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DEFOE TURNS VEGAN
catts back

Jermain Defoe reckons that trying to turn vegan has improved his goal scoring, but he still loves his mam’s Sunday roast! He said: “I have a better understanding of my body now. Everyone wants to feel fresh in the game, there’s no better feeling. So, I’m just making sure I’m doing the right things, cryotherapy, massage, eating the right things... trying to turn vegan. That’s a funny one because when I go to my Mum’s she’s got every kind of meat you can imagine out on the table. It was my girlfriend’s idea. She said to me, ‘You’ve got to do it’ and she’s always showing me documentaries. It’s always nice to have someone around you to who helps you and drives you on and wants you to do well.”

Defoe also cites his post-match recovery schedule as an aid to his longevity. He added: “I don’t find anything hard because I know the feeling of scoring goals. So, getting in an ice bath and all that isn’t nice, but I just think, ‘You know what? I’m going to do this and be rewarded’. It’s hard, but in another way it’s easy because all I want to do is play well and score goals. “The key thing for me is recovery, giving yourself the best opportunity to perform in the next game, and I seem to have got that to a tee. There’s a lot of things I do away from training and away from matchday that help me perform, so I’ll just keep doing that. My mum always said, ‘It’s not how you start it’s how you finish’, and years later I’m back in the squad and scoring goals for my country. I never give up. In my mind, I was trying to be realistic and with the previous manager (Hodgson) I didn’t feel like I was getting an opportunity. There was times I was scoring goals, especially last season, and I wasn’t selected for the Euros. I felt like I finished the season strong, but I was realistic and felt like maybe I wasn’t going to get an opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Darron Gibson is looking forward to Lee Cattermole and Victor Anichebe returning to the squad at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Gibson said: “Getting Catts back will be important. He has a lot of experience, he is a good leader on the pitch while Victor’s ability to hold the ball up will be a big positive for us. Hopefully we can get them back after the international break and things will start going our way. He can be unplayable when he is on form so hopefully he comes back from America and is flying.”

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LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
ROB ROBINSON

We all feel the same despair, anger and disappointment at the state of the club, the playing squad and our league position. However, it is worth remembering that this is the club’s longest continuous period in the top division since the clubs first ever relegation, almost 60 years ago.

The much-loved promotion team of 1964 only lasted six seasons, the spell following promotion in 1980 lasted five seasons and even the Peter Reid squad only lasted four seasons, all of the other stays were for single seasons only.

For the past ten seasons only eight clubs have been in the Premier League throughout the whole period. The two Manchester Clubs, the two Merseyside clubs, the three big London clubs, and Sunderland.

This just shows how difficult it is to stay in a Premier League which relegates three teams, 15%, of those in the league every season, whilst competing against clubs with more financial, some virtually unlimited, resources than ourselves. Our nearest neighbours have been relegated twice in that period. Of the eight teams to play in all of the ten seasons the club with resources most like ourselves Everton did so under the shrewd management of our existing manager.

In those ten seasons, we have beaten each of the other seven teams more than once and some both home and away, proving that it is possible to compete at the highest level when things are in our favour in terms of players, injuries, tactics, organisation and motivation.

We have not finished lower than third in the Championship for over 20 years. Following our latest relegations, after recording record low points in the Premier League, we have won promotion either the following season or the one afterwards.

It doesn’t feel like success, and by the highest standards it isn’t, but it is much better than anything else we achieved League position wise for over 60 years. And we have beaten that lot up the road six consecutive times!

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All About Jermain…
Proud Day For Defoe

Gareth Southgate has hinted that Jermain Defoe could play in the Russian World Cup next summer after scoring for England in the 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley. Southgate said: “It was a great moment for him. He was thrilled to be back involved in the squad. He has enjoyed his week immensely. His professionalism was great for some of the other players to see. He’s had a really positive impact on everybody. We selected him on form. We’ve got really good competition for places. We need to have that. For Jermain to come in, for Michael Keane to come in and play as well as he has done, has been a real bonus for us. We’ve got to look every time we get together as to who’s in form. I don’t know if we can have a pecking order because players that are playing well deserve that opportunity. We’ve got to have that competition for places. The reality is that you will always lose players to injury. It’s really important that we are able to call upon the likes of Jermain. But if he’s scoring goals in the Premier League and playing as well as he has this season, there’s absolutely no reason why he couldn’t [go to the World Cup].”

Defoe himself gave the perfect quote, just like his perfect finish. “It’s hard to put into words really. I had to keep my emotions (under control), obviously little Brad was with me. You can imagine how I felt doing that, having done it with my club as well, it was special. ‘Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling. I enjoyed it, it’s been a good week. Just to win the game was important and we did that. It’s hard to put in words really to be back. I've got to go back to my club and finish the season strong - the same as all the boys - get my head down and see what happens."

