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pre wba news...
transfers/injuries

David Moyes has been a little bit more positive and forthcoming about our transfer window possibilities than he was earlier in the week. He said: “We’re trying, we’re looking around to see what we can get. There are some that we are trying but not quite getting there, and there are others where we’re hopeful. I’m hoping that we’ll get a couple of players in, but we also have to be careful. Obviously, I hope the players we get in can make a big difference, but more than likely the ones we are trying to get will be added to the squad to help us with numbers. I think that’s fundamental. Players want you to be towards the right end of the table before they choose. To be fair, looking at the transfers we’ve made, you could argue that Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe have done as well as anybody. So, we have to try and find another couple like that if we can.”

Meanwhile, Joleon Lescott, who has been training with us for the last few weeks, reckons he’s fit and ready to play. He said: “My plan is just to find a new club. I’m realistic about where I am in my career now and I know I’m probably not going to be anyone’s first choice at the moment. So, I’m just hoping that once teams go for their top targets and may or may not get them, there is an opportunity somewhere. I’m ready now. I’ve been training, full training, for the last three weeks so I’m available and ready to go.”

It also seems that Robbie Brady and Montpellier forward Boudebouz won’t be arriving this window. Brady is set to join Burnley and Moyes had this to say about Boudebouz. Moyes said: “That’s not happening [Boudebouz], I don’t know where that’s coming from. I actually heard three of four players and I was surprised, I thought where have they come from. We’re looking at a couple of boys at the Africa Cup of Nations, we’re watching through the television games, but that [Boudebouz] wasn’t one of the names.”

The gaffer also reckons that this current run of injuries is the worst he’s seem in his managerial career. “You always have bad runs of injuries but not for the length of period we’ve had,” he said. “We went into the first game of the season with Donald Love and Paddy Mcnair, Lynden Gooch, people shouldn’t be surprised, that was three people who should have been part of a squad. Since then we’ve not had a great deal of change, we’ve had to keep putting them in which has been great for them but really we’ve been short. You could go back to Fabio doing his knee at Southampton, he was out for a long time. Seb and Catts never started the season, Kirch was out initially with a hamstring, came back but then was out with another.”

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MOYES RANT
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

Has David Moyes taken leave of his senses and employed Massimo Cellino in some sort of advisory role?

I ranted at work the morning after the dismal cup defeat that the transfer window would see Jermain Defoe, Lamine Kone and Jordan Pickford leave us, to be replaced by the likes of Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert. It wasn't so much a joke as a worrying prediction. And look what's happening.

When I heard that 34-year-old Joleon Lescott is training with the club in a bid to land a short-term deal, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. No one buys this 'training to stay fit' nonsense, as Emmanuel Eboue and Joey Barton have previously shown. They can afford to join gyms, ffs.

Lescott was quite good, a long time ago. The last two occasions he's hit the headlines have been for tweeting a picture of a £120,000 car hours after Aston Villa suffered their worst home league defeat in more than 80 years, then having a chewing gum spitting match with a team-mate from the dugout as they went out of the cup at League Two Wycombe. Plenty of previous for rolling the sleeves up and fighting for the club and fans then…

The sad thing is I don't expect the misery to end there. Despite having a delightful range of right-back stop-gaps (Jones, Love, Manquillo) I'll tip free agent Hibbert to rock up in a bid to make the shirt his own, maybe starting with a bit of, erm, fitness training, to be followed by 35-year-old Osman.

If you're not familiar with has-been Evertonians, I know one of their fans who went puce every time I brought the subject of Hibbert up. He also thought the club were after a Russian midfielder because a bloke near him in the Gwladys Street end regularly yelled "get Osmanov"…

We hoped we might have turned the corner with the draw against Liverpool but it feels like we've just gone down another dead end.

We've been rolled over at Burnley - twice- and blown away in the first half by Stoke. No subs either in that one, why not? To protect the young uns? I'd wager most of the 42,000 would have cut them a fair bit of slack given what had happened in the first 35 minutes. Remember the impact a raw James McLean had in Martin O'Neill's first home game when all seemed lost?

If not giving youngsters a chance against Stoke was Moyes making a point to Ellis Short about the lack of quality in the squad, I'm not sure targeting the players he's linking himself to prove he should be trusted with some money - particularly after frittering more than £28m on Ndong, Djilobodji, McNair and Love.

Meanwhile, one of the few talented midfield options on our books, Wahbi Khazri, has had two decent games for an ordinary Tunisia side at the African Cup of Nations after being restricted to bench duty with us. Expect him to join those who try their luck elsewhere in the next couple of weeks.

Moyes was his usual negative self at the press conference ahead of the West Brom game, suggesting any players he did get in would have little impact (at least it set us up for the Lescott news an hour or two later).

I'd like to know how, oozing such negativity, the boss thinks we're going to stay in the Premier League. Allardyce, O'Neill, Di Canio, Poyet, Bruce, even Advocaat to a lesser extent, were all publicly upbeat despite their limitations and reservations. Moyes is giving a good impression of someone who just doesn't believe anymore, much like McMenemy 30 years ago. If you don't believe Dave - how on earth do you expect the players and fans to?

