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Sbragia faces moment of truth

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Phil McNulty | 11:00 UK time, Sunday, 26 April 2009

Ricky Sbragia may have been stretching the truth to breaking point by suggesting Sunderland "just didn't turn up" to face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday - but he was not far off the mark.

Sbragia's list of complaints about Sunderland's performance in the 3-0 defeat at the Hawthorns read like a suicide note written in advance of the sad death of their Premier League status.

Sunderland's decent and dignified manager refused to hide - unlike so many of his players - and here is a rundown of just some of the problems he detected.

"Embarrassing...poor...can't explain...passing was poor and decision-making was poor...didn't raise the tempo...did nothing...front two poor...wasn't acceptable...firing blanks all day...we probably went wrong turning up."

The final point was a slight contradiction to Sbragia's claim that Sunderland did not actually turn up - but you get the idea, and if anything he was going easy on them.

In other words, the only thing Sunderland offered in any serious quantity was huge encouragement to every team below them in the Premier League.

86213836.jpgSbragia will seek answers to Sunderland's growing problems by viewing a video of this debacle and "studying ProZone stuff."

Nothing wrong with that - but Sbragia's first move must be to ask Sunderland's players if they have the heart for the bitter dogfight facing them over the final four games.

You cannot fool the fans and the reaction of Sunderland's supporters, comfortably the club's star performers at The Hawthorns, should tell Sbragia significantly more than anything he will glean from a match video or cutting edge performance analysis.

Indeed, Sunderland were so bad that they did not even offer Sbragia the chance to reach for the losing manager's usual lifebelt of "taking the positives." No positives to take here.

Sunderland's players, at least those brave enough to venture towards their followers, swiftly realised the level of hostility being directed towards them and beat a hasty retreat to the dressing room.

West Bromwich Albion may be heading back to the Championship after only one season, but Tony Mowbray's side were more cohesive, more stylish and possessed more desire on a day when a victory for Sunderland would have cleared so many of the clouds of concern starting to gather over Wearside.

Mowbray wisely refused to get sucked into talk of great escapes, a la 2005, but there was much more to encourage him at The Hawthorns than Sbragia.

Sbragia made the candid, some might say frightening, admission that his team looked "disinterested." He must get them interested again sharpish or there is trouble ahead.

Sunderland may have more talented individuals but that was exactly what they were, individuals, and in that guise they are no use to Sbragia. He has a week to weld them back together to face Everton or the unthinkable awaits.

And the unthinkable is that it could be Sunderland stretching out the helping hand to lift (whisper this in the north-east) Newcastle United out of the Premier League's quicksand, then diving in themselves to take their place.

Luckily for Sunderland, there may just be enough poor teams knocking about at the bottom of the Premier League to save them - but you would not bet the house on it on this evidence.

86213877.jpg

There is talent in the Sunderland ranks. Djibril Cisse and Kenwyne Jones carry a serious threat when they are in the mood, while Steed Malbranque and Kieran Richardson can offer potent support.

Irony also made an appearance after what Sbragia admitted was the worst day of his fledgling managerial career. And it came in the shape of news that his predecessor Roy Keane had started his Ipswich Town reign with an outstanding 3-0 win at Cardiff City.

Keane took a swipe at Sunderland's owners for interference in the latter days of his reign at the Stadium of Light - so another of Sbragia's tasks is to avoid the possibility of an awkward silence in Championship boardrooms next season.

Sbragia was brutally honest about Sunderland's plight and performance, and he must now prove he has the managerial expertise to reverse the worrying trends on show at The Hawthorns.

West Brom's performance is more likely to be an act of defiance as opposed to a precursor to survival, but the mood was still buoyant and Mowbray insisted their supporters have enjoyed watching their team this season.

They certainly enjoyed the performance of Scottish youngster Graham Dorrans, a £100,000 buy from Livingston last summer. He does not possess great pace, but he showed composure on the ball and an eye for a pass - including one glorious 60-yard diagonal eye-opener played to the right flank in the first half.

It might have served Mowbray better, at least in terms of survival, if he had tailored his passing principles to inject a more ruthless streak into his side, but he is not for turning.

This win, at least, prolongs hope for a little longer, and it was the least the Baggies' fans deserved for their vibrant support that will make The Hawthorns a loss to the Premier League if they do go down.

Sunderland have better hopes of staying up - but the nerves will have been rattling on the long coach journey back to Wearside, especially with Newcastle suddenly eyeing their neighbours offering them real hope of survival.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As you state Phil, I think there are a few poor teams down there, and I think Sunderland have enough to stay up. They had a bad day at the office at the Hawthorns, but Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse can score goals, and Malbranque/Richardson provide enough creativity. I don't think Sbragia is the long term answer for them as manager though. To me, like Sammy Lee he's another classic example of an assistant struggling as the top man.