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s Adam Lallana reckons Defoe will never get old! “It still feels like you're playing with a 25-year-old Jermain Defoe.” Lallana said. “My dad used to take me to watch Bournemouth play when he famously scored for 10 games in a row, so to be playing with him for England is quite surreal at times. But it's the Jermain Defoe of old that you always know. You bet your bottom dollar he's going to score a goal and he did to get us on the way. I think everyone felt it, that's Jermain Defoe for you. He deserves it. He's been playing some of the best football of his career this season, scoring goals. He scored goals against Liverpool when we played, he scored two. I think he's here on merit and he's proved what he's about, what he can bring and what an option he is for Russia in a year's time.”

In other news, Ireland’s John O’Shea is still recovering from Gareth Bale’s nasty late challenge sustained in Ireland’s Friday night’s 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw with Wales. He said: “Maybe, but thankfully I’m walking away from it, which is no problem. I’ve had plenty of stitches put in there. I was lucky considering what has happened to Seamus. On another night, there could have been two red cards. I can’t remember how many stitches it was. The doctor had to stick some in deep and a few dissolvable ones on top. Hopefully it will heal quickly. You expect it, obviously within reason. When you’re playing England, Scotland or Wales, the games are going to be like that. They are the games you want to be involved in. As the opposition manager, you’re going to protect your own players. In a derby game, you’re going to expect some tasty tackles - but, as I said, within reason. There’s no problem getting a hard tackle – but if it’s late, it’s a different story.”

Still with international news, because there’s very little else going on, Jordan Pickford is away with England U21s who lost 1-0 to Germany on Friday, but face Denmark tonight. “It is always going to be tough to come out to Germany and play them but it is good preparation for us to go into the Euros,” Pickford said. “I think we had a good couple of chances towards the last half an hour (against Germany on Friday) – it just wasn’t our day. They didn’t create too many chances and we dealt with it well. I thought I did ok, it was another game for me because I’ve been getting back (from an injury) in the last few games. I feel good in myself and I just want to keep working hard on the training ground and hopefully keep putting in good performances. It is hard, it is difficult, but it is good preparation for the Euros so we are fitting a lot of stuff in to prepare ourselves in the Euros in the summer. Both teams – Germany and Denmark – are going to be in the Euros so they are two good tests.”

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BOB MURRAY 10 STEVEN TAYLOR 0
NOW SHUT UP

Sir Bob Murray has totally done a job on Steven Taylor by claiming that the crap defender tried to engineer a move to the Stadium of Light, but we turned him down! Sir Bob explained: “He came to the boardroom at the Stadium of Light with Mick McCarthy when Mick was manager here. He was under contract with Newcastle, but we were told he wanted a move. He had been in touch with Mick and although it was very unusual that I would meet with a player, in this instance Mick asked me if I would meet him. I came to the boardroom and sat with him and had a cup of tea. It’s the only time I had met with a player in those circumstances. But we turned him down. At the time, we felt that he was no better than what we already had and so we let him go. His comments are immature and ignorant. This is a fantastic place and the North East is a fantastic place. This kind of comment is not acceptable and he needs to stop. As for his views about Mackems, I think everyone should know that he wanted to be a part of our great club and wanted to pull on the Sunderland shirt. I have never understood his behaviour and what he said about Sunderland because of what I know. But I have had enough now. Everyone needs to know the truth and he needs to stop.”

Meanwhile, David Moyes reckons the fact that managers are given so little time to get it right in the Premier League often means young players are not given the opportunity to shine. He said: “It does – it’s a general point, not just at this club. Clubs want young players in the team, but they take time to develop. When managers are changing so quickly, why would they put younger players in the team? They need senior professionals who can come in and do the job right away. Jordan Pickford, Lynden Gooch, Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair – we have had a group of younger players who have had a go this time. It’s just that not that noticeable because of our position.”

Sunderland U23s boss Elliott Dickman agrees. He said: “The British managers we’ve had at SAFC have been very, very proactive in the academy, I’m not saying the others aren’t good managers but they come from a different culture and different systems. Each year they have different scenarios to deal with and different pressures. It’s relentless. What’s happening now should just be normal, really, but I understand circumstances might not allow that all the time. At the minute, it’s been fantastic. Who knows in the summer what the manager will decide to do from a players’ point of view but if there are spaces for younger players, it can only benefit the club, the players and the academy. The good thing is there’s a sense of being really focused on the football side and the local area but we don’t want to sit still. We’re not going to be a Manchester City with what they throw at their elite development financially so we’ve just got to make sure we give it everything we’ve got with the resources we’ve got.”

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GOOD NEWS ON CATTS…
ARCA TO WEMBLEY

First up, some good news on the injury front, Lee Cattermole played in a first team v U23s friendly at the Stadium of Light on Thursday and came through unscathed.

