As a scientist that explanation appeals to me. Before you stop reading, science is not all boring, and momentum is just a measure of the energy of a moving body, mass times velocity. To quote Gordon Strachan, when asked by a journalist for a quick word, he answered “velocity”! Top teams have that critical mass, and they are hard to stop once they are on the move. Although this is not an exact application of Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion, it somehow appeals. These top teams have high expectations, and the wherewithal to deliver.
In conversation a while back with my currently happy, Huddersfield Town-supporting friend Neil Horley, I had a moan about the number of what I then saw as “upstart” teams in the top league. I suppose those are teams which have never been close to winning the Championship in the highest division, or that have not won an FA Cup. So Blackpool belong in a way that Wigan don’t, Leeds should be up there, and Charlton, so often also-rans, and maybe “upstarts” did finish as runners-up in the 1930s. Sunderland definitely qualify as belonging in the world’s top league, with 6 League Championships, 5 runners-up spots and 2 FA Cup wins to their illustrious name.
I am contemplating this topic in the context of Sunderland’s up and down season, which was so promising up to late January. The team really looked like they were breaking in to the top 6, which in the Premiership is a real achievement. That 3-0 win at Chelsea was truly awesome. But they have been in free fall since January, and now find themselves in the bottom 7. Free fallin’, a nice tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i18nSZBgOfs - but not one we the fans want to sing along to. We were 6th on merit, how did this change happen?
Injuries have clearly played a part – the news that striker Frazier Campbell will miss much of next season is another shattering blow, and key club figures and consummate professionals Titus Bramble, John Mensah and Craig Gordon are out for the season. Every game seems to bring more bad news in terms of injuries. But the truth is, as pointed out often in this blog, the team is playing with shattered confidence, after so many morale-sapping defeats. We used to compete in games, and the last time the team really competed was against Spurs and Arsenal, which is why we are sitting uncomfortably on 38 points.
The only good news that came out of the weekend’s game against Birmingham was that The Lads played well. After being forced to field their youngest-ever starting XI in the Premier League - at an average age of 23 years and 311 days, the team performed, but were let down by defensive errors. No goals to report though, even though Sessegnon hit the woodwork.
It was annoying to see Kenwyne Jones score for Stoke at Wembley, when we just cannot find the net at the moment. So it is not surprising that the club is planning a complete review of all team affairs at the end of the season – see the excerpt form the Sunderland Echo below. There is something in the mentality of the club which somehow allows these bad runs to develop, when momentum is completely lost. It happened last season and there have been some very barren seasons in the Premiership in the past, with those appalling totals of 19 in 2003 and 15 as recently as 2006.
We are under new ownership, new management and the club has clearly moved on greatly, and I of course wish to club well in this important run-in. Steve Bruce is being professional and still aiming for the top 10, which really just requires a couple of wins and a rebirth of the confidence shown in the first half of the season.
From the Sunderland Echo: Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn says he will be investigating the club's dramatic slump following the turn of the year which leaves the club still in danger of dropping out of the Premier League.
Niall Quinn has been chairman of Sunderland since 2006. Sunderland have a six-point cushion to West Ham United in the final relegation place, but a run of seven defeats in eight games has left Black Cats fans fearing the worst.
Many point to the sale of Darren Bent to Aston Villa as the catalyst for the implosion, while others blame injury problems, and Quinn will be seeking answers.
Quinn told the Sunderland Echo: "Once we get through this, we will look back to see what might have been done differently, how we might have improved things. And of course in the summer, we will evaluate things such as the catastrophic injury problems we have had to contend with and look at our transfer policy collectively. Just like last season, we will sit down with Steve Bruce, take stock and work out together how we improve on this season and how we continue the building process to make us stronger and better in the following season.
I know that everyone inside the club, from top to bottom, is trying to do their very best to help things turn around again, and all that counts at the moment is that we concentrate on picking up points for our final few games. Everyone at the club is fully committed and focused on finishing as high up the Premier League table as we possibly can, and hopefully things will finally start going our way over the next few weeks.''
Bruce knows he needs to win over the fans again. He told the Daily Mirror: "It is important for me, my staff and my team to restore [the fans'] faith in us. It is when you are up against it you need a bit of support and we've had a tough time of late. Management is a test when you are up against it, but we can't feel sorry for yourself. You have to roll your sleeves up, get on with it and have a bit of hunger and fire in your belly to make sure that as an individual and a team you try everything to turn it around.
"Every club has a bad spell - even Chelsea and Arsenal have had one."
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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