    Hull City are in freefall and relying too heavily on Geovanni, Newcastle looked hopeless away at Tottenham the other day, Middlesbrough can produce one good performance and then a string of dire ones. Blackburn have a lot of injury problems at the moment and aren't consistent either. I think this victory against Sunderland has provided false hope to West Brom- I can't see them staying up- but at least they made a better fist of it than Derby did.

  • Comment number 2.

    Wouldn't it be great if Sunderland were sent down by Shearer :D

    Still hopeful we'll stay up, 3 home games, all winnable (and must-win). Also a slight possibility of getting something from Villa on the last day of the season, out of form and they'll probably be playing for nothing by then.

    Liverpool away, well it's Liverpool, hopefully a high scoring game :)

  • Comment number 3.

    Their / There / They're :)

  • Comment number 4.

    If Sunderland can't beat West Brom then they deserve to go down too...as do Newcastle and Middlesborough. All have spent small fortunes on their squads and played very poorly this season.

  • Comment number 5.

    Cryin', Newcastle have made a profit over both the Summer and January tranfser windows. Let me guess, now we'll deserve to go down for not spending enough money?

    The table doesn't lie, we've played horrendously, and had the worst possible season considering the non-playing aspect too.

  • Comment number 6.

    That was a decent blog, even if it did pretty much tell us what we already know. However, I do think it was strange that no mention was made of Hull City. They showed more spirit against Liverpool than Sunderland showed at West Brom, but they achieved the same end. I can't remember the last time a team outside the relegation zone with so few games to go looked as doomed as Hull City. It's Hull more than Sunderland that make me think that Newcastle will be okay.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not only their/there/they're but also..uninterested/disinterested.

    However...Good blog. Nice to read about us winning for once.

  • Comment number 8.

    Their / There / They're :)

    ------------------------------

    Pedantics / Pedantic's / Pedantics':o

  • Comment number 9.

    All these teams keep handing us (Newcastle) life-line after life-line, if we don't take them then we DO deserve to go down - the disappointing thing is, the people who got us into this situation (ownership, underperforming players etc.) won't be affected - they'll be off getting lucrative contracts at other clubs on the back of previous form - while we, the undeserving fans are left collecting our championship ticket stubs!

  • Comment number 10.

    Overall, looking at the fixture lists and recent history, its hard to see any team higher up the table than Hull being relegated at this stage. As mentioned above the team are in freefall which is a shame after their start to the season. Newcastle are probably capable of putting together a couple of performances in front of their own fans to stay up, and Sunderland will scrape through on the basis of actually beating Hull last week.

  • Comment number 11.

    I just wonder what Sbragia said at half time; listening to the radio commentary, the game was there for the taking in the first half, but we go a goal down just before the break.
    Surely it's up to the manager to lift the players at half time?
    On paper it was the strongest side we could muster, but it seems that whatever was said at half time, we just went out and played worse.
    Whatever happens over the next four games the manager has to be replaced.
    We are no worse than the Fulhams, Tottenhams and Wigans that sit just behind the top six in the table; the difference is that they have managers that can inspire ordinary players.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have absolutely nothing against WBA but in a sense I'm glad they are where they are because the idea of all three top-flight clubs in the north-east being relegated doesn't bear thinking about. It's socially and economically important for all three places to have their clubs at the top, and a triple relegation would be a huge blow for the region.

    (Spenkme - pedantic would be to criticise Joe Bloggs'/Blogg's/Bloggs's grammar etc, but in the case of the BBC's "chief football WRITER" (my caps) I think it is fair comment.)

  • Comment number 13.

    I think you're reading far too much into one game. As much as I would LOVE Sunderland to go down and Newcastle stay up.... I think Sunderland just need to get back one, maybe two wins and they'll be safe. Suggesting that simply because Sunderland had one awful game means they're going down or to spark an entire column dedicated to that and not much else.... really is poor journalism, poor thinking.... just generally poor. You've clearly got a lot to learn about football. If you want something to write about, how about covering Hull's freefall... they look more likely to go down than Sunderland do right now.

  • Comment number 14.

    Good blog Phil and Subterranean got it right too.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry to be a Pedant but pedantics is not a word.

  • Comment number 16.

    Momentum plays a major part in events just now. Sunderland and Hull are on the slide just now, Blackburn have had some results. As for my team, I think that a win tomorrow is absolutely vital as a springboard. Anything else and we're sunk

  • Comment number 17.

