JUST after the full-time whistle was blown at Turf Moor on Saturday, I got a text from a mate saying: “Don’t know how you can go away to watch that rubbish, mate”.
He was right, it was rubbish; or rather more accurately it was as bad as the not so family friendly expletive he actually used. Aside from the football though, it was a great day out, something that is becoming an all too familiar feeling when we travel away these days.
Although not much of note actually occurred, the match analysis can be boiled down to poor decision-making.
Gus Poyet made unusually inept use of his substitutes’ bench and Connor Wickham too often elected to shoot when he should have passed; meanwhile the less said about Jozy Altidore’s “so bad it was comical” cameo appearance, the better.
Has a player’s first touch turned into a wayward pass to an opposition player as often his does?
His team-mates must feel like they’re smashing a ball off a concrete wall.
Not much else really happened.
Sunderland dominated for a brief spell before Poyet brought on Altidore and Jordi Gomez, ruining the balance of his midfield and front three in the process.
Prior to that, during our dominant spell, Sunderland failed to craft many clear-cut chances despite being in the ascendancy. If you’re looking for positives, then Poyet’s game management up until that point had been very decent.
Game management is a phrase that sounds like it should be associated with business, spreadsheets and office work rather than something you enjoy watching. Indeed, if it was entertainment you were after then you had to look just about anywhere that wasn’t the Turf Moor pitch.
Pre-match, a significant number of Sunderland supporters had gravitated towards the handily located Burnley Cricket Club.
It proved to be the ideal setting for entertainment and the consumption of cold beverages, as kids of both Burnley and Sunderland persuasions began having a kick around. Being watched by mostly Sunderland fans, this soon turned into a focal point for people’s attention. As the young lad who had taken up his place between the sticks – or, in this instance, jumpers and coats – made his first save, chants of “Oh Vito Mannone” soon sprang up.
As the atmosphere grew, so did the game. By the end, there were about 20 kids playing for Sunderland, with one lad milking his moment in the limelight, grabbing a hat-trick and knee sliding in front of the growing crowd. He was a tall lad compared to his peers and fittingly a few Quinny songs were trotted out to salute the hat-trick hero.
With the volume of the chants increasing, the first airing of “Don’t Sack Pardew” could be heard and before long it was carried on into the stands.
It’s funny how the internet has impacted on football. With not much going on in front of the 4,000-strong away support, attention began to turn to score updates on mobile phones.
With news filtering through that Newcastle were one down, the Pardew chants increased in volume; once it became apparent Hull City had scored a second, there was a full “Don’t Sack Pardew” party in the stands.
Some might call it obsession; I prefer to call it a cure for boredom.
While it was amusing that Newcastle were losing before ultimately drawing, the interest in their game only came as a direct result of so little occurring on the pitch.
There’s nothing like a spark to get the crowd going and Newcastle’s predicament certainly did that. Those chants eventually frittered away and led to pro-Sunderland songs, ironically coinciding with the team’s worst spell of the game.
In fact, as the noise level in the away end increased, Burnley started to look the most likely winners.
And yet Patrick van Aanholt then nearly won us the game; had his long-range effort found the corner of the net rather than the post, the roof would have been blown off the away end.
It wasn’t to be, but that didn’t stop a poor game of football and a slightly disappointing result tempering a good Saturday afternoon away.
Ultimately, that’s what supporting Sunderland across the length and breadth of the country is all about.
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can be stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.
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