As feared, as soon as Sunderland had three available centre-backs, they reverted to five at the back.
Undeterred by trifling concerns, such as what might be called “overwhelming evidence to the contrary”, this is what they persist with.
It doesn’t work.
I have mentioned this before, but make no apologies for doing so again. In fact I think I’ll have another pop.
Five at the back doesn’t work, doesn’t work, doesn’t work, doesn’t ...
They don’t look any less secure with a back four, so it’s almost like playing with 10 men from the start (as opposed to when the latest idiotic red card is collected).
As proven yet again against Preston, a Sunderland back five will still concede stupid goals while simultaneously lowering the chances further of scoring themselves, because a midfielder or striker has been sacrificed.
Then there is the personnel.
With one goal in four games you might think it politic to play your most creative player and extant top scorer.
But nah. Aiden McGeady must pay for everyone’s shortcomings.
We all know how inconsistent McGeady is. But no acceptable explanation exists for eschewing him in favour of people who just aren’t good enough. He didn’t even come off the bench.
But Ashley Fletcher did.
This column was somewhat blunt and uncomplimentary about young Ashley last week.
An apology for this is not imminent.
Although mercifully a non-starter, he was given the final third of the match with an audible groan meeting his introduction.
The groan was subsequently justified and named man-of-the-match; unlike Ashley who comfortably augmented his statistic of zero goals or assists in a Sunderland shirt.
If Mother Nature has not provided footballing talent, then it can’t be helped.
But surely a 22-year-old professional footballer should barely stop running and harassing when asked to play for a mere half-hour.
But Ashley Fletcher didn’t.
The advantages of Lee Cattermole’s continued presence on the field when a goal or two are required are not leaping up at us either.
Tactics and formation will never be close in importance to how good the players are.
Bad footballers with poor attitudes are the main reason for SAFC’s status as almost kaput.
It’s difficult to argue with anyone who thinks that whatever is done at Derby County next Friday, it will be another defeat.
But until it’s all mathematical, why don’t Sunderland give themselves the best possible chance?
PNE fans’ wit was nearly as boring as Reading’s
With Sunderland winning three home games in the last 28 years, or whatever the statistic is, their fans are all but immunised against taunts.
As Preston North End became the latest side to do nothing of note and still deserve to win up here, we ask: “Has wit died on the terraces?”
PNE are a great old club with solid local support. But between them they didn’t come up with anything new.
It was the usual “Is this a library?”. “Is there a fire drill?”. “That’s why you’re going down”, and all to the same tune (La donna è mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto as all Sunderland fans know, because we’re opera daft round here).
Come on away fans.
Surely you can do better than songs that were faintly amusing for about 30 seconds in 1989.
Don’t you know the Stadium of Light is (technically) an arena for entertainment?
Still, I like Preston and they can be assured they weren’t the most boring visitors to Wearside this season.
That was Reading.
Wild optimism is down to a T
During my killing of time prior to Saturday’s light entertainment against Preston, I strolled along to the south-east corner of the concourse at the Stadium of Light.
There I noticed T-shirts on sale, proudly emblazoned with four block-capitalised names: “Cattermole, O’Shea, Grabban, Vaughan”.
The asking price for this was listed as £4.50, which all things considered seems a wildly optimistic figure.
Surely no one has ever been that cold.