    To all fans of struggling teams: there's life after the Premiership. Just ask Southampton. Hope this helps.

  • Comment number 18.

    It's strange because only a couple of games ago Sunderland narrowly lost to Man Utd and put in a committed shift right throughout the team. Sbragia even commented after the game, a couple more performances like that and they'll do fine, which makes yesterday's tepid effort all the more baffling. They're bang in trouble now, and if they don't improve dramatically in their next 2 matches, they can start thinking about Championship football next season.

    While I admire Tony Mowbray's principles and West Brom, at times, do play some nice one touch, pass-and-move stuff around the deck, they're a bit too lightweight. They lack steel in the middle of the park and often aren't direct enough. Mowbray and West Brom should be applauded for remaining true to their vision of the way they want to play, but if they get relegated, as looks increasingly likely, there will no doubt be some regrets that sacrifices for style weren't made earlier this season. Stoke might not be the prettiest of teams to watch, but they're effective and they look to be safe now.

  • Comment number 19.

    What concerned me most about Sunderland was the complete lack of urgency and drive in their performance. It was almost as if this was a meaningless fixture for them - and yet a win would have been priceless in their current predicament.

    Sbragia was brutally honest afterwards, but being brutally honest in front of the media and then injecting life into this team are two completely different things?

    And how big is Newcastle's game tomorrow now?

  • Comment number 20.

    #18 and #19 are both spot on - when Sbragia took over we looked like we were doing really well, and suddenly that urgency has disappeared right at the moment when a victory would have left us on the brink of safety. I don't know if Sbragia can motivate the players enough, or even if the fans' response yesterday will do the trick. That's the problem when you have a bunch of players who know that they can walk away from a club. About the only player who is Sunderland through and through is Leadbitter. The rest don't seem to care any more.

  • Comment number 21.

    In early November, somebody told me he was going to have a fairly hefty bet on Hull going down. Anybody know what the odds might have been then? (I'm looking for a sub)

  • Comment number 22.

    I knew the day Sbragia took over we were in trouble. He is a coach (a very good one from all accounts) not a manager. He said he didn't want the job but was given it. If Sunderland do go down, and I hate to say this, Quinny has to take some of the responsibility

  • Comment number 23.

    We Sunderland fans have seen plenty of relegations, we can sense when one is coming and believe me, one is coming this year.

    We will most likely not get another point this season. We simply don't do away wins (Since Sbragia got the job full time back in December, we've picked up two away points, both of those coming against teams currently in the relegation zone). Our home games are Everton and Chelsea (we don't do win against top half teams either).

  • Comment number 24.

    After attending Hull Citys KC as a Liverpool fan and getting ejected for cheering and clapping when LFC went 2 up, I really would like to see them drop down where they belong. Second rate stewarding, second rate fans, second rate Club. There were lots of LFC fans all over the ground but instead of dealing with the vile aggressive spitting coin throwing home fans I was the easy target for the brain dead stewards and they said I had to go. Small club syndrome, in a big way. The stewards were a bunch of cowards and an embarrasment to themselves.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hull's decline has been quite incredible since their fantastic start and they currently seem incapable of getting results. They will hope they got enough on the board early on to help them survive, but there will be some nervous people around in the next few weeks.

    Do Sunderland fans think Jones and Cisse make a good partnership? They did not look like one yesterday that's for sure.

  • Comment number 26.

    Cypriotjohn,
    I for one hope that you were not ejected "for cheering and clapping when LFC went 2 up".
    If you feel you were harshly treat by the stewards at the KC, then write to the stadium manager with the details & I am sure they will treat any complaint fairly.
    Hull City worked hard to get a place in the Premiership & as fans we will back our team all the way. If you were in our position would you not do the same?
    dont for one minute think I am saying all our fans are faultless, far from it, we as well as you have our problem group and are trying to deal with it.
    Liverpool were the much better team on the day & although we showed some of the spirit that has been missing in recent weeks, we didnt deserve to win. neither do we deserve to be rubbished on boards like this for being a 2nd rate club with 2nd rate fans. we are just as pasionate about the game as you are.
    Liverpool do not have a monopoly on passion.

  • Comment number 27.

    "andie99uk" Yes I was ejected for clapping and cheering when Kuyt struck the 2nd goal. The steward said my actions could cause a disturbance! He was a Hull City fan and stated to me as I was shown the gate that he had missed a Hull City goal because he was having to throw me out,as did his assistant. If I were to complain to the Stadium Manager what would I gain? I wanted to watch the rest of the match but I lost that by cheering on my team. If Hull City have aspirations of becoming a big club,which they never will be, then they have to accept that fans of the opposition will take tickets for anywhere within the ground if their allocated section is full. The only disturbance that could have been caused on the day would have been by the 30 or so Hull fans sat near to me that were continually referring to Hillsborough and that LFC fans are murderers, and throughout the game spitting cursing and coin throwing at my friend and I. Did any of this group get ejected from the ground? No they did not because the stewards took the easy option and as I said before they were cowards and an embarrassment. This does not reflect on the majority, but it will be foremost in my mind when checking on your results in the Championship next season. The KC Stadium and the way it is staffed do not deserve Premier League status, simple as that.