I won't spend too much time on Tuesday's Cup defeat. It was as miserable as it gets. Apart from a couple of long-range efforts from Seb Larsson, we created nothing and showed little purpose. Burnley on the other hand, were lively and hungry and just too good for us and it was depressing having the well-meaning but patronising "it's a shame, a big club like you in this state" comments post-match as I drowned my sorrows with Clarets fans post-match. They spent £3.5million on the flawless James Tarkowski. Compare that to Moyes' £8.5 'investment' in Papy…

And so to this weekend, and West Brom. McLean will be wanting to turn it on and increase our frustration. If he, or any of his team-mates do, he'll push the only assets we've got a little bit closer to the exit door.

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massive game at the hawthorns…
LOSE HEAVILY AND THE SHIT WILL HIT THE FAN

We head to the Hawthorns this weekend on the back of three poor performances and defeats against Burnley, Stoke and Burnley again, with real pressure on the team to not only get some points on the board, but to also perform like a functional top flight outfit…

Here’s some snippets from the pre-match press conference. First up here’s some positivity from the world’s most renowned motivational speaker, David Moyes: “I think I’d be kidding you on if I told you that the players we’re going to bring in in January will make a big difference. First of all, we probably couldn’t get that level of player. Secondly, we probably wouldn’t have the finances to do that. I think to suggest that the players we’ll be bringing in will make a big difference wouldn’t be correct. I think the players that did come in at the same time for Sunderland last year did make a big difference and did a good job. You’ve just got to trust me that I’ll be generating and finding ways to try to balance the books the best I can. I’m not saying we won’t get players who can go straight into the team. I think it just depends a bit on the quality and what’s available. I’d say we’ll probably be looking at loans and free agents as well. We were always going to be down with the players going away to the Africa Cup of Nations, and our injuries at the moment didn’t really look like they were going to come back, certainly none of the long termers. I think a lot will be dictated by us getting some of our own players back into the squad as well, that will help us.”

Moyes on Tony Pulis: "I've been coming up against Tony for what feels like 100 years! He was at Gillingham when I was at Preston, so we've been around."

Moyes on our super weak squad: "We've made some mistakes recently and normally if a player does that they won't play, but we don't have the resources to do that.”

Moyes on Kone to Palace: "I'm not aware of any interest from Crystal Palace in Lamine Kone at present."

Moyes on in coming players and transfer gossip: "We've been linked with four or five players this week and I can tell you that none of them are the ones we're in for."

Moyes on Rodwell’s knock, Pickford’s return and general injuries: "Victor, Steven and Jack did a little bit of running yesterday so we'll have to assess them this morning, but I'm hopeful we can get at least one back. At the time we thought Jack had damaged his medial ligament but he had a scan and there was nothing there, so he should be okay. Javier Manquillo had a little bit of a calf problem after the game on Tuesday - nothing showed up on a scan - so we'll have to assess him but he was the only fallout from the game. Jordan Pickford is going you see a specialist on Tuesday and he'll be the one to tell him if he can start work. We've lost one or two players - Jordan and Victor - who were key to that winning run before Christmas and they are important players.”

In transfer news, we continue to be linked with Norwich City’s Robbie Brady after hoying in a £10million bid for the Irishman midfielder. However, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leicester are also interested, which probably means we’ll not get him, because let’s face it those small clubs are a much better option than Sunderland right now. Norwich boss Alex Neil said: “There have been negotiations that are on-going and contact from other clubs. I am not going to be specific about who that is or how much we are talking about. There has been dialogue. I wouldn’t expect anything to happen soon because it is not at those levels. It will be our timescale and on our terms.”

Moyes is also keen on Phil Jagielka, who he took to Everton in 2007. The England centre half is not getting a game at Goodison right now, but is due a testimonial next season. Everton boss, Ronald Koeman, said: “It’s all about if there is interest in Jags. The last few weeks he didn’t start, but he’s captain of the team. In general, if players are not happy we speak to them and find a solution. What is best for the club and what is best for the player.”

West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Pulis has also been previewing the match: “We need to dust ourselves down and make sure we’re ready for the game against Sunderland. It’ll be a tough game – every game in the Premier League is – and I have great respect for David as he’s a top manager.. One thing his teams never do is lie down and they’ll come here tomorrow having a right go, so we’ll have to be at our best because they’ll have a sell-out support and they have absolutely fantastic backing wherever they go. It’ll be a tough game for us and we’ll have to be absolute on it to get a result.”