Former Sunderland cult hero, Julio Arca, is on cloud nine right now after helping South Shields reach the FA Vase final at Wembley in May. The event has caught the imagination of Sunderland fans, many of whom are heading to London to support Arca and South Shields on May 21. The interest is so high that, due to demand, ALS are running coaches to Wembley, which can be booked here. Arca had this to say about it all! “Sunderland fans have always been great with me. They will always hold a special place in my heart. A lot of people were wishing us well for Wembley and it’s great to feel that support. We’re into three finals now and still have a chance in the league, so there’s a lot to play for. We’re in a good position at the moment and hopefully we can continue our good form so we win some trophies. It’s really nice to get to three finals, but we’re not just happy to go into them and lose. We want to win them all. We’ve got a lot of games coming up thick and fast and just need to keep winning. We knew this was going to be a big season and we were going to get a lot of support, but didn’t expect anything like this. The support is fantastic, and is getting better and better.”

In other news, Jordan Pickford is away with England U21s, who face Germany and Denmark over the next few days and he’s hoping that he can become a little sharper while he’s away. He said: “Obviously, I’ll and get a couple more games under my belt, I haven’t played much since I came back from injury. I feel good and fresh and this is just another chance to get sharper. The lads who aren’t going away will be working hard on the training ground to get things right and get those three points against Watford.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Phillips has been chatting about Jermain Defoe. Two heroes in one story! “He’s still scoring, still believing in his own ability, and that’s what the other players have to aspire to. They have to look at the senior players that are doing it and try to relate to it. I expect him to score a few more between now and the end of the season. He’s never given up, has he? He’s always believed that he would get another crack and that’s why he kept the England crest on his boots, so certainly he deserves his opportunity. He shows that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll get an opportunity. He’s a goalscorer and there’s not many of them around, is there? I hope he gets an opportunity in England’s next match and scores. He’s kept himself fit which is the main thing, because if he did get injured you would have to worry about Sunderland. They’re having a tough time at the moment. Unfortunately, it has been like that for the last two of three seasons. I just hope that this isn’t the season it does bite them in the backside and they get relegated. They’re cut adrift at the bottom at the moment, but the history has shown and suggests that, when they’ve been up against it at the end of the season, they’ve dug the results out and got over the line.”

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GLASS HALF FULL IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
BY JACOB KIRKBRIDE

Let’s face it, barring a miracle, we are probably heading to the Championship. The question is how can we cope after ten years absence?

Looking on the bright side, three out of our last four seasons in the Championship have seen us finish as champions of the Championship, they were seasons that we all enjoyed.

That winning on a regular basis feeling hasn’t been experienced since the days of Carlos Edwards, David Connolly and Dean Whitehead. The Stadium of Light was a fortress, albeit in a lower league.

But us fans can’t guarantee that this winning feeling will come straight away if Championship football becomes a reality and we all know that the club really needs to get its act together if we are to be promoted back to the elite at the very first attempt.

We won’t be able to attract top quality players, but hopefully we can get some players who look like they want it and will work hard, which is more than can be said for some of the current bunch.

Away days should cost less, with more northern and midlands teams involved and we’ll get to meet real football fans who have supported their local teams all their lives, unlike visiting Chelsea where there are boat loads of football tourists from all over Europe sipping their cappuccinos in the surroundings of Stamford Bridge.

Young players such as Paddy McNair, Donald Love, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch will be able to develop their game in the Championship and when Duncan Watmore returns you’d expect him to tear that league apart.

Hopefully, a new generation of support will also be able to come through and see their team win more regularly and actually enjoy going to games. Let’s face it even if we do averagely we’ll win more than the five games we’d scraped together so far this season.

I know things are not great and I’m just trying to be optimistic, but I do think there are some positives to look forward to in the Championship…

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news, news, news...
BY this and that

Adnan Januzaj has been chatting about his old mate, Eden Hazard, he also touched on the difficult season he’s endured at Sunderland. Haven’t we all mate. “I can learn from Eden. He has more experience than me,” said Januzaj. “I would say that when you are playing against Chelsea there are more players who can make a difference so it’s harder to track all of them. I watch a lot of games in the Premier League when I have free time and that’s where I learn. He is a good friend to me. He is a top player. Whenever he has the ball he is dangerous. He is one of the best players in the Premier League, if not the best, he has so much talent now and I know him well. I have always worked on my set pieces and in training sometimes when I have the chance to do it I take it, hopefully it can help me. It is always a plus to score a goal or get an assist and that’s what we need now. Six games is a lot in a short space of time and we know they are all coming up soon. We have to try to win as many games as we can, we can’t make excuses and we have to deliver.”

