als home






visit those nice people at ready to go


These are worrying times for everyone involved at Sunderland AFC. Following confident pre-season predictions of a top six finish, we now find ourselves way off the pace and closer to a relegation spot than to a treasured European place. That some fans are thinking about the drop to the Nationwide after considerable pre-season optimism defies belief.

Our performance against Arsenal at the SoL gave us an injection of badly needed enthusiasm. It embodied everything that Sunderland have become renowned for under Peter Reid. However, the abject display at Filbert Street a week later reminded Sunderland fans just how much work needs to be done if we are to fulfil our expectations of being a top six side.

A quick glance at the letters page of The Football Echo, Sunday Sun and other local publications, and the messageboards on the numerous Sunderland websites, shows that the tide of opinion is changing at a markedly faster pace than at any other time during Reid’s tenure. The main complaint has been the lack of transfer activity since the sale of Hutchison and Rae, and with little evidence of the club’s non-spending policy changing any time soon, the voice of discontent is set to grow and grow.

One reason for fans’ frustration is the continued absence of our two biggest signings of the summer, Nicolas Medina and Lilian Laslandes. One of the worrying trends of late is the fact that, when things haven’t been working in games, the manager has been unable, or unwilling, to change things around. Medina and Laslandes seem ideal candidates for this role, which would certainly help them ease into the ‘pace’ of the Premiership.

With Laslandes, the story is murky. Rumours that he has had a fall-out with Reid were followed by deafening silence from the club. Hopefully, any differences will be swiftly resolved, and we look forward to seeing Laslandes back in the first team. As for the debut of Medina, we wait with baited breath.

In better news, it was a surprise and a pleasure to see Kevin Phillips finally back in the international fold. After what seems like a lifetime of snubs from Sven Goran Eriksson, it was fantastic to watch SuperKev starting the match against Sweden. Phillips had a fair game, showing some good touches and making some dangerous runs without getting any clear cut chances. If only Niall Quinn was English.

Speaking of Irishmen, S&C would like to extend our warmest welcome to Jason McAteer who has been a valuable recent addition to our right hand side. Being introduced into a struggling side is never easy, yet McAteer has weighed in with some encouraging early performances, and we wish him all the very best for his Sunderland career. At £1m he looks a snip.

So, with a third of the season already gone, we find ourselves staring up the league enviously. The next five games will shape our season and decide whether we will be fighting for Europe, heading for mid-table or plunging into a relegation scrap. With this in mind, it is imperative for us to get behind the lads, as we always do. However, the club must be careful not to take our support for granted – there are only so many results like the one at Filbert Street we can take.

Circle of chance

When interviewed after Sunderland lost at Middlesbrough, Peter Reid mentioned in that a win would have seen the team rise to sixth in the Premiership, pointing out the thin line between success and failure, relatively speaking. In saying this, he overlooked the fact that at no time in the 90 minutes did we appear to look like, or indeed deserve, to win the match. Middlesbrough were poor, but the fact that Sunderland couldn’t even construct a good chance with a man advantage said it all.

For just about the first time since we got back into the Premiership, the fans turned against the team on an away ground. Some of the play, especially the set pieces and crosses, was pathetic. It was, to be frank, rubbish. But, as the manager said in the interview, the players gave their all. This only served to further heat up the simmering discontent on Wearside. Discontent not really aimed at the players, but at the manager.

There is a problem with this though. The national media cannot see what the rest of us can. But we, as Sunderland fans, cannot get the current predicament into the national spotlight at all. Any fan, and there have been many, who get onto the Radio 5 606 Phone-in, You’re On Sky Sports or wherever, and tries to express dissatisfaction at the manager is without fail told to stop moaning and look at what Peter Reid has done for the club. This excuse has worn thin. We are definitely going backwards.

In the last two seasons Sunderland have finished 7th in the league and we should (not could) have finished higher on both occasions. Are we going to finish seventh or higher this season? No way, we’re getting worse, and anyone who needs further evidence needs only to look at this: Man Utd, Arsenal, Leeds, Liverpool, Chelsea, Villa, Spurs. They’ll all finish above Sunderland. Whisper it quietly, but you can probably add Newcastle to that list as well.

Where the manager has got it way wrong is in midfield. That is where the quality is in the other teams, and it is where Sunderland have zero productivity at the moment. Selling Hutchison was always going to be a hard decision, but replacing him has proved beyond the manager’s capabilities. Reid sold Alex Rae at around the same time, a time when he was most people’s idea of the short-term deputy for Hutchison’s position.

Arca is playing poorly at the moment, possibly brought on by the discontent at seeing his Argentine U20 team mate, Nic Medina, banished to the reserves when the midfield needs all the creative input it can get. The form of Gavin McCann, the same lad who pulled on an England shirt not eight months ago, is alarmingly poor too. Schwarz is too slow and doesn’t contribute enough, whilst the contributions of Kilbane and Thirlwell are laughable, if laudable.

Does Reid strengthen this weak midfield? No. Whilst he has the brass neck to warn off West Brom for undercutting the Danny Dichio transfer fee by a couple of hundred thousand, Reid continues to offer peanuts for quality players such as Trevor Sinclair. Jason McAteer has made a fair start as a much needed right-winger, two months after we could of easily signed him in the first place. This situation reminds me very much of the ’96-97 season when Chris Waddle nearly kept us up on his own after signing in March. The fact Reid could of signed him for £75,000 (large price for Premier League survival eh?) at the start of the season appeared to be missed.

Peter Reid is doing a grand job if you believe the national media, but I for one feel he is in grave danger of undoing what he has done for us.

Keith Watson
back to the S&C archive menu


s&c issue 26

The S&C Archives















All material ©copyright ALS Publications and may not be reused without permission
ALS Publications exists to provide a platform for all Sunderland supporters to voice their opinion
As such, views expressed are those of individual contributors and do not represent those of the editors