We’re staying up, they’re going down, we’re staying up, they’re going down…
Join us for the final WMS of the season. Regulars Craig Clark and Rory Fallow get amongst it. Happy times.
You know what I’m sick of hearing? How football fans shouldn’t enjoy this and that. Sunderland fans shouldn’t celebrate safety or the demise of their rivals. Arsenal fans shouldn’t revel in finishing above Spurs because finishing second for the first time in over a decade isn’t good enough. Spurs fans shouldn’t be pleased with a top three finish, despite the fact they rarely get into the Champions League, let alone finish in an automatic qualifying spot, because they fell below their rivals at the final hurdle.
Manchester City fans on the other hand, are told they’re a disgrace for not hanging around to clap a manager who won them some trophies, while also being told their team is a disgrace and has woefully underperformed this season. What are they supposed to do, boo and whistle while simultaneously singing, dancing and worshipping Pellegrini?
Are we ever allowed to have fun? Football fans are often criticised for being too demanding, yet here we are being told that we should demand more. Or, in the case of City, demand more but also show unending gratitude for apparent “failure” – winning three trophies in three years isn’t failure by the way, and their team is nowhere near as bad as people make out.
We’ve been criticised for accepting mediocrity at Sunderland by celebrating survival. Last season, those who left early during embarrassing home defeats to the likes of Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, weren’t supportive enough. Show support for your team – small time; walk out in protest and disgust – not supportive enough.
There’s enough misery in football without not enjoying the little things at the end of another long, hard season, with more downs than ups. Sunderland supporters are too often treated to football that is best described as shite, so when they team turns up and does us proud, that alone is worth celebrating. It’s what makes this a special club. Give us something to shout about, anything, and we’ll be right behind them, cheering a throw in with a roar that would befit a stadium celebrating winning the Premier League.
So you know what? Fuck ‘em. If Spurs had finished second, they’d be sure to let Arsenal know about it. Man City fans don’t owe anything to anyone – when did this manager leaving speech become a thing anyway? – and can get on with supporting their team next season. And whatever they say, the Mags would be absolutely revelling in it had they sent us down, so make sure you stick the boot in. Enjoy the moment lads and lasses.
Remember life before Allardyce? It seems like a long time ago that we were languishing at the foot of the Premier League table, with no wins from our opening eight games. Dick Advocaat was in the dugout, looking and acting like a man who’d made a mistake by agreeing to stay on for another season as Sunderland manager. He left telling anyone willing to listen that the squad he’d been left with wasn’t good enough to stay up.
In a sense, he was right. It took the ejection of some deadwood in January and the addition of three quality signings to bring about the upturn in form that would ultimately guarantee us a tenth consecutive season in the Premier League. However, he was also wrong; wrong to bring in the bad signings he did in the summer and wrong to play ridiculous gung-ho tactics that left us with one of the worst defensive records in the division.
Step up the saviour. I couldn’t give a toss what anyone thinks about us “hero worshipping” the big man, he’s earned it. He may not be glamorous, he may have a reputation for playing ugly football, he may be considered arrogant by many, but by God he knows how to fight a relegation battle.
When he celebrated on Wednesday night, he became the physical embodiment of how every single Sunderland fan felt. We showed our love and appreciation for him and he reciprocated. Something about his time here has simply clicked, and that moment, shared by thousands in the stands, the players, and of course him, just confirmed he belongs here.
I love Big Sam. I love his arrogance, if that’s what you want to call it; maybe he’s just self-assured? Whatever it is, when it’s going well and he’s winning games, it’s infectious. He’s confident, in control and tactically shrewd. People might not attach fancy labels to him or his style of play, but it is nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe.
Indeed, his brand of football is the perfect fit for Sunderland and it gets results. To take a side with three points from nine games, to 38 points from 37 games, is quite incredible. We’ve played some lovely stuff since he took over, and none more so than in the two wins that confirmed our survival over the last week.
You could tell it meant as much to those players as it did to us. It’s not the first time we’ve seen an outpouring of emotion after surviving what looked like certain relegation, but this team has quality in it too. We scored from three set pieces against Everton, but all of them came about after exciting build up play and in the case of the third, a narrowly missed chance by another hero, Jermain Defoe.
Defoe, another of Sam’s great successes. He’s always had the ability, the knack of scoring goals, but he never looked like a lone striker. He does now. He looks every inch a player who can, and indeed has performed that role admirably this season. He may be diminutive, but he holds it up well, battles for every ball and tirelessly runs in behind defences, no matter many times a ball aimlessly sails past him. His goals have been crucial, but so has Sam’s role in getting him to play so effectively up there on his own.
Then there are his three January signings (forget N’Doye, he won’t be staying), Kirchhoff, Kone and Khazri. We can only hope for more of the same this summer, starting with Yann M’Vila on a permanent deal (please). He’s been a class act, the one bit of quality added last summer. His form dipped briefly, but when we were at our absolute worst, he continued to graft and shine, a bright spot in dark times. He’s finished the season strongly, and alongside Jan Kirchhoff, has formed the base upon which our survival has been built and is my player of the season.
Kirchhoff has become the architect in this Sunderland team, a steady influence, while Khazri has buzzed around like a wasp, tirelessly chasing, harrying and making a nuisance of himself. Lamine Kone meanwhile – alongside the formidable Younes Kaboul – is the brick wall at the back. These three players have not only improved the side with their own ability, but formed vital partnerships across the pitch, increasing the sum of the parts around them.
With Allardyce at the helm, it feels like anything is possible. Some may laugh at that notion, but having watched he’s done here in a short time, I’m excited. Genuinely excited. I can’t wait for next season.
Everybody breathe! Sunderland confirmed their Premier League status for next season with an emphatic 3-0 win over Everton, condemning rivals Newcastle to relegation in the process. It wasn’t a bad night, was it? Listen in whilst nursing that hangover. Stephen, Michael and Gareth are joined by SAFC legend Kevin Ball.
Good times for a change, that’s what we had on Saturday. Sure, there’s been some good moments to savour this season but there’s also been plenty of set backs. The win over Chelsea felt like we were washing those disappointments away as the Stadium of Light overflowed with emotion. A great atmosphere is best created when there’s a constant rumbling, wall of noise and not just chants repeated over and over again. That roar reached it’s crescendo when Jermain Defoe put us in the lead, just seconds after Fabio Borini had pulled us level. The noise that greeted Defoe’s winner was special and a true “I was there moment.” Now we have to make sure that moment doesn’t count for nothing. We have to finish the job.
Just ten days of the season remain and it’s the penultimate ITL of the season. It’s still no clearer as to whether Sunderland will be in the Premier League next season and it’s sure to be a big occasion when The Lads face Chelsea on Saturday afternoon. Michael, Stephen and Gareth preview the game and get a Chelsea view from podcaster Stamford Chidge.
The Stoke game was bad, we can all agree on that. Whether you’re an optimist who sees it just as a bad day at the office or a pessimist who takes it as a sign that we’re about to drop, both sets of thinkers can agree that we need to do better. So will it be the clouds continuing to gather for a dark storm or will it be broken up by rays of sunshine? Rays that were perhaps first broken by Jermain Defoe’s last gasp penalty.
It was a frustrating encounter at The Brittania, but we managed to get out with a point. Unfortunately we’re back in the bottom three and we’re going to need to see an improved performance in the coming weeks if we’re to survive. It’s still in our hands. In the studio this week we’ve got WMS regular Rory Fallow.
Another positive result against Arsenal means Sunderland just have their noses in front in the race for survival. An out of form Stoke are next up for The Lads and three points would be just lovely. Michael, Stephen and Gareth preview yet another vital game.