Jason Cummings is the latest name to be linked with a summer switch to Sunderland. David Moyes watched the 21-year-old Hibs player recently and Cummings had this to say about Moyes scouting him and his general refreshing attitude towards playing football. “David Moyes is a massive name although I didn’t know until after the game. He was probably watching super John McGinn, not me! I think I’ll always be like that, I still play football like a did when I was at Hutchison Vale at my Boys Club. I still have that in me that I still play for banter at times. I take it seriously and I want to win, but I take it as fun. I think I enjoy it a bit too much and I’ve still got that bit in me. That’s why I do some silly things at times. I don’t know if that will go away as I get a bit older. I think people do take it too seriously at times, it is a fun sport that you used to play for fun with your mates. Now, it’s you can’t do this or you can’t do that.”

Jordan Pickford is enjoying being back in England’s U21 set up despite his recent foray into the senior squad. “I haven’t been there for a while so it’ll be nice to get a couple of games,” said Pickford. Hopefully we can get a couple of positive results and I can come back flying. I want to go there and then comeback and focus on the rest of the season with Sunderland, but it’s always a bonus when you go away with England and like I said hopefully I can come back with some wins ahead of the Euros. As a whole group it [the international break] should help us because the lads who don’t go away will get a good week of training, and maybe a couple of days to freshen up as well. We’ll all come back flying!"

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RELEGATION, RECRUITMENT AND REGRET
BY EVE SAYERS

They say the definition of going insane is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is something Sunderland AFC have been doing ever since their promotion in 2007. The club have in no way progressed and have somehow managed to go backwards and have now been left behind by the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth, West Brom and Watford, something which will drag even the most optimistic of Black Cats down.

Rumour has it that Ellis Short wants to sell but potential buyers prove reluctant due to the club’s huge debts totaling well over £100million. It’s a sorry state for such a big club with state of the art facilities, a huge stadium and a more than loyal fan base, unfortunately, none of those things entitle the club to success and Sunderland are very much a victim of their own demise.

In the club’s first season back in the Premier League, Roy Keane brought in a total of 17 players and few managed to make the cut. Current Cardiff City man Greg Halford was purchased for a modest £3million yet he made just nine appearances for the club. Russel Anderson was bought for £1million and made two appearances, one of those coming off the bench. Striker Roy O’Donovan joined from Cork for an undisclosed fee and despite making 17 appearances in red and white, he failed to score a single goal and spent a large part of his three years at the club out on loan to Hartlepool, Southend Dundee and Blackpool. Andy Cole was another striker brought in, the former Manchester United played for the club eight times, most of which were as a substitute and didn’t net once. Ian Harte also joined the club and made just eight appearances, alongside Jack Pelter and Jean-Yves M'voto who didn’t make a single appearance.

Fast forward to the following season and Keane enjoyed another spending spree, this time bringing in nine players. Admittedly, many of the players of this transfer window stuck around longer and made more than a handful appearances, both Pascal Chimbonda and El-Hadji Diouf left the club in the winter transfer window, no more than half a season after arriving on Wearside. Of course, Keane left that season, Sunderland survived the drop completely unaware this would now be their forte for the next eight seasons, and Steve Bruce arrived as a man with a plan.

Bruce went on a spending spree of over £30million and to be fair, he did pretty well, the likes of Darren Bent, Lorik Cana, Lee Cattermole and Bolo Zenden proved to be a huge hit. Bruce was mostly successful again in the following transfer market if you disregard the acquisition of Marcos Anegeleri, who looked like he’d never seen a football in his life. Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, John Mensah and Stephane Sessegnon were key components of a Sunderland team that chalked a lucky 10th place finish, their first in 50 years and they did so without striker Darren Bent who rocked the club by handing in a transfer request in the winter window. Though that 10th place finish was essentially a fluke, Bruce’s men could have easily finished 14th that day but a rout away to an already relegated West Ham and a slip up against West Brom from rivals Newcastle proved enough to see them end the season the top half.

Surely that would put the club in good stead for next season, right? Wrong. Bruce decided that replacing Darren Bent, a 25-goal a season striker with an 18-year-old Connor Wickham and an inexperienced craven Ji Dong-Won was the right thing to do, as was replacing current England captain Jordan Henderson with Craig Gardner. Bruce’s poor recruitment backfired and he was sacked before being replaced by Martin O’Neill.

O’Neill’s first transfer window came in January and consisted of the loan signings of Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, both of whom proved to be a completely ineffective acquisition which pretty much foreshadowed the rest of O’Neill’s incomings. James McFadden and Louis Saha were drafted in as free agents and proved to be a waste of a wage as they failed to have any real impact in any of the games they played. Danny Graham joined for a fee of £5million and scored just one goal. O’Neill didn’t last any longer than Steve Bruce and was given the axe in March with Paolo Di Canio the man tasked with keeping the club up.

