Today’s reverse at Wolves was a flop, symptomatic of our away form. Now we are without Turner and Colback for the first few games of next season. I have not seen the goals yet, but the SAFC TV commentary team made the point that we have been lacking discipline, especially away from home, where the team has not kept its shape under pressure, and the players have been wound up too easily and got caught up in silly dramas which could have been avoided.
We could have ended up in 11th spot if we had scored at 1-1, but as Steve Bruce said, “the team who've played well at home certainly weren't the ones who played in the second half today. To be honest, the second half was pathetic. We were sloppy, we gave the ball away and we showed no real desire or hunger. We made stupid mistakes, had two players sent off and it turned into a horror show. I'm not happy finishing 13th. There was a great opportunity there for us and we should have had the hunger and desire to try to take it".
In my view, the Premiership prize per place money was not the only thing at stake, it was all about a top half finish to erase the memory of that horrible winless winter run. And I am sure that former Black Cats manager McCarthy enjoyed putting one over on us, with his improving Wolves side.
So for the season as a whole, the POSITIVES:
• Our form at the SSOL
• Performances against the top 6 teams
• Bringing on young players like Henderson, Campbell, Cattermole and Meyler
• Successful signings like Bent, Turner, Cattermole and Campbell
• Stability at the club, thanks to Niall Quinn and owner Short
• Attendances both home and away
• Building for the future – the players will improve, if well-coached
• Away form in general, 13 defeats, almost 2 goals per game conceded
• Our disciplinary record, 9 red cards, many unnecessary yellows
• Hutton may go back to Spurs
• Lack of motivation for the “nothing” games – they mean a lot to the supporters!
I enjoyed reading Brian Clough’s autobiography, in fact I posted to Roy Keane, with thanks, after I had finished it for the second time 18 months ago. One feature of Cloughie's winning teams at Derby and Forest was that the players never argued with the referee or niggled, they just played football. Sunderland should take a leaf out of that book next term. Referees rarely change their minds after protests by players.
Aside from looking at tactics in away games, something I have discussed at length, we should do an Allardyce and get the "Ologists" in. We certainly could benefit from the insights of a Sports Psychologist in trying to dig deeper into why a team so dominant at home has travelled so badly this season. Not to look back, bit to improve form for next year.
The best team performances for me – the 2-2 draw away at Old Trafford, and the 3-1 home win over Spurs, when we missed two penalties and had a good goal disallowed. The great thing about being a football fan is that there is always next season – and Sunderland can look forward to 2010-11 with genuine optimism! Bruce has his mainstays on board now and they can gel much better next year.
So the summer of transfer moves, rumours and shenanigans is about to start. And we will hopefully have a solid England performance at the World Cup to look forward to…Darren Bent to star?
©Lars J.S. Knutsen