Hard luck stories won’t win Sunderland any Premier League points

Michael Woods in action for Hartlepool United against Bournemouth. Picture by FRANK REID
Michael Woods in action for Hartlepool United against Bournemouth. Picture by FRANK REID
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Sunderland gave everything they had and arguably produced their best display of the season against Spurs, but the outcome was another home defeat.

Admittedly, the bar hasn’t been set very high this season when it comes to performances, but at least there were signs that a team is emerging and we can improve.

Dick Advocaat and Jordi Gomez

Dick Advocaat and Jordi Gomez

I was far more worried after the Norwich defeat, for example, when we were outplayed by a newly-promoted club and didn’t look like a team at all. The crowd’s reaction at the end on Sunday was tellingly a lot different.

But it’s five games without a win now and with two away games coming up, we look set for our usual position in the drop zone as the winter months close in. The positives on Sunday were Younes Kaboul - my man of the match - who looks a different player to the one who started the first two games, Yann M’Vila, who continues his impressive early season form and Ola Toivonen, who could give Sunderland something we haven’t had for years in a number 10 role.

The team’s fitness will be a concern for Dick Advocaat, as we definitely ran out of steam in the last 20 minutes and given the lack of game-time for Fabio Borini, Toivonen and Jordi Gomez, that probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Getting those players up to speed must be a priority, as you can’t keep going into Premier League games with the disadvantage of not being fully fit. The turning point was Jermain Defoe hitting the post in the first half. His movement was excellent in the first 45 minutes and if he had scored then, the whole game could have been different.

Jermain Defoe was out of luck against his old side

Jermain Defoe was out of luck against his old side

Sunderland didn’t get luck, as Defoe and Jack Rodwell both hitting the woodwork proved, but hard-luck stories don’t get you points in the Premier League.

Since the Premier League was formed, there’s been some unlikely clubs who have defied the odds to get there, like Blackpool, Burnley, Wigan and Bradford.

But Saturday’s opponents Bournemouth’s story is remarkable by any standards.

It’s not too many years ago that the Cherries nearly went out of existence, but they survived, then went through the divisions, and now find themselves mixing among the big boys on merit.

Those fans who have been with the club every step of the way on that journey must be pinching themselves now with the prospect of top clubs and world-class players going to Dean Court this season.

You have to be a well-run club to go from the lower leagues to the top one with everybody pulling in the same direction, but manager Eddie Howe has got to take the majority of the credit and he’ll see keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League as just as big an achievement as getting them there.

Bournemouth are one of those clubs that passed me by in my time - I didn’t play against them in the league, we never drew them in the cups and there wasn’t even a pre-season friendly - but I know enough about them to know we won’t have an easy ride on Saturday.

With both clubs in the bottom six and desperate for points, the two managers will target this game as a real chance for a win and the opportunity to move up the table.

Saturday’s game is one between two clubs with huge differences in terms of fanbase, history, stadium size and even geography. They couldn’t be further apart.

But Bournemouth, to their credit, are massively punching above their weight and Sunderland as we all know do just the opposite.