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Tell them about the Honey Mummy…
WBA AWAY NOW VITAL

In the aftermath of the Burnley debacle, the debut of George Honeyman was pretty much the only positive, so the club have trotted him out to do some press. He said: “Obviously, making my full debut, it’s a good day for my family, but that’s at the back of my head at the minute (because of the result). I’ve thought that it (the chance) might come for a few weeks now with the amount of injuries. I’ve been on the bench a lot and I’ve just tried to stay mentally ready. I was disappointed because I didn’t really had a positive impact on the game because we lost 2-0. But I’m just glad to get there and hopefully next time I can have more of a positive impact on the team. I like to think that I don’t play with any fear, I like to try and get on the ball, just try and create a bit of positive energy, run about and help the lads as much as I can. We’ve not been on a great run so when I come in it can hopefully only get better, so you’ve got to look at it both ways really. That didn’t happen at Burnley but hopefully next time I can have a bigger impact. I hope to be involved in the next games. I don’t game into games thinking ‘I don’t want to do anything wrong’. I want to set up goals, score goals, make the team play. I didn’t really do any of those (at Burnley) so I am disappointed with that, but I worked as hard as I can and that’s what you’ll get all the time. If the manager sees fit to play me against West Brom, I’ll be more than happy to try and take my chance again. The boys have been in this (relegation) situation before, obviously we’re in a tough patch with injuries, but there’s a few coming back and I’ve no doubt we’ll get a bit of momentum - a horrible, scrappy win somewhere and things will change. We’ve just got to keep the belief and I know it’s hard and everyone is sick of having this year after year but we’re in it now, we’ve just got to focus on the next game.”

After another abysmal performance from a team ravaged with injuries against Burnley, Jason Denayer insists that we must bounce back against West Brom. Following the trip to The Hawthorns we face a ten day break before Spurs visit the SOL on January 31. “We want to play our game, but it is difficult for us at the moment. We didn’t do that against Burnley so we need to find a way of returning to how we played against Liverpool. They’re a top team and we matched them and we could have come away with three points. It is going to be a difficult game away from home because they’re a very good team. That said, we won’t go there looking for anything other than a win because we need the points. We want to win and we will do everything we can to do that. We need everyone fit and ready to play, but whoever is selected will give their all. We have a lot of players who are currently out injured and that’s very difficult for the team. After we play West Brom on Saturday, we don’t have a game for over a week, so maybe that gives some of the other players a chance to come back. We need every member of the team.”

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NOT FIT TO WEAR THE SHIRT
BY EVE SAYERS

Burnley was painful viewing for Sunderland fans and it proved what we really already knew, the club is at an all-time low.

You could tell immediately that none of the players wanted to be there, they didn’t care and we’re never going to deliver a performance. Few of the players are good enough for the Premier League and it’s a sorry mess we find ourselves in. Whilst our season was already derailing at high speed, a Burney trilogy has caused it to crash and burn.

Vito Mannone’s goal kicks really are a sight to behold. The long ball tactic of hoofing it to Victor Anichebe might pay off with Pickford’s accurate goal kicks but Mannones’ wayward kick to a hapless Adnan Januzaj is one of the worst tactics I’ve ever seen. And it’s not just Mannone’s passing that is poor, his form in general is a disaster. When the Italian has no confidence, he really is poor. There were multiple crosses last night that he could have easily caught but instead decided to punch out, with his clearances often landing straight to a Burnley player.

And Januzaj is an absolute disgrace to the shirt, his attitude is way off and he’s no-where as good as he thinks he is, the same goes for Fabio Borini. On their current form they’d struggle to get into a mid-table Championship side, the pair might do okay in a league abroad where absolute no physicality is required, but the Premier League just isn’t for them. Borini is still living off his loan spell here, but that’s long forgotten, he needs to take a look at himself and have a massive sit down with his ego.

In terms of the defence, Moyes seems to think we were playing three at the back but the players definitely didn’t understand as they lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, although it was probably just Patrick Van Aanholt playing three miles out position again. Regardless of whatever formation we were meant to be playing, the back three/four/five were dreadful. It was only Sam Vokes’ 59th free header of the night, from which he scored, when someone in a red and white shirt realised they should have been marking him. I’m in no way Jason Denayer’s biggest fan but he was last to every ball and didn’t look to bothered about it.

The whole club from top to bottom is a mess. You want to feel sorry for Moyes because yes, we do have a lot of injuries and yes we has been given sod all funds, but some of his tactics are bizarre and when he comes out and says “there was positives” when literally the only positive of the whole night was the McDonalds on the way home, it makes me want to drive into the North Sea.

And as for Ellis Short, he has a lot to answer for. He’s turned this club upside down and it’s going to take years to rebuild whilst the likes of Burnley, Watford, Leicester, Southampton and West Brom are lightyears ahead of us. The club are playing a very dangerous game in driving the fans away, because without the fans, the club are nothing and in no way do they deserve the amazing support they get, week in, week out, home and away.

The current team's simply not fit to wear the shirt…

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JANUARY BLUES ON WEARSIDE
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It’s the middle of January. Sunderland sit 19th in the Premier League and have been knocked out of the FA Cup after a second defeat at Turf Moor in less than three weeks. Is there any positivity which can be mustered? If so, it’s pretty good at hiding.

