David Moyes Is Earning The Trust Of The Supporters

It’s easy to just have blind faith. As a Sunderland supporter, it’s often the only thing you can cling on to. Convincing yourself something will work based on nothing but hope. Between the defeat to Middlesbrough and the surrender to Arsenal, it was difficult to even blindly back David Moyes though. Even they most optimistic of optimists was struggling to come up with reasons as to why Moyes would turn things around.

 

There was no clear plan, the team selections were confusing and even Moyes himself sounded like he was kidding himself when he started telling us that “we’re not far away from clicking.” It’s beginning to look like he was right though because things clicked so loudly against Leicester, it sounded like the cast of West Side Story were strolling around the Stadium of Light. The defence looked mean and solid, backed up by a fantastic goalkeeper. Even though the manager was forced into a double change in midfield, all five players who featured put in good shifts. Up front, Defoe & Anichebe were once again a very dangerous duo and Duncan Watmore’s recent form means losing him for the season will be quite a blow.

 

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From Berlin To Bournemouth – What A Difference A Week Makes

We get a penalty and I barely react. The penalty is scored and I’m still pretty unmoved. I’m sat in a bar in Berlin, watching Sunderland somehow manage to get back into the game through a Jermain Defoe penalty. I don’t really celebrate because it’s still clear what way the game is going. “Let’s just see if we can hold onto this for ten minutes and then I’ll get excited” is what I’m thinking and I was right not to get my hopes up.

 

One week later though and I’m amongst the red & white crowd that have made the arduous journey to Bournemouth. Defoe is stepping up to take another penalty, this time to give the lads the lead. It goes in and, along with the rest of the away end, I go spare. We’re playing well, away from home, down to ten men and we now have a good chance of winning. If you’d have told me I’d be thinking this positively, when I was sitting in that pub in the German capital, I wouldn’t have actually been too surprised. This is Sunderland, after all, they go from ridiculous to sublime and back to ridiculous, quicker than anyone.

 

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Could Pickford Be The Leader SAFC Are Missing From The Back?

The 90′s were great. Away from the obvious nostalgia of Britpop, TFI Friday and the last period of time that double denim was acceptable, football was enduring a renaissance. The advent of the Premier League and Euro 96 are well documented but it was a great decade for goalkeepers with huge personalities. With Sunderland lacking leadership at the back, could we look to our goalkeeper to be our organiser? The kid who was still in nappy’s when New Labour came to power – Jordan Pickford.

 

The likes of Peter Schmeichel, Walter Zenga and David Seaman were real leaders from the back and in 2016 we find ourselves witnessing similar men between the sticks. Hugo Lloris often captains Spurs, David De Gea is one of Manchester United’s most influential players and people Manuel Neuer has came close to winning the Ballon D’or. While Pickford may not be at the level of the aforementioned three right now, he’s still very much in their mould.

 

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The Season Starts Monday

It doesn’t feel like the season has really started yet. It’s not the fact that Sunderland are yet to win a game, although that probably is a minor part of it. I think it’s more to do with the fact that out of our three league games, only one has been at home and only one has kicked off at 3 o’clock. We at least get to see The Lads at the Stadium of Light again when we host Everton but even then, we have to wait until Monday night. Then the following week, at Spurs, we’ll have to wait until 4.30 on Sunday. Throw an international break in between the third and fourth game and it makes your early season enthusiasm go stale fairly quickly.

 

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Ha’way lads and lasses, it is only the second game

Chris Emmerson contributed a piece last week and is back with some post Boro thoughts. Keep calm lads and lasses, it’s only the second game of the season…

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Sunderland or Boro: who’s in better shape for the season ahead?

Chris Emmerson @bullyroo sent us some thoughts on The Lads and Boro ahead of this weekend’s clash. It promises to be a lively affair, but who finds themselves in better shape?

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Who Should Attack Middlesbrough?

The last time we took on Middlesbrough at the stadium of light our attacking options were as follows: Kenwyne Jones, Michael Chopra, Daryl Murphy, Rade Prica, Carlos Edwards, Kieran Richardson and Andy Reid. Not to knock those players (well, maybe some of them) but it’s clear to see that we have far more attractive choices in those areas now, compared to April 2008. That’s to be expected of course, as the club should be progressing and growing stronger, but after some stagnation it’s pleasing to be able to have a debate on who the starting forwards should be this Sunday.

 

If you’ve listened to this weeks podcast (if not, why?) you’ll have heard the lads offering their own opinions on who should come in and who should be left out. It’ll probably be discussed just as heavily over pre match pints on Sunday and you can make a compelling case for a lot of the lads. Jermain Defoe will retain his spot up front but who should be starting in the attacking midfield roles and providing Defoe’s main source of service?

 

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Wise Men Say – SAFC Podcast in association with A Love Supreme – 2016/17 – Episode 1

A defeat at City was disappointing, but the performance was canny. We discuss the game with The Evening Chronicle’s James Hunter and Athletico Mince’s Andy Dawson.

 

Listen in.

 

If you didn’t know already, then you can subscribe on iTunes, listen or stream on Acast or use the RSS Feed to subscribe and listen. Alternatively you can stream it below.

 

1-0

 

Don’t Dare Enjoy Football Anymore – It’s Small Time To Like Things

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.

The Lads

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.

 

Craig Clark 

Thank You Big Sam, Love You

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.

 

survival

 

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.
Cheers Sam.

 

Craig Clark