SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Party is over, Connolly toughs it out

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

THE PARTY’S OVER!:

Keane: I now know which players aren’t good enough

ROY KEANE has told his players that for some of them the party is over.

 The Sunderland manager watched his team slump to their second heavy away defeat in succession at Preston on Saturday.

 And now he’s looking to get tough with his inconsistent squad.

 He said: “I think I’ve been relatively fair with my players. The defenders have been chopping and changing as have other areas of the team and I’ve tried to give everyone a chance.

 “But I will be looking to get a more settled team from now on.

 “The party is over for some of them.

 “What I’ve seen recently has only confirmed what I might have thought about certain players when I first arrived seven weeks ago.

 “You get initial impressions when you first arrive but you’ve got to give people the benefit of the doubt but what I’m saying now just underlines what I though then.

 “I’ve got to the stage where I know who I want to take with me and who I don’t.”

 Keane watched the match video of the Preston game from start to finish over the weekend and admits it didn’t make pleasant repeat viewing.

 He said: “The defending for the goals was really bad and that’s a concern. As a manager you have to accept this sometimes when a great goal is scored against you but all the goals we conceded on Saturday could have been avoided.

 “I can’t fault my players for effort and the they kept on going to the end of the game. But you have to look for them to react the right way when you get setbacks in a game.

 “When you go 1-0 down, or 2-0 down, or even 3-0 down, you’re looking for the right sort of reaction. But there was a lot of running around from us and not too much effort.

 “We’re getting free-kicks and we’re rushing them – getting nowhere when there’s plenty of time still left. What’s needed in those situations is a bit of composure on the ball and that’s something we’ll be looking at.”

 Keane says that having a game coming so soon – they play Stoke City tomorrow night – is something of a double edge sword.

 He said: “ It’s good for the players that they have a chance to start putting things right straight away. In an ideal world, we’d have liked more time to work on the mistakes of the weekend.

 “But I’ve spoken to them about it already and I intend to have another chat today and I would hope that from the players perspective, they can’t wait to get going again tomorrow night.”

NOW WE KNOW HOW TOUGH IT’LL BE:

THERE was never going to be an easy route back to the Premiership for Sunderland, insists Black Cats’ striker David Connolly.

 He returned to Roy Keane’s starting line-up for Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Preston and said afterwards that an unforgiving league was always going to be a rough ride.

 “We knew that Preston would be difficult, and so it proved,” said Connolly.

 “Conceding four goals in any game shouldn’t happen, but we go to Stoke tomorrow and they’ll be on a high after putting four past Leeds at the weekend.

 “This is a tough league to get out of and just because we’re a big club with well-known manager it doesn’t mean we can just walk into the Premiership.

 “But we all look forward to the Preston game and we’ll all look forward to Stoke now.

 “There’s no way we’ll drop our heads, but I feel for our fans down there at Preston, because they deserved more.”

 Connolly kept his counsel over what reaction Keane offered his players after the Deepdale mauling.

 “What he says in the dressing room stays there unless he chooses to come out and say it publicly, but he was disappointed and so were we,” said the former Wigan forward, who twice went close to netting his first Sunderland goal.

 “He knows, and we know, it wasn’t good enough.

 “It is hard for me to say what went wrong for us on Saturday. Collectively, we didn’t get it right.

 “I thought we were doing OK until they scored, but the penalty for their second goal was a bit of a killer, especially as Ben Alnwick almost saved it.

 “Being 3-0 down after 20-odd minutes gave us a massive mountain to climb and it was too big for us.”

 Sunderland fell to 17th in the Championship, only three points shy of the relegation places.

 “The pressure is on all of us now,” admitted Connolly. “We have to go to Stoke and rectify things.”