So a thoroughly miserable week for Sunderland fans, a poor performance in the defeat at Norwich on Monday night, where the stars we signed over the summer underperformed, and then the team received news of further disruption, with the suspension of centre-back, Titus Bramble. The reliable defender, one of the club’s most consistent performers last season, has been suspended while sex assault and drug possession allegations are investigated, following a night out in Yarm, Teeside. The club released the following statement: “Sunderland AFC has confirmed that Titus Bramble has been suspended from duties pending the outcome of a club investigation. The player will not attend team training or be available for selection for matches during this period.”
In the week when Tevez has apparently has refused to play after being asked to come on as a sub., one wonders why some players have a self-destructive streak. And to be honest, as a football fan and a long-term follower of the Black Cats I would rather be writing about what goes on on the field rather than off it. Football at the highest level is in danger of being seen as soap opera, when often agent-driven dramas are hitting the headlines, and the media are not slow at lapping all this up – it sells newspapers! We have had enough drama with the departure of Bent and Gyan in 2011.
We all make bad choices, but what was going through Bramble’s head if he did what he is accused of in the early hours of Wednesday morning? He has not yet been charged with an offence as Cleveland police continue to look into the events surrounding his arrest and has been bailed until Dec 5. Nevertheless, as the Telegraph reports, the seriousness of the allegations against him have forced Sunderland to take disciplinary action and, regardless of any further police action, he will not play again for the club until they have completed their own investigation.
Bramble went to the club’s training ground yesterday morning where he was given a severe dressing-down by Steve Bruce before he was informed of his suspension. The former Ipswich and Newcastle player was also tested for any trace of drugs in his system and the club will wait to discover the results of those tests before making a decision on the player’s long-term future at the club. Regardless of the outcome of the police investigation into the allegations, Bruce must feel personally let down by a player he brought to the club last year after the pair had worked well together at Wigan Athletic. Being at a nightclub before his arrest was inappropriate enough in itself as he had not shone in his team’s 2-1 defeat at Norwich on Monday night.
So back to the football; Sunderland players seemed oddly off-colour and possibly even intimidated on Monday night. OK, if we had taken our chances and shown greater tightness in defence, and more willingness going forward, the evening could have been different. Bendtner shot powerfully after 26 min., but he has not scored for 14 games in the Premiership. And the defenders were somehow absent when relatively straightforward goals by Barnett after 31 min and Morison after 48 min from piercing crosses gave the Canaries a 2-0 lead. Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won were brought on to add firepower, but it was Richardson’s superb left-foot strike that gave us hope, however with only a few minutes left, it was too little, too late.
So the Lads have not won for 9 years on a Monday night, and again Bruce needs to reshuffle the pack against West Brom with Bramble and Bardsley missing in defence. I hope we soon see a Michael Turner in dominant form, and re-discover the drive, movement, skill and commitment we showed in the 4-0 win against Stoke City.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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