The victory over Watford before Christmas was just what we needed. It was a scrappy, ugly but it was a massive three points. It had elements of the Big Sam era to it. Since then, however, things have gone downhill. Other than the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, Sunderland have been defeated in every game apart from the original third round tie with Burnley at the Stadium of Light. It’s the manner of these defeats, rather than the losing itself, which is most disheartening and frustrating.

Twice in this spineless run we have capitulated before half time. Both away to Burnley and home to Stoke we found ourselves 3-0 down quickly and it’s exactly what we deserved. Our defence continues to look frail. With Lamine Kone at the ACON until next month, the centre of our defence looks weak. Papy Djilobodji is continuing to struggle and Jason Denayer is needed to fill the ever-growing void in midfield. Basically, there’s not enough bodies to go round.

Our attacking players aren’t performing anywhere near the standard which this league demands. Too often Jermaine Defoe is left isolated and his twelve goals for the season are a real testament to just how much quality he has. Our other attackers haven’t chipped in enough, this is evident through the fact only Victor Anichebe and Fabio Borini have found the net out of our attacking players, he joins Defoe and Patrick Van Aanholt as the only Sunderland players who have scored in the league this season. If this doesn’t sum up our problems then I’m not sure what does.

Most of our best players are either in Africa or on the treatment table. The absence of Jordan Pickford is being made even more costly due to recent poor performances from Vito Mannone and the continuing poor relationship between Sunderland and Jack Rodwell makes me want to wish to any magical being for the return of Catts and Kirchoff. We’re badly missing their quality and commitment.

It may sound obvious, but the fact of the matter is we simply aren’t good enough to compete in the Premier League. We have a team which lacks passion, guile and quality. We are no longer able to battle even against the teams around us, the 3-0 defeat at Swansea in December proved that.

With it being confirmed that Ellis Short will be providing barely enough for a pre-match cuppa in Greggs, we now know we will be pretty much relying on the side we have now. If all of our injured players and the players in Africa return unscathed then we may have a fighting chance; however, until then our gutless thread-bare squad looks likely to capitulate at every chance they get.

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more crap news…
hate life

David Moyes’ Burnley nightmare trilogy is over and he’s the first to admit that we have struggled against their direct approach. “We lost here a few weeks back and we find it difficult against Burnley. I expect my players out there to play better. I think we find it hard to cope with Burnley’s style more than anything, so we changed thing a little bit. I thought we just about coped with it in the first half and it just unravelled a little bit just before half-time. Burnley got a couple of corners, one I didn’t think was a corner, and from that sort of time we lost a goal to Vokes just before the break. We shouldn’t have let the cross come in for the first goal, we gave it away right on half-time when it looked as if it looked as we’d go in 0-0. I’ve not wanted to make any excuses,” he added. “I expect my players out there to play better. I don’t expect them to make the couple of mistakes they did leading up to the goals. But if I had other players available I could take a couple of lads out and put others in. At the moment I can’t do that. It’s been like this for three or four weeks, but I’ve tried not to use that as an excuse. But it is a fact, we are finding it a struggle, it’s pretty much the same people [in the match day 18 every game]. But I have to say I thought George Honeyman came in and did well and we wanted to try tonight to see if we could get goals from Fabio or Adnan, which could boost them, give them a chance to help us.”

Moyes also gave an injury update going into Saturday’s must win game against West Brom. “Jack has a medial ligament injury,” Moyes explained. “He was scanned on Monday after getting it in the game on Saturday (v Stoke), and the scan has not come up with anything. I’m hoping that it shouldn’t keep Jack out too long. He’s just beginning to get a couple of games under his belt. To have Jack out (against Burnley) was a blow. They thought that he’d opened his medial ligament so the scan has not shown a great deal. We’re hopeful that he might just have to stay off it for a week or so and let’s see how he is. Victor Anichebe’s doing some running, there’s a chance he can join back in training this week,” Moyes added “But he’s not joined the team in training to this point. Steven Pienaar is the same, doing a little bit of running as well, and hopefully he’ll have a chance to join in training before the end of the week.”

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post BURNLEY craic…
REACTION

So we’re out of the FA Cup after another defeat against Burnley. We now must get something against West Brom on Saturday. David Moyes had this to say after the Turf Moor reverse. “I’m really disappointed because we are threadbare at the moment,” he said. “We’ve gone again with a team that we were hoping to win with but we have found it difficult against Burnley in all our games. There were some positives – George Honeyman played well for us tonight and we played with three at the back to see if we could stop Burnley bullying us a little bit defensively. It worked for parts of the game and we did ok but we gave away a poor goal. We were still in the game but the second one was just as bad and that seems to be the nature of us at the moment. George played well, though, he trains with the first-team every day and he is around the first-team all the time. He is at an age where he can come in and handle it and I thought George was a plus for us tonight.”

MEANWHILE, HERE’S ALS’ ITV SPORT BLOG
The good thing about having a game so soon after Saturday's error-strewn shocker against Stoke is that we can try and get it out of our system.

