Sunderland provided the ideal riposte to what was a traumatic week, with a great performance in an end-to-end game at Bloomfield Road. The Black Cats were looking to avenge the only defeat at the SSOL this season, that really weird game dominated by Sunderland, but won 2-0 by the Seasiders thanks to a brace by DJ Campbell; oh, the fascinations of football! The way things ended up on Saturday, an excellent away win by the Lads meant a consolidation of our top 6 position, where we lie 7 points ahead of Newc**tle in 7th spot. The world’s top league is such an unusual Premiership this season, with so many teams beating each other, that only the top 6 have won more games than they have lost, and Sunderland are comfortably in that category with 9 wins and 5 defeats so far. Some of the middling sides have improved, coinciding with slumps of form by traditional top 8 regulars Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa, and no team has been left behind at the bottom of the league..
The big question of course was how would the team cope without Darren Bent? The answer was, just fine, like we did in the tonking of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. What we needed was for the team to show great togetherness, which they did, and as a unit they were superb. Adversity can breed a warrior spirit, and a let's show them attitude. But what the supporters and club management wanted more than anything was for some of the best players to step forward and take the responsibility for scoring goals.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, a quote which may be a tad unfair to the team as a whole, but we all love goalscorers, and Kieran Richardson was the star in front of goal at Blackpool. His sublime first half brace was clinically taken. Kieran has been seen as a utility player, but what he really is is an excellent footballer, with some great goals to his credit. The ones that stick in my mind was last year’s free kick versus Newc**tle, and a superb early strike against Spurs at White Hart Lane early in the 2-1 win in 2008-9 under Roy Keane. Richardson knows where the goal is, and with Gyan showing excellent form, the void left by Bent and by Welbeck’s injury will be filled, even without a major signing such as Ricardo Fuller.
A word about Blackpool – they have been great this season, a real breath of fresh air, with their livewire, honest and quotable manager and their refreshing, have-a-go style of football. Any team that wins at Anfield, Sunderland and Newc**tle, while entertaining the fans, are worth their place in the Premiership in my book, and it is clear to all that Blackpool are where they are by merit. They have made some staggering buys in the lower leagues in England, showing Chelsea and Arsenal that it can be done. I was really impressed by Matt Phillips’ performance at the SSOL, where even as a 19-year old, costing just £325,000 from Wycombe, he dominated midfield and set up the second goal for DJ Campbell. Holloway has a great knowledge of the lower leagues.
So the Red and White Army sang “Who the f**k is Darren Bent?”, a fair question. He may be disloyal, but he is a fox in the box, he has that gift, which makes him an asset to Villa, as he showed on his debut. All Sunderland fans felt let down, and we have questioned his ethical values, as well as those of Villa and the agents involved. But in reality, it now feels so last week - roll on Chelsea on February 1st!
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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