December 30, 2010
Two 2-0 defeats in a couple of days – where does that leave Sunderland? The short answer is in 7th place on 27 points, but with a long injury list, and a surprising lack of form from the strikers, who have been collectively misfiring. No excuses from Steve Bruce, just some puzzlement from the manager about the fixture pile-up at this time of year (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/9325148.stm), which is understandable in the current injury crisis. Now there are new injuries to Onouha, Weleack and Gyan, aside from the 7 players listed as injured and suspended in my last blog 5 days ago. The only good news on the injury front has been the return of Titus Bramble during the Blackpool game and David Meyler to the midfield in the last 2 matches.
December 24, 2010
So a hard-fought win over Bolton has brought Sunderland to the heady heights of joint 5th in the table, level with Tottenham Hotspur. The win was down to some sound defending, especially after the loss of John Mensah in the first quarter, an excellent predatory goal from Welbeck, and an amazing save from Craig Gordon just before the break. A compelling first half then, followed in the second period by a lot of huffing and puffing from Bolton, from which they threatened without looking entirely convincing. So Sunderland held on for a very valuable 1-0 win and a ninth clean sheet of the season. Testimony again to the club’s resilience this season, the character of the manager and his staff, as well as a refusal to give in despite great adversity in the form of a long injury list.
December 18, 2010
The goalless deadlock last Saturday at Fulham did not really entertain the vast army of travelling fans, especially in the first half. So what can we take from this game? Further evidence of Sunderland’s resolve and determination not to be beaten is the main message. For example, a potential turning point in the game came when our born-again centre-back Ferdinand had to be substituted after a hamstring injury after just 10 minutes. Without a decent squad of adaptable defenders, this would have been another injury disaster for the Black Cats, but on Saturday Bruce’s strategy was to bring in El Mouhamady to take over at right back, and to move Nedum Onuoha to centre-back alongside John Mensah, aka The Rock. And the team did fight hard for another clean sheet.
December 10, 2010
I know that many supporters, as well as captain Lee Cattermole were saying this about the game at Wolves, but the clash with Fulham is one that Sunderland need to win if they are to show any potential for breaking into the top 6 of the Premiership. The defence did very well against an enterprising West Ham last weekend, and playing together in tough games will help the back five to gel. Steve Bruce, having broken his 6-year duck in London with that amazing destruction of Chelsea last time round, now will have been focusing on improving the communication along the back line, and this was evident in the latest clean sheet against the Hammers.
December 6, 2010
Chris Hughton's sacking is a complete disgrace. OK, traditionally Sunderland fans should be gloating, but personally I think it is good for the whole of the North East when Sunderland, Middlesborough, Newcastle and even Hartlepool and Darlington are doing well. So even though we obviously like to be above Newcastle in the Premiership table, and Sunderland are a bigger club, it is sad to see the Tyneside club in such a dysfunctional mess. OK, Chris Hughton is a quieter sort of guy, but he is articulate, does not kick doors down, he knows football inside out and is respected by the players. The Newcastle fans are in shock – it is clear he saved the club from possible oblivion last season. The club are mid-table, have some very good players, and this is sinister self-destructive behaviour - nobody in the media feel this is fair.
December 5, 2010
West Ham have for me been an enigma this season. They stick to their neat style of attacking football as ever, have one of the best driving midfielders in Scott Parker and his partners like Dyer, Boa Morte and Spector are hardly slouches. England regulars Robert Green and Matthew Upson also feature so on paper they should not be near the bottom of the table. Their problem has been more about getting into a run of defeats and losing their confidence, which until this week, Avram Grant has not been able to lift them out of. Their last two results were excellent, achieved in some style so they should have travelled in confident mood to a stadium where they have a good record. This Premier League is so close, and all teams have quality players, but whatever frame of mind the visitors came north in, Sunderland proceeded to dominate the first half. Steve Bruce had been quoted as saying We're playing with 3 strikers as they are all playing out of their skins. Plus, with the injuries to defenders we've got, I've decided attack is the best way to go against West Ham, so he opted to have Bent, Gyan and Welbeck bearing down on the West Ham defence.
December 3, 2010
The less said about Saturday’s defeat at Wolves, the better. The overall feeling from the fans and the club management was that the game was thrown away, and some of the defensive frailties seen during last season’s bad run came back to haunt us. The first half ended scoreless, despite some good chances at both ends. Zenden and a Richardson free kick that came back off the inside of the post were the best Sunderland goal attempts on a snowy surface. The Midland side had shots from Doyle, who fired over from 12 yards and a disallowed offside goal from Stearman to show for their efforts.