The bad thing - where do I start? Firstly, it's Burnley, who we've already played, and been a) awful and b) flat, against. Secondly, we've got an entire first team out injured or otherwise detained in Africa. Thirdly, it's January and a journey across the Pennines in winter can leave a lot to be desired. All in all, a game we could very much do without.

As Moyes tries to strengthen his squad without recourse to any "significant" funds, which probably means no funds at all, the latest names put forward for hard labour on Wearside are Robbie Brady of Norwich, who looked OK when we've played against him, and Phil "Inevitable" Jagielka, who's a good centre half and good mate of Moyes - but who's also 34. While he'll do for this season as we're short on experience, Brady can allegedly operate at left-back or left midfield. I'm all for versatility, but he can only do one job at a time, and it adds fuel to the PVA situation. Big Sam apparently wants our left back, but if he goes and Defoe doesn't score, who will?

Anyway, there was a surprisingly good visiting turnout, who were subjected to a constant barrage of requests to go forth and multiply by an unnecessarily unpleasant home crowd. We started with three at the back (Papy, Denayer, and Jones), Manquillo and PVA as wingbacks, and Love, Seb, and Honeyman in the middle. Januzaj and Borini were up front, but spent most of the first half not exploiting the space in the centre - but we didn't look to put the ball there anyway. It looked like we'd seen the half out when we allowed a run and cross from their right, and Vokes glanced a header beyond Vito.

We swapped Love for Defoe on the hour and pushed Denayer forward, but Burnley kept putting in big passes which mostly resulted in offsides - which they come could afford. Borini, for whom not much had worked, made way for Asoro on 80, but they got a second from sub Gray, and all we could do was force a routine save from a Honeyman header and a tremendous one from a Seb free-kick. Then it was over, and we only have the league to make us miserable. Miracles? It'll take several.

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pre burnley craic…
bids for brady & Jagielka

We have reportedly made bids for Norwich's Robbie Brady and Everton’s Phil Jagielka in an attempt to strengthen our depleted squad. Watch this space…

Meanwhile, David Moyes is expected to name a weakened team to face Burnley tonight. To be fair after looking at the bench on Saturday and considering we are already missing eleven first teamers, it looks like he’ll hoy the kids in. Moyes said: “I’m glad we are still in the cup with a chance of getting through. I’d like to get through if I can, I won’t sacrifice it over the Premier League. But in the same breath I’d like to go through. We haven’t decided yet on what team we’ve got or what we’ll go with. I’ve been here long enough and seen them [U23’s] play regularly so I have an idea about them. Some are very young and hopefully will develop into really good players, that’s what we hope will happen. Saturday’s for me, I wouldn’t even call it a performance. I just thought the individual mistakes never allowed you to judge the performance, whether it was good or bad. Obviously you’ll say it’s bad because of the result, but the mistakes were the reason that it came around. We didn’t really get a chance to say, ‘How well did Sunderland play?’ because we were 3-0 down after 35 minutes or so.”

In other news, Jack Rodwell reckons that we need to just get on with the job at hand despite all the injuries and key players at the ACON. Rodwell said: “Last year’s January window was good for us. If anything this one we have lost players because of the Africa Cup of Nations. You can’t dwell on that. We have to go out and play as the 11 he puts out. We have to fight in adversity. Whatever happens in the window is out of our hands, we have to keep going and if it doesn’t go our way we have to fight more. We have experience in Defoe, O’Shea, but there are a lot of injuries to big players like Lee Cattermole, who is a natural leader. We have to keep going and get the results without them.”

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TEA & SYMPATHY…
WE ARE CRAP

There’s not much you can say after Saturday’s pathetic display against Stoke, who we made look like Brazil. Chants of “Are you watching Ellis Short” boomed out of the South Stand and although he rarely visits the SOL these days, or comments on anything, David Moyes reckons he still does follow the games, on his PC. “Ellis does watch the games, but we’ve known the situation at the club. We want to get players back from injury and if we can make some additions to the squad, then I hope so. We want to try to get additions who can help us stay up first and foremost and also players who we think can hopefully be at the club for a while.”

Meanwhile, Jack Rodwell who has now started 35 games under four different managers since arriving at Sunderland, but never been on the winning side, had this to say: “It’s a terrible result. We have done relatively well at home before (Saturday) and we went in to this confident. Three mistakes in the first half and we were 3-0 down. The second half, we stayed in the game but didn’t do enough to win – it was a bad performance all round. I am not really sure [what went wrong]. The manager has said it is three mistakes which have killed us really. Suddenly you are three down on the scoreboard and it is hard from there, it is a battle. It must be tough being a fan at the moment, but stick in there. The lads will give it our all but it was a tough result. We all have to fight together until the end and we have been here before. We looked at the games coming up and we knew this was the one at home. We have now got a midweek game (Burnley away in the FA Cup third round replay tomorrow) and West Bromwich Albion away. This was the one at home, especially the way we have played at home. Before we knew it, though, we were 3-0 now and it is a long way back from there. Two wins and you are almost up to 14th, but we have to get them. There’s no point keep on saying it we have to do it and (Saturday) was a good chance to get the points. West Brom away next week and it’s another good chance to get them.”