Di Canio did just that, as well as hammering Newcastle 3-0 away from home and looking like the man Sunderland needed. He was full of passion and a clear fire in his belly, though whilst he had all of the right ideas, he went the wrong way about them and the players were constantly at the door of the PFA. Though it wasn’t just Di Canio’s man-management that proved bizarre but his summer spending, teamed with director of football Roberto di Fanti was baffling to say the least. The Italian brought in a total of 14 players, with only Ki Sung-yueng, Duncan Watmore, Vito Mannone and Fabio Borini seemingly possessing any talent, though Mannone and Borini now both seem to have lost theirs. £6million marquee signing Jozy Altidore scored just three goals for the club and was clearly not suited to the Premier League at all.

Following his turbulent summer, Di Canio did not last much longer and by October Gus Poyet was at the helm tasked with keeping Sunderland up. Though Poyet did just that, his signings of Ignaccio Scocco, Oscar Ustari, Liam Bridcutt. Jordi Gomez and Will Buckley raised some question marks. However, to be fair to Poyet and De Fanti’s replacement, Lee Congerton, they did manage to somehow pull off a swap deal for Jozy Altidore and Jermain Defoe, who is now a cult hero on Wearside. Yet again, nearing the end of the season the club looked destined for the drop, Poyet was given his marching orders and Dutch veteran Dick Advocaat was handed the job.

Advocaat, of course, managed to keep the club in the league, said his goodbyes but after a plea from the club, he made his U-turn and agreed to become the club’s manager on a permanent basis. To be fair to the Dutchman, his only poor signings included Adam Matthews and Sebastian Coates, both of whom proved to be a complete waste of a combined £4million. Still, it was clear that the club were going down under Advocaat so he did the honourable thing and walked away. And then came Big Sam.

Big Sam was the right man for Sunderland, he seemed to click, he understood the fans and was a great man manager for the players and nailed the January transfer window. He kept the club in the league at the expense of Newcastle and for once, Sunderland fans were genuinely optimistic for the future but then England came knocking. We should have known better, we aren’t getting our happy ending. Big Sam left for England and David Moyes arrived.

This was Moyes’ chance to redeem himself after his failings at Manchester United and Real Sociedad. It’s no secrets that Moyes took the Champions from first to seventh but I put that down to Alex Ferguson being an impossible man to replace, but it turns out Moyes has just lost his way in the game. Of course, this whole sorry mess isn’t entirely the fault of Moyes but the fact he told fans to settle for a relegation battle two games in and his constant negativity and bizarre reasoning are the main reason we’re headed for the drop.

The club don’t want to sack Moyes as for the past umpteen seasons we’ve sacked our manager and survived, but we apparently need a long-term vision. Short needs to put away the binoculars and focus on the present, we haven’t learned from our past mistakes and years and years if poor recruitment have let us down. “It’s too late to sack Moyes now, we may as well stick with him” and “there’s nobody else out there” is rubbish, Moyes has sucked the life out of the club, going to the match is now a chore. The collective groan around the ground when the fourth official announced four minutes of added time during the club’s defeat to Stoke speaks volumes.

At 1/18 it’s looking more and more likely that it’s not a case if, but when the club go down, they must get it right or things could turn a whole lot worse. The recruitment must be spot on, there’s no money to be wasted on signings, or on the wage bill. But what makes the current poor crop of players all the more frustrating is that the club have had endless loan players on their books who are now top quality players. The likes of Danny Rose, Marcos Alonso, Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck have been huge hits in red and white but the club failed to sign any of them on a permanent basis.

Relegation is nigh and no derby win and no Wembley trip will make up for that, that’s in the past, demise is the present and the future looks bleak. Sorry folks!

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INTERNATIONAL ROUND UP…
JOS & SEB

Despite being 35, John O'Shea is staying on with Ireland in the hope that he’ll feature at the next World Cup! “I’m a realist and obviously when I spoke to the manager about it, it was straightforward,” O’Shea said. “I didn’t need much persuasion at all because obviously, I haven’t been at a World Cup. That’s obviously a driving ambition but it’s one of those things that’s parked to the side. You deal with what’s in front of you so you take that one step at a time but if you could get to that situation, for myself personally from a totally selfish point of view, that would be amazing. I’ve been very fortunate and whatever happens with my career, I’ve done OK. But obviously not getting to a World Cup so far has been annoying to say the least because of how close we’ve come a couple of times. You always wish you were there. You get on with it and you move on which we have done. We qualified for the last couple of Euros but the World Cup has just avoided us. First and foremost, you put yourself forward to be used and needed when required and I was willing to do that as I always have been for my country. It [the role] is the same as it always has been. I wouldn’t say the role has changed. When Robbie [Keane] and Shay [Given] finished, you’re losing lots of experience but there are other lads who have gained much more experience too at club level. It’s just the natural cycle.”

Meanwhile, Seb Larsson is not going to worry about his contract running out until the end of the season. Fair enough! “My situation is very relaxed,” Larsson said: “My contract expires in the summer. That’s about where we are. What happens in the summer, we get to later.

