An occasional drawback to writing a weekly football column is that I have a contractual obligation – to write about football.
There are times when it is preferable to write about the Echo Quiz League, the Venerable Bede, Rocky Sharpe and the Replays or my bad back. Anything. This is one such time.
My suggestion was to have an eye-catching and, under the circumstances, unexpected headline.
I wanted: “GREAT NEWS!” screaming out in large letters with three simple words, “The pub’s open,” printed underneath. The remaining space was to be filled with pictures of puppies, or perhaps a nice Altair design.
But nothing doing; those upstairs continue to demand football for these pages. This is despite most of the populace of Sunderland being unable to face Match of the Day and feeling before games as you might before an exam – that you haven’t revised for.
I don’t know which is a worse feeling among supporters; the frustration, the anger or the resignation. However, I do know that all three emotions are on the increase.
David Moyes said after the Arsenal game: “The players are giving their all. They’re trying very hard. They’re very committed as they’ve shown today.”
If that is true then matters are even worse than anyone had imagined.
“Giving their all” entails complete mental as well as physical application. But to avert Arsenal’s first goal, for example, Sunderland’s defenders needed to ensure that a solitary, dwarfish striker was not allowed to head the ball first. They didn’t
I won’t depress you further with a composite list, but there are numerous other examples of away-with-the-fairies defending this season, which does not suggest 100 per cent concentration.
As for physical effort; Saturday’s statistics of zero corners and one shot on target (a penalty) say much.
There are players who never seem to exceed a trot and manage to avert errors by simply doing nothing; without cruelly singling out any specific Rodwells.
In fairness, some players genuinely did what they could, even if it was with mixed results. In this regard they are above reproach.
Are the fans the only people to feel embarrassed? If, as is claimed, the players feel it too, then why has there been so little positive response? No mental or physical quarter should be given; it might not save them, but it would mean they could look themselves in the eye.
But at Bournemouth this weekend I expect no change; just more plodding on and hoping for the best without any real belief.
It reminds me of a piece of graffiti that once adorned the lavvies in the Dun Cow: “The meek shall inherit the earth – if nobody minds.”
I recently mentioned the heroic failure of the 1996-97 squad; relegated with a laudable 40 points.
The only ones with pedigree were either very old (Bracewell, Waddle, Stewart) or injured (Niall Quinn). This meant that willing souls, unproven in the Premier League, had to go out and bite ankles (Craig Russell, Richard Ord, Martin Smith, Michael Bridges, Lee Howey, Kevin Ball, Martin Scott, Michael Gray, Darren Williams, Steve Agnew, Dariusz Kubicki).
This was not a sublimely gifted outfit. But when they failed to avoid relegation they had nothing to apologise for.
Back to today, I’m afraid, I have never claimed to speak on these pages for anyone but myself and (polite) disagreement is always listened to. But I shall break with procedure now and arrogantly claim that the following thought represents every Sunderland fan right now.
Sick as a juggler’s rabbit.