Sunderland shook off the recent weather…well, no we didn’t, and produced possibly the worst opening half hour I've seen to effectively surrender the game and make Stoke look like Barcelona.
Despite it being officially transfer madness time, nowt much has happened – at Sunderland or anywhere. We’ve had the Defoe situation rumbling on, but the reality of it is that West Ham made and offer and we said no. Elsewhere, Lens wants to stay at his new club permanently and would rather we went down to make that happen (let’s hope he was misquoted) as we don’t want the dead wood plus £1,000 they’ve offered us, Allardyce liked PVA so Palace must want to buy him, and some French team may or may not want Januzaj. Apart from some of the media touting possible loans from other Premier League sides when we’ve already taken our permitted maximum (they’re not that bright, are they?), that’s about it, really.
It was very sad to hear of Graham Taylor’s passing, as it always is when we lose a proper football person. His England tenure might have attracted some of the most puerile media attention (that’s you, The Sun) and he might have given debuts to some players who should never have been near the national squad – which manager hasn’t? – but his win % for the Three Lions was virtually identical to that of Bobby Robson and Terry Venables at around 48%. Anyone who was at Sunderland v Watford at the end of the ’82-’83 season, when they effectively fielded four wingers in a 100mph game that ended 2-2 (Atkins 10, James 34, Blissett 3, 88) will remember the sort of football his sides were capable of (they finished 2nd that season), and anybody who says that he wanted to remain in football simply to hear the sound of a ball being kicked was in the game for the right reasons.
In more local news, last weekend’s game between Shields and Morpeth in the FA Vase was abandoned with eight minutes remaining and Morpeth 4-2 up. We’re interested because Hooolio was playing for Shields, but he’d been uncharacteristically sent off – some sources have suggested that he, not fancying a bath, had pulled the fuse out and thus blown the floodlights. To add insult to injury, he was available for the replayed game (at Morpeth) which Shields won 4-0. As there are more SAFC supporters from Shields and more mags from Morpeth, we’ll claim that one as a moral victory over the barcodes. Also fairly local was my mate Glen going to the panto at Bishop Town Hall and bumping into Monty (oh yes he did – I’ve seen the photo). It turns out that our favourite keeper’s granddaughter is in the cast.
Just when we were thinking that we had no new injuries to worry our pretty little heads about, in came the news that Pienaar (shame) and Big Vic (Big shame, very big shame) would miss today’s game. Ah well… without Vic and Watmore, we have precious help for Defoe.
Love O'Shea Papy PVA
Seb Januzaj Boirini
Kicking South, we hardly had a touch in the opening minutes, and when we did it was usually to give the ball to a Stoke player. Borini and Larsson were particularly ineffective out wide, and it was a disappointment if not a surprise when Stoke went ahead. Manonne saved the initial effort but could do nothing about the follow-up, and it wasn't long before Stoke put away the second. The third was just – well, get Vito a stepladder, as he allowed Crouch (you know, the git tall feller) to win a header above his hands and the ball looped into the net. When we did create a chance, with five minutes of the half to go, Defoe latched onto a through ball and ran into the box in the inside right channel before firing it in off the left hand post. That's all we need to , Lads, get the ball to Jermain and he'll do the business.
Two added minutes were no use to us. Neither was whatever Moyes said at half time, as, despite upping our game a bit (it would have been virtually impossible to do otherwise) and at least making the visiting defence work a bit. Borini had a shot saved at the near post when cutting in from the right, then Seb fired well over before we won a corner. Stoke, by now strolling around (apart from Adam, doing his usual niggly stuff, and the number three who just pretended to be hurt) put a free kick off target. As we passed the hour, we were expecting some fresh legs, but the only ones we saw belonged to Januzaj as he shamefully jumped out of a tackle in the box.
That was about it, really. No subs, no change of pace, no extra passion, and several players looking like they'd rather be doing anything but play football for Sunderland. Even the five added minutes brought noting but frustration. Mike Dean, no friend of us, had another fussy afternoon but had no influence on the overall outcome. I'll still moan about him, though
Man of the Match? Probably one of my Christmas jelly babies again, although O'Shea (despite being at the heart of a defence that let in three) wasn't really that bad. Denayer's passing contributed to our downfall, and PVA had one of his worst outings for us. Larrsson and Borini contributed very little of a positive nature, although Rodders tried hard – all of which left Defoe largely isolated.
A very bad day at the office
Keep the Faith
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