May 27, 2011
So Sunderland ended the season on a high with a 3-0 away win against an ultimately drab and dispirited West Ham side whose stand-in manager Kevin Keen said before the game that he wanted the role full-time. It was clear to me watching the game that the team, who had obviously bonded with Avram Grant, were in shock at the manner of his exit, so the vindictive behaviour of the owners and blame game against the manager did not exactly help the club. However, West Ham made a bright start with early efforts on target from Sears and Hitzelsberger before Sunderland went ahead from Zenden’s looping header from Elmohamady’s cross on 17 min. The Cats could finally name a striker and Asamoah Gyan went close several times with a shoot on sight policy.
May 19, 2011
Playing West Ham at Upton Park is never an easy prospect, as many teams have found to their cost over the years, and it is an interesting question on the subject of whether now being a relegated team will help or hinder their performance. It all really depends on whether the relationship between Avram Grant and the players was, or indeed is strong enough for them to feel the humiliation that he went through last week. PTSD would be quite understandable given the events at the JJB last week.
I fail to understand why the vindictive sacking of Grant took place at an away ground, especially after West Ham were 2-0 up against Wigan last week. That game could have gone either way, and had Robbie Keane been able since January to emulate any of the amazing form of Demba Ba, and showed any of the expert finishing he is known for, there could have been a very different end of season story in East London. But when your chairman and chief executive are perceived to have made their fortunes by exploiting women, one cannot exactly be looking to the board for moral guidance. And predictably, Soccernet is now reporting that Karen Brady is pinning all the blame on Grant - http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/921331/brady-pins-blame-on-grant-for-hammers-relegation?cc=5739 - to be honest, there is plenty of blame to go around, with so many underperforming stars this season. I recall all the blame for all West Ham's woes being dumped on Harry Rednapp when he departed the club - and things have turned out well for him!
May 14, 2011
Wolves put in a solid performance just when it was needed to give themselves a good chance of avoiding the drop against what must sound like a broken record, an injury-ravaged Sunderland team, who ultimately ended a season of home games with a whimper.
Ahead of the game Mick McCarthy chose to keep faith with Fletcher and Ward upfront, leaving fit-again striker Doyle on the bench, with former Sunderland target Hunt preferred to Jarvis, who scored in Wolves only away win this year, 1-0 at Villa. The Black Cats gave a rare start to Christian Riveros, who would have been expected to feature in more games following his great World Cup with Paraguay in 2009.
Sunderland’s subs bench of Carson, Knott, R. Noble, Lynch, Adams, Laing and Cook had a weird look, how many of those players did fans know about at the start of the season? Manager Bruce had said to the media that only 12 senior players have been fit to train this week.
May 10, 2011
So like a Phoenix rising from the ashes the Sunderland team stood up, and were counted on to put in a manful and at times stylish performance against Bolton for a stunning win at the Reebok. This looked at the start like a severely compromised Black Cats line-up, with just 12 first-teamers available from the large squad, but the Lads managed to draw deep on resources of pride, assurance and self-belief that had completely abandoned them against Fulham, to ultimately outplay and outsmart a Bolton team who were on a good home run. As Peter Reid once remarked, goals change games, and a win always feels good, especially when unexpected, but the story on the pitch was certainly different from my expectations and those of most other fans…and 4-5000 made the trip to Lancashire.
May 7, 2011
To be honest, this week I felt unmotivated to write about the unmitigated catastrophe that was Sunderland’s home game against the Cottagers on April 30. I feel like writing this update in the third person rather than the usual “us” and “we” report, so disconnected was the fan base to this performance, judging by the mass walkout from the SSOL at the end of the game – we can only take so much. I know that we have a injury list from “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Friday the 13th” with bodies lined up in the treatment room rather than the morgue, and there will be an inquiry held by the CEO downwards at the club to find out went wrong this season, but this performance was unacceptable. There were two firsts in this game, Fulham’s first away win of 2011 and a first club goal from Kakuta in the 33rd minute after he was allowed to waltz through the home defence.