David Moyes is nothing but straight talking and he gave a frank summary on Stoke and also explained why he didn’t make any substitutions. He said: “Managers always take the brunt of it. I think the supporters know what the situation is. I appreciate their support greatly. I do think the supporters here have been through it that many times they’ve seen it before and when I came I wanted to change it. I don’t want the supporters to go through this every year. Of course you’ll lose games, of course you’re not going to win every game at home and there will be times when you make mistakes and don’t play well. But it’s too much, too much. We want to try to change that. There were people I’d like to have changed in the game, but I didn’t think what we had [on the bench] would have necessarily made it any better. I thought our best options, certainly in the middle to forward areas, were on the pitch. I felt our home form had started to go for us and we’d started to pick up some good wins. I think it was at times – it was difficult to judge. You could judge we lost three goals, but we made errors which cost us. Vito will be disappointed with the goals.”

In other news, Mark Hughes reckons that our experience in always being in the relegation dogfight, but somehow managing to stay up, might be our saviour! “Looking from the outside in, Sunderland seem to have a struggle right through the Premier League season and get their act together at the end and see it through to a successful conclusion,” he said. “You have a good manager here, very experienced at this level. Sunderland have that potential with players who have been through that process. If they are involved in that at the end maybe that experience can be the difference seeing it through to a positive end in comparison to other teams and players who have not been through it. We had a bit of anxiety in our play, second half, because the Defoe goal affected our play a bit,” he added. “Apart from that, to come away from our own back yard to a place that has not been a happy hunting ground [14 games] it has been a good day. We scored top quality goals. That decorated the performance to an extent. I am very pleased with the performance, it was important we bounced back [from the FA Cup defeat to Wolves].”

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FIRST HALF CAPITULATION ENOUGH TO FINISH OFF SORRY SUNDERLAND
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

Marco Arnautovic stole the show with two well taken finishes in an impressive display as Sunderland lost 3-1 to Stoke in a match which had been dubbed as must win by many before kickoff. The Lads fell apart in the first half to find themselves 3-0 with just over half an hour on the clock.

After the lethargic 0-0 draw in the FA Cup, the focus was on getting three points which would potentially move us out of the bottom three for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime. David Moyes made one change from the Burnley match, John O’Shea replacing Javier Manquillo to make a record equalling 174th premier league appearance for Sunderland.

SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Love, Djilibodji, PVA, O’Shea, Larsson, Borini, Rodwell, Denayer, Januzaj, Defoe SUBS: Mika, Jones, Asoro, Manquillo, Maja, Honeyman, Embleton
STOKE: Grant, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters, Whelan, Adam (Afellay 68’), Shaqiri (Ngoy 89’), Allen, Arnautovic, Crouch SUBS: Bardsley, Muniesa, Afellay, Imbula, Given, Taylor, Ngoy

The game started fairly even with both sides creating little in the way of chances, however just fifteen minute in the visitors had the lead. Arnautovic cut into the Sunderland box before firing a shot towards the bottom corner, Vito Mannone managed to get his right foot in the way however no one in red and white prevented the ball falling to the Austrian who gladly fired home, 0-1.

This was a sucker punch to the hosts and the fragility of recent performances was further being exploited, just over 5 minutes the visitors doubled their lead. Arnautovic finished off a neat one-two with Peter Crouch by smashing the ball past Mannone at the near post. Donald Love was struggling to handle the Austrian and Stoke were looking to head in for the kill, a rare Vito Mannone fumble led to the ball almost trickling over the line – luckily it the clipt the most as it went wide in what was a rare piece of luck for a Sunderland side on the brink of capitulation for the umpteenth time this season.

Stoke didn’t let up and ten minutes before the break Peter Crouch netted his 99th Premier League goal. The former England striker beat Mannone to a cross into the box and looped a header into the back of the net to compound a miserable opening period for the hosts. 0-3.

If there was any chance of making a contest out of the match it was the need for a goal before the break. Not for the first time this season, Jermaine Defoe popped up to make the score line vaguely more respectable. A long distance through ball from Donald Love fell kindly for Defoe who cut the ball across the face of goal and into the bottom corner past Lee Grant for his 12th goal of the season.

Any hopes of a second half charge by the Lads were quickly quashed by a combination of solid Stoke defending and lack of creativity on our behalf.

Jack Rodwell had perhaps the best chance of continuing the comeback when he found the ball at his feet; his effort however was sliced wide much to the frustration of an already concerned home crowd. The comeback never really got going in the second period and in the end their early onslaught had been enough to seal the points for Stoke.

