Tony Gillan: Time for the gloves to come off and the Sunderland sleeves to be rolled up

Sunderland were beaten by Watford
Sunderland were beaten by Watford
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It is just possible that mine was the only television set in the fair city of Sunderland to transmit Match of the Day on Saturday, so you may be unaware of Sam Allardyce’s post-match interview following his side’s inability to score past a mediocre Watford.

For your information, he said: “Where am I going to find a striker that scores in the Premier League? And if I do, how much will it cost?”

Tricky. If only there was some experienced forward that would represent Sunderland –ideally someone who has scored approximately 261 goals in his career with, say, 132 of them in the Premier League, making him, I dunno, something like the 11th all-time highest scorer.

You know where this is going. Sam’s questions were rhetorical, nevertheless, the respective answers to them are: “Under your nose” and “Nothing.”

There is much to be said for doing what the opposition would least prefer. Watford must have been pleased to see Jermain Defoe’s name omitted from Sunderland’s starting XI.

Newcastle supporters were also pleased when the same thing happened on October 25.

They were less happy when he was brought on 36 minutes into the derby.

They were vindicated in this when Defoe turned the game against them.

No player is a definite panacea, but you can’t help contemplating what might have been if he had started against Arsenal and Watford.... or West Brom, or Southampton, or West Ham.

But where do Sunderland play him? We all have our opinions on that, but any system used by any team should be to suit the players – and not the other way round.

Personally, I would ask Defoe himself what his preferred position is then take it from there.

Conversely, the player replaced by Defoe in that game-changing substitution during the derby win was Ola Toivonen.

The opinion we printed of the Swedish recovering workaholic five weeks ago was: “Toivonen and (Jordi) Gómez are skilful footballers, but a team in Sunderland’s position cannot afford the luxury of one, let alone two players who are unable or unwilling to bite ankles for the cause.”

Rather like Ola himself, that opinion has not moved. I have seen glaciers in more of a hurry.

I am not being entirely flippant when I express my oft-stated animus towards outfield footballers wearing gloves.

It was irritating to see four out of 10 Sunderland players starting on Saturday doing just that – a higher proportion than among the crowd – and no surprise to see that Toivonen was one of them.

Ola wouldn’t need gloves if he ran more (a brisk walk would be a start) and the problem seems to be physical fitness.

On December 7 the Echo printed an admission from him that he wasn’t in good enough shape.

We know that players can be in tip-top condition but still need games, but that is not what he was talking about.

Referring to his performance at Arsenal, he was “a little bit disappointed that my legs didn’t carry me more than 65 minutes.”

“Disappointed” has not been the mot-juste among supporters wondering how an extremely well-remunerated professional has still not got his backside into gear almost three months after joining the club.