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ANOTHER FORTNIGHT OFF
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

I usually see international breaks as an unwelcome distraction that get in the way of all things SAFC and pose an injury risk to our players. Not this time…

The week off is a merciful release from the ongoing misery of watching us slide out of the top flight without a fight. Sure, we're all crapping it that Jermain Defoe will get injured - but would it make much difference if he did, given the total lack of spark about the place?

A look at the fans around me in the north-east corner on Saturday gave a good idea of the state of things, despite creating almost as many chances in 45 minutes as we have in the whole season. The seat slammer was subdued, while there were a lack of opinions from the guy who provides the running commentary behind me. "Eeeeh, that's poor," "Larsson, you've got to be better than that" and "shite, Jones man" were his only worthwhile offerings - although to be fair the latter got several airings. You've got to be better than that yourself fella if you're fancying Nick Barnes's job.

There was some joy to the right of me, inevitably from a young un clearly at one of his first matches and so untainted by the burden of cynicism and dejection so many of us carry. However, he watched none of the action, choosing to play a handheld game for the full 90 minutes. On another day the tinny din pouring out of it might have been a pain (his mum tried desperately to turn it down but failed several times) but no one really seemed to care - and who'd begrudge a bairn a bit of happiness?

Creating so much after the break was a surprise but the fact none of the clear chances fell to JD meant few were shocked by the fact none of them went in. Mind you, how Billy Jones made such an arse of his header, I still don't know. Heed like a sheriff's badge, I reckon.

The writing was on the wall a couple of hours before when the team was revealed and we saw the midfield three of Seb Larsson, Darron Gibson and Jack Rodwell. We commented then that that instantly made Jordan Pickford our most creative player - and none of us were joking. Elsewhere, Jason Denayer was as shaky as Stevens, making John O'Shea look reassuringly steady, while chuff all happened down the left - nice to see we've not taken long to drag Bryan Oviedo down to our level.

When the penny finally dropped with David Moyes that change was needed, he turned to his only creative options on the bench, We got more excited about the arrival of Wahbi Khazri, than we did about Didier N'dong - but the Tunisian gave us nothing to shout about apart from a ball for Defoe which, fittingly, had too much weight on it...

Afterwards, Moyes admitted he had the game down as a 'must win' so explained we now need to find two extra points from somewhere. He's probably looking at the home games against Wetherfield County or Melchester Rovers, otherwise it'll mean we'll have to go to Narnia and get a result.

A caller to 5 Live on Sunday night summed up what many of us are thinking - that the stench of the Scot's negativity has near enough guaranteed relegation from the moment he arrived. And, as a result, he doesn't see the usual bounce back of previous seasons. Couldn't put it better meself marra.

Although a part of me saw the appearance of Ellis Short at the game as significant, and that it's definitely not too late to get Moyes out of our club and give ourselves a chance of keeping our place in the Premier League, the reality is it's not going to happen and he''ll still be around in the autumn to, ahem, rebuild (which equals dragging us into the bottom half of the Championship).

I've railed against the 'take your medicine, go down, clear the decks and rebuild' argument for a long time - but I'm coming round to it, particularly with decent everyday people at the club facing redundancy anyway. Seeing JD and Pickford leave won't be easy - but it'll be a small price to pay if others burgling a living from our club go with them.

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catts & big vic on comeback trail…
Defoe Hints at Departure

Both Lee Cattermole and Victor Anichebe are building up their fitness in the hope of returning against Watford on April Fool’s Day. “We hope that Victor could be back and maybe Catts,” said David Moyes. “I think Catts could get some training in but the one we’re really looking to see if we can get back is Victor. There are no guarantees but I know Victor’s doing a bit more running and hopefully getting closer. My bigger worry is how can they get a level of match fitness to make a difference and help us in such a short time. I have to hope that we can get them back and give ourselves another dimension, even if it’s getting them back off the bench late on. I’ll probably play one [a friendly] this week because we have three games in a week coming up and we’ll need the squad of players we’ve got.”

Bryan Oviedo has been chatting about his role at SAFC and his partnership with Adnan Januzaj. He said: “For me it is the easiest part, attacking over defending, I need to help the team create more chances. I think we have very good options, we made some good moments on the left-hand side but we need to keep getting better and we have to finish the chances we get, as well as keep creating more. We did the most difficult thing with the clean sheet, which is very difficult, but we did it well against Burnley. We feel disappointed that we missed our chances because we created a lot, but we need to continue and score, because we won’t win games. We played very well in the second in the half, it was not easy because Burnley always defend very well, and we had very good chances. Playing with Adnan was good, I need to keep communicating more with players because sometimes it is difficult for a new player, to get to know very quickly the other players in the team. I need to keep training very hard, and think about the things we can change and the small things we can do to be better. I need to be in [get to know] the team as quickly as possible, sometimes it is not easy but we have only ten games now and we need to win.”