Our performance left a lot of questions which needed answering, this was a game we should have won but yet again we failed to turn up to a fixture which is seen as ‘must win’. We desperately need to see the return of Anichebe and our midfield pairing of Jan and Catts but it is unlikely they’ll be fit for the trip to West Brom next weekend, a rare win at the Hawthorns looks to be a necessity after this afternoons disastrous performance.

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IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!
BY MICHAEL OATES

Luciano Narsingh is a 16 times capped Dutch International winger. He has played in over 200 matches in Holland's top flight and has just signed for Swansea City for the now mediocre sum of £4m. This transfer struck me as decent business. Who knows, in time, it might even turn into brilliant business. We'll see. The Narsingh deal got me thinking. We all talk about the massive deals in each transfer window. The big players who make a move, particularly in January. Berbatov. Suarez. Torres. Of course, that is all natural. The stars get talked about more than other players. But what of the bargains? Believe it or not they are out there, and more often than not they pass under the radar as the bigger deals grab all the press attention, fans of every club eager to lap it up every smidgen of info.

Our own club Sunderland AFC are at the moment shopping in Lidl as opposed to Harrods if you get my meaning. With an owner looking to sell, money is tight. The club's debt is now the 11th largest in Europe according to a recent UEFA study. With FFP now a big factor when dealing with transfers, Sunderland are really stretched in terms of incomings. Players need moving on and wages need freeing up (Jeremain Lens anyone) before any signings can be made. Currently David Moyes really does have a lot on his plate, and I can only imagine that he has started to realise the extent of damage caused by previous regimes and their continued systematic failure to bring in the right signings window after window. Hence why Moyes will be looking for a bargain, if he even has the maneuverability to do so. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Gus Poyet brought Jermain Defoe to Sunderland in the January window of 2014. Defoe wanted to return to England after a spell in the MLS with Toronto. Poyet somehow managed to convince Toronto to part with Defoe and take perennial Premier League flop Jozy Altidore as part of the deal. Swapping a guy who cannot score goals no matter how hard he tries, for one who is a proven goalscorer is any manager and football fan's dream. Sunderland took a punt on Defoe when no other club would and after some 33 goals in 74 matches, we can safely say that this was indeed a bargain! John Stones cost Everton £3m when they plucked him from Barnsley, and Spurs paid only £5m for Dele Alli. Both of those deals were done in January windows. 

Top clubs are looking for the finished article, we understand that. Manchester United wouldn't necessarily look into the Football League for a rough diamond to polish and I suppose, why should they? They have the pull and the muscle to go out and buy the very best and that is what they tend to do. City and Chelsea do the same, blocking youngsters' routes into the first team in the process as well. It is only a matter of time before we see a £100m player and dare I say it the way China are going, the first player to earn £1m a week. But I think that this window could be the start of something else. Another different type of change, but I of course could be wrong. I think the bottom tier of clubs are becoming a little more savvy with their money. That might sound ridiculous to some when we see the likes of West Ham trying to buy half the league in the first week of the window, but I'll go back to the Narsingh deal as a point of reference. Rather than chucking money at the situation and realising six months later that actually, that player was the wrong signing, a more measured approach would be a welcome sight to see in the money-saturated Barclays Premier League. Burnley gained promotion under Sean Dyche, went back down but came back stronger without breaking the bank, securing the club's long term future, all with the same manager too I might add. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were the masters at polishing diamonds or rejuvenating a player who was out of sorts or had lost his way. I rejoiced when I saw that Arsenal had signed Cohen Bramall from Hednesford Town. Obviously there were plenty who showed their displeasure but I think it is refreshing to see. Despite the megabucks on offer now, that can and should still happen. It has to happen, otherwise the game will implode. Teams in the league cannot continue to risk financial ruin in pursuit of living the dream for a season or two. Leicester City are testament to the fact that you don't need to spend hundreds of millions on players to create history. You just need to sign the right players, for the right amount money. Who knows, in a year or so, we might even be talking about the next January Jamie Vardy rather than the next January Fernando Torres. Here's hoping!

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post STOKE craic…
REACTION

A shocking display from David Moyes’ depleted Sunderland side saw Stoke City run out comfortable 3-1 winners at the SOL on Saturday. All of the action came in the first half with a brace from Marko Arnautovic and a Peter Crouch header compounding a miserable opening thirty five minutes for the lads who nabbed a consolation from Jermain Defoe. The pathetic performance and results elsewhere sees Sunderland slip further down the table to nineteenth in the table and staring relegation in the face.

David Moyes had this to say afterwards: “It was a poor opening part of the game from us, not necessarily that we played badly, but three mistakes have cost us,” he said. “We made it really difficult for ourselves and we were punished, but we got a goal back and in the second half we were better. We knew if we got a second goal we’d have the crowd behind us, but we created a couple of chances and unfortunately we couldn’t score. It would have been easy for the boys to hide and not try and take the ball, but Jack [Rodwell] had a chance, Fabio[ Borini] had a chance and Jermain [Defoe] got himself in positions, we just didn’t get anything from them. We have been losing too many games this season but we’ve been using our home form as a positive and a confidence booster; if you take away the first 20 minutes of today’s game we did as much as Stoke today, but obviously it’s a 90 minute game and you have to be ready from minute one. Everyone knows we have injuries and players that are away, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. The players that are out there have to perform.”

