gained any ground on us over the weekend, I am my usual optimistic self and feel we will escape.

Connor Wickham was outstanding in this defeat and there were signs that he could rescue us again.
On to the next one. Never has a derby match carried so much on it. Let’s hope for another Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

* ‘They worked their socks off’: see what else Dick Advocaat – ‘sounds like a men’s rights lawyer,’ said one wit at Twitter – made of it at Advochaat: http://salutsunderland.com/category/advochaat/

Jake: 'better but not better enough'

Jake: ‘better but not better enough’

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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 “The Chapman Report from West Ham: disappointing finale but no one ‘walked’” Subscribe

  1. Geoff Mangan March 23, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    I was asked by my West Ham supporting friend who I attended the game with if this was an improvement. Obviously a ‘yes’ but I feel the real test will come at home where we have been so poor all season (this was my first away trip, so nothing to compare it with). The team certainly looked up for a game and wanted to win. 3 forwards and instructions to get the ball to them quickly with Defoe always looking to play of a defenders shoulder. To be fair, WH had a lot of the latter 20 mins especially when Fletch went off (coincidence?).
    Wickham did play well (well, better than he has done) but still only managed 1 shot. I don’t remember Fletch shooting on target (or off target). Defoe had more of the ball than every game he has played since he joined but I feel he still thinks he is as good as he used to be – but isn’t. He really should have scored.
    There are still some other weaknesses though – PVA made several promising runs but too easily lost the ball at the edge of the box. He really does look lightweight stuff.
    Actually, I felt O’Shea was our best player. He hardly lost a single header. Great leadership performance. Gomez is also a lightweight and I’m not totally sure how productive Rodwell was.
    So. Still a better performance and unlucky not to get the draw we deserved – but this was very much proof that below the top 6, the Premiership is not that wonderful. Dick certainly the right choice, I feel, but without a couple of Premiership quality players, it isn’t going to be easy. Catts will make a difference – at least psychologically – and release Seb forwards a bit more than Saturday.
    Johnson looked confident when he came on – he’ll need to be to face the grief he will be getting from away crowds.

    • William C March 23, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

      I agree with most of this Geoff. John O’Shea definitely our best player – has been most of the season.
      Slight improvement from Wickham, but he is light years from being a proper CF. Needs to improve first touch – he can trap a ball further than I can kick it.
      Defoe will score goals if he gets the right service. Misses more than he scores though – ask any Spurs fan.
      On what I’ve seen Rodwell is not a £10m player. I think we paid £7m too much.
      Vergini is a liability in any position. I cannot understand why GP bought him back – well, I can, given Poyet’s unbelievably poor judgement.

      Massive clear out needed in the summer, and we need to employ someone with the ability to spot potential.

      I think Advocaat has as good a chance to keep us in the PL as anyone. I was pleased to see him dump the tippy-tappy rubbish that Poyet tried to introduce [ few of our players have the technical ability to play that way – how could GP not see that? ]

      We need big performances weekly now from the likes of O’Shea, Larsson, Cattermole, Brown, Johnson and Pantilimon. We have too many lightweights for my money.

  2. smoggie March 23, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Your lucky not to have a game this weekend, gives Advocaat more time to undo some of the damage that’s been done and get them playing the way they should. Might still be too little too late and still a lot of gaps

  3. IanOklahoma March 24, 2015 at 3:06 am #

    I remember the match that Rob Chapman was remenising about,the trip up the river on that small boat,the guy told up it was used at Dunkirk not Normandy,Too much beer Rob,can you remenber the young Yank we kidnapped at the pub and took him to the match.I think the pub was The Gypsy Moth,not the Cutty Sark,,Too much beer Rob..lol…Enjoyable day out and a hell of a goal by Pop Robson!

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