In more sinister news, Jermain Defoe has hinted, for the first time, that he’ll leave the club if we are relegated. Defoe said: “Obviously, you have to be realistic and to get into any squad it is based on merit and you need to be playing at the top level. When I went to Toronto I missed out on going to the World Cup and it was a hard call to take. I would say I probably need to be playing in the Premier League but we will see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Lamine Kone has pulled out of the Ivory Coast so he can work on his fitness and make sure he’s fit to face Watford.

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Jordan Craic…
Boro Date

Jordan Pickford was happy with the clean sheet against Burnley and hasn’t given up hope of playing the Premier League next season, although he’ll probably be doing it with another team! Pickford said: “We had a few good chances missed, but, on the plus side, at least we’re creating those chances. We couldn’t convert them, but we’ve got to keep strong and keep believing in ourselves. We’ve got to weather the storm sometimes as a team, we knew their work ethic, they’re just going to keep coming and coming, they’re never going to back off. At least we kept the goals to zero and got the clean sheet. The defending started from the front, with Fabio (Borini) and Jermain (Defoe) closing down and working hard to get the ball back. We managed to do that as a unit and it is just about getting the goals now. Hopefully in the next couple of games, after the international break, we can put two and two together and get the clean sheet and the win. We just need to keep working hard on the training ground. We’re just that little fraction away from getting the results that we need – we’ve got to just concentrate on ourselves, not look too much at the table, just keep working hard and it will click.”

Our crucial fixture at Middlesbrough has finally been rearranged and will take place on Wednesday 26 April at 7.45pm. Sunderland AFC will be providing complimentary buses from the Stadium of Light to the Riverside (and return). Supporters must book their place in advance by contacting the ticket office on 0191 5515004, between 9.30am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

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MORE MOYES’ MISERY
SORRY FOLKS

David Moyes has admitted that we are running out of time to stay in the Premier League after his team’s failure to beat Burnley. Moyes said: "It's not enough - it would have been down as one of the wins in my book, so now we have to turn one of the draws I had down into a win. The players know exactly how much it means and they know we have to win. We emphasised how big the game was and they didn't lose - but three points was really what we needed. I think the one we're really looking to see is if we can get Victor back to give us a different look. There are no guarantees but he is certainly doing a bit more running and getting closer. I think the main thing is to get them back but are they going to be match-fit and up to speed? I hope we do get them back and they're both fit and ready to play."

“We had the chances to win the game," added Moyes. "It wasn't the prettiest game, that's for sure but we still made the opportunities which we have not had in recent games. I actually thought we made more chances than we did against Crystal Palace and we scored four that day - everything we hit went in. We created the chances against Burnley but didn't finish. There is no fault on the players, they tried to do everything they could."

In other news, Lamine Kone missed the Burnley draw after twisting in knee in training but should be fit to face Watford in two weeks.  Moyes explained: "On Thursday, just at the end of the session we were doing some heading practice and he just twisted his knee. We have had it scanned. There is nothing there. It looks more like days or a week rather than anything else. He was a big miss for us today, we knew what we were playing against up front. We needed his power, his pace, so it was certainly a big disadvantage for us. I hoped to have him back in days, maybe a week. I saw him yesterday and he was limping with it. We know there is no damage that needs any work."

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POST BURNLEY SYNOPSIS
BY ETHAN THOBURN

Burnley have one of the worst away records in Premier League history, before their trip to Wearside they'd only picked up two points on the road. Burnley have only scored eight goals away from home all season, Sunderland have only found the net in one in their last 7 games, that was the 4-0 victory at Selhurst Park.

Sunderland owner Ellis Short made only his second appearance of the season at the Stadium of Light. Supporters are unhappy at the way the American businessman is running the club and some Sunderland's poor position on his lack of investment.

A very uneventful game saw the first talking point come on 20 minutes; Burnley had a penalty shout when George Boyd's shot was charged down by Darron Gibson, a suspicion of handball, but referee Madley turned the claims down. The referee judged this incident as face protection, therefore not awarding a spot kick. Not long after this, Burnley complained to the referee again, this time for centre half Ben Mee being down injured whilst the counter attacking Sunderland didn't put the ball out of play, although Burnley had played the advantage. Ashley Barnes then horrendously missed from six yards out after scuffing his shot wide, despite being unmarked.

Second half saw Sunderland come out the better team and early on Italian Fabio Borini fluffed his lines when he ran through but his shot rolled into the hands of England international Tom Heaton. Darron Gibson could have been given his marching orders as the Irish midfielder tackled over the ball, luckily only receiving a yellow card. Minutes later, Jermain Defoe played a delightful cross into the danger area but Tom Heaton was equal to Adnan Januzaj's shot; Bryan Oviedo managed to make an equally good cross in the same play but Seb Larsson failed to hit the target, instead skying a half volley.

Minutes later, Burnley were denied a soft penalty claim and Sunderland counter attacked with the blistering pace of Januzaj, who failed to cross, but Seb Larsson played in a delightful ball to the back post, but right back Billy Jones failed to net with his diving header, from a few yards out you'd expect him to score, however it looked like he was trying to head it back across the six-yard area for Jermain Defoe.

Adnan Januzaj came close when Michael Keane failed to clear and it went straight to Jones who squared it to Januzaj on the edge of the area but the Belgian dragged his shot wide. Substitute Khazri made a difference but it wasn't enough for Sunderland. Towards the end, Oviedo cannoned a pass to Denayer who couldn't control it and Jordan Pickford was forced into making a testing save from Sam Vokes. Substitute Didier Ndong was a hindrance as the Gabon international gave the ball away far too often and even got himself booked. Just before the end though, Borini had one last opportunity to give us a goal but the Italian had his effort parried away by goalie Heaton.

RATINGS:
SUNDERLAND:
Pickford : 7
Jones : 6
O'Shea : 6
Denayer : 6
Oviedo : 6
Gibson : 6 (Subbed '74)
Larsson : 5 (Subbed '78)
Rodwell : 6
Januzaj : 7
Borini : 5
Defoe : 6
Substitutes :
Ndong : 3 (Subbed '74)
Khazri : 6 (Subbed '78)

BURNLEY:
Heaton : 8
Ward : 6
Mee : 6
Keane : 7
Lowton : 5
Barton : 5
Hendrick : 6
Boyd : 6 (Subbed off '74)
Arfield : 6
Gray : 7
Barnes : 6 (Subbed off '65)
Substitutes :
Vokes : 6 (Subbed on '65)
Brady : 5 (Subbed on '74)

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draw not good enough...
POST BURNLEY

Sunderland appear doomed at the foot of the Premier League table after failing to beat Burnley the team with the worst record away in the league at the SOL on Saturday. David Moyes’ side had the best of the chances of the game but Sean Dyche’s side held on for a goalless draw which sees Sunderland now seven points adrift from safety.

David Moyes had this to say afterwards: “We made the chance to win the game today. We probably made more today than against Palace, but we scored four that day. I spoke to Ellis Short today - he was fine. If you own a club, you're entitled to come and watch it! Burnley make life difficult. We were better in the second half, and on another day Billy, Fabio, Adnan would have finished a chance Kone just twisted his knee in training. He's had a scan and there's no real damage. I'd hope he'd be back in days. If the chances had fallen to Defoe, it would have helped. But we've said all season we need others to score, too.”

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ALS ITV SPORT BLOG
POST BURNLEY

Even if the week followed another weekend in which we didn't have a game to grumble about, it's been fairly busy on the gossip front. Some former player (Sleeves Elliott?) reckons Roy Keane should come back, somebody else reckons Guardiola is after Pickford, blah blah. Personally, after telling everyone who'd listen that the Man City game was one we shouldn't expect anything from, I got all upset when we lost. Although we created few chances, we performed reasonably well and obviously have to repeat that until the end of May. We've seen Anichebe start kicking a ball again, so there are positives there. Of course, Kirchhoff"s latest comeback has, as with all of his previous comebacks, back on the treatment table. Boo.

Naturally, the biggest news has been an England manager showing common sense and picking Defoe for the first time in three years. The German game? Fair enough, it means nothing, so by all means give some promising bairns with no experience a run out, but Lithuania? There are points at stake, so do what should have been done last summer and play someone with experience and who's in goalscoring form. That's spelt DEFOE. The Lithuanians might well put most of their men behind the ball, so England need someone who is more interested in shots than step overs. Well played, Southgate, and go Defoe - with little Bradley as the mascot.

Speaking of Southgate, Boro comes to mind. I reckon they'd have been sunk if Karanka stayed, and I reckon they're favourites for the drop without him - they must be, if most of their fans think the sack was the right thing for him.

Apparently, Steven "Orange" Taylor has been bumping his gums about us for some reason. To be honest, I didn't read his comments as, like most of us, his opinion is worth even less now that he's at Ipswich than when he was at the Sports Direct Arena, when it was worthless. Apparently, he'll always hate us - well guess what, Steve, we're not bothered. You're currently plying your trade (or would be, if not injured after two games) 250 miles away in a different division, and even your beloved Toon Army think you're a bit of an embarrassment. I'd have kept my head down if I were you -which thankfully I'm not. Comedy orange, you are.

Unlike our team, who are far from funny. No Ndong, which in my humble opinion took the energy from our midfield, and a lacklustre showing which highlighted the weaknesses of both the team and the manager as we ground out a measly point. Larsson should have been replaced much earlier, as he looked like somebody who's shelf life had expired a while ago. There were nearly chances, but that was as good as it got. Still alive, still hoping.

Quotes and comments to follow...

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