Seb Larsson was also pretty pissed off. “I understand if people don’t have a lot of belief in us at the moment, but that’s all we can do. We’re going to keep working hard and keep making sure that we give ourselves every chance of getting out of trouble. We were not good enough, it’s as simple as that. We lost a home game when we thought we had a good chance of getting three points. We spoke again about the opportunity to get out of the bottom three, but today we really slammed the door in our own faces early on and handed Stoke the game. It was not good enough. Disappointed is the least thing we should be. It’s hard to take when you just give a game away like that. Stoke are a good side, and we know that. But at least you want to make them do something good to break us down or to score goals. Collectively, in the first 20 or 25 minutes, we just handed them the game. When JD [Defoe] scored that goal it gives you that opportunity, and obviously we had a few half-chances and a couple of decent chances in the second half. We were desperate to get back in the game but, when you are 3-0 down like we were in the first half, it is difficult against any side in the Premier League.”

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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 an 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 as we don’t want the dead wood plus the few euros they’ve offered us, Allardyce likes PVA so Palace must want to buy him, and some French team may or may not want Januzaj. Apart from wondering if our branch was putting on a bus to Burnley (it is, thankfully), that was 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 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 is 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, James, Blissett 2) will remember the sort of football his sides were capable of, 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.

More locally, and as we try to follow our old boys, last weekend’s game between Shields and Morpeth in the FA Vase was abandoned with eight minutes remaining and Morpeth 4-2 up. Hooolio was playing for Shields, but he’d been uncharacteristically sent off – was it he who, 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 SAFC supporters outnumber mags in Shields and more vice versa in Morpeth, we’ll claim that one as a moral victory over the barcodes.

As for today's game? Probably amongst the worst opening half hours in our history saw us dead and buried. The first chance we created saw Defoe pull one back late in the half, but despite showing a bit (just a bit, mind) more life early in the second, we were never at the races. The reluctance of Moyes to give any of the youngsters a few minutes, despite Larsson and Borini having possibly their worst afternoons in the stripes, is very worrying. At least they might have cheered us up on a day when we could have got out of the bottom three but blew it. Typical of us to collapse, again, against a side we were probably favourites to beat. Great escape? I wouldn't bet on it.

Meanwhile, in transfer window news, the main rumours still surround other teams trying to steal our best players, which is annoying. With this in mind, David Moyes confirmed we have rejected Crystal Palace’s bid for Patrick Van Aanholt. "At the moment, I need him, he’s one of my better players. He’s won us games, so I have to keep using him. I think people can make offers, but we’re the club who hold the contracts of the players and we’re the ones who say yes or no. All we’ve said is no for numerous reasons. He is more attacking, which I like, I like my full-backs attacking, I had Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman who were terrific for me, I like my full-backs to make goals and score goals, Pat does that. Obviously we’re asked to defend a lot with not having the ball, we need a left-back who can fulfil their defensive duties as well. But Patrick can improve. We’ve worked a lot on him since we came in, getting him correctly positioned defensively. Attacking wise, he’s got his own bit of freedom in how he goes and develops and sometimes you see him and wonder how he’s got there, but many times, like the Watford goal, to get in the six-yard box as a left-back was terrific. But then there’s quite a lot of occasions where we’re saying, ‘Why are you not defending the back post?’ ‘What’s your positioning like, you’re not getting out to stop crosses quick enough’. So there is another side to it as well. We’ve had offers for a few players and we’ve listened to them. Some we have had to reply to, and others we have not bothered with, but we want to keep our squad and add to it. Every player has a price somewhere down the line, but we need to add to our squad rather than let people go.”

Moyes also branded Jeremain Lens a 'disgrace' after the player suggested he’s prefer if Sunderland were relegated. “You would hate to think that anyone connected to the club would say that. If he said that it’s a disgrace to say that about your parent club. A lot of team-mates here who he played with are fighting every week with a small squad to try and keep us in the Premier League. I don’t know if anybody would want him back at the club now. If the quotes are correct then I think it would be very hard for that to happen. We paid £13m for him and I knew his reputation as a player. I thought, “We’re short and we haven’t got a great deal of quality - is it right to move him on?” But there were just some things I saw which I wasn’t sure about. In the end, these are the decisions the managers have to make. Maybe when he left people thought, “What you doing get rid of him?”. I made the decision that I thought he wanted to go and that we could get through without him. I only had a few weeks with him as well, so I was going more on what I’d been told by other people. He didn’t play much last season either. I had to take advice off the likes of Paul Bracewell and Robbie Stockdale, and Sam (Allardyce) as well. I wanted to give him an opportunity but didn’t feel as if I saw enough. When the offer came from Fenerbahce he wanted to go back to working with Dick (Advocaat) as well.

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