  • Comment number 28.

    On paper, Jones & Cisse should work but they have struggled. Cisse should score a lot more than he does but his shots to scoring ratio is very poor. Jones just doesn't look interested most the time. I don't think Sbragia is getting the best out of the players. Looking through the team, they shouldn't really be where they are in the table but the problem is that there are good individuals who are not playing as a team. I think the same can be said about Newcastle.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Jasonderland" Talented individuals that do not play as part of a team will always cost the club much more than money. What you have with Cisse is an above average striker who needs four or five clear chances before he will score a goal. He works as an individual and runs with his head down route one in search of a shot at goal. His pairing with Jones is not the best for your team because they both are very similar players and it has cost you dearly in some games where chances have to be taken.

  • Comment number 30.

    It seems that the entire bottom half of the league are relegation material this year. All of them are unconvincing and 9 sides boast a goal difference of around -15 or worse.

    You're point about there being worse sides around, Phil, will probably save the Black Cats for now.

    No offence to Stoke, but their league position indicates how poor things are this season.

    As for Newcastle, God only knows what will happen if they drop. Sunderland have been up and down more times than a yoyo, but the Toon Army will find it tough travelling to the likes of Blackpool and Plymouth next year!

  • Comment number 31.

    Cypriotjohn,

    You haven't really a leg to stand on there. If you go in the home areas as an 'away' fan its generally good practice and good advice to keep your mouth shut and respect the home fans. I (Stoke City supporter) sat on the Kop during our game at Anfield and out of respect to the home fans and my own safety kept my mouth shut and watched the game in almost silence (like the rest of your fans that day!).

    If I had been shouting off and cheering during the game I'd expect a smack in the mouth or ejection. Check the back of your ticket, it will say home areas are for home fans only, it's advisable to either follow that rule or employ some common sense.

    I suspect that you would receive the same treatment at almost every ground in the country, Fulham being the exception.

  • Comment number 32.

    Tom, Stokyo. Yes that day in question was a very subdued day in the Centenary stand as well. Not pretty playing with ten defenders but effective in your plight for survival, and yes its up to the opposition to break through such a defensive negative team and we didnt do that twice this season against SCFC but you are more than safe now so lets have another crack at it next season shall we.
    Regarding the ejection at little Hull City, there were LFC fans all over the place, it was just unfortunate that we were amongst a group of vile morons that are tasting for the first time big games against big teams, and the stewards took the easy option and showed how lazy and cowardice they really were and shame on them for it. Looking at the fixtures you will soon experience the KC stadium and how it is staffed so I hope your trip there is a smooth one hopefully in the correct stand for the away fans! Oh and by the way it is the only place in the Prem where an away fan cant get into a pub for a drink, nearest one been over a mile away from the little stadium occupied by that little club! Good riddance Hull City.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    What I can't understand about Ricky Sbragia is that he keeps picking Cisse and Jones when everyone knows they can't/won't play together.
    What about giving Murphy and Healy a chance or even some of the reserve team members like Colback, Cook or Hourihane a chance. They certainly seem to be in the winning mood and know how to score goals.

  • Comment number 35.

    I sat among the home fans for the Ispwich vs Portsmouth fa cup game last year and I joined in a few Portsmouth chants and cheered while we scored. Apart from getting glared at by one of the stewards, everything was fine.

  • Comment number 36.

    John,

    Unfortunately the match-day experience visiting purpose built stadiums are on the whole a chore (including my beloved Britannia!), often built on wasteland miles away from anywhere and devoid of any pubs full stop. Have to say the experience of visiting Anfield and Goodison are real blast from the past and it's fantastic to have loads of pubs and eateries on your doorstep.

    I agree that you shouldn't have be subject to abuse, coin-throwing and vile remarks about Hillsborough. I suspect that if Hull City weren't in such a dog-fight and sitting comfortably in mid-table your experience would have been a more positive one.

    I can't say I'm Hull's biggest fan which stems mainly from Phil Tango Brown's arrogance and personality, that said I DO hope they stay up at the expense of Newcastle. I think Hull would struggle next season and that can only be a good thing for my club providing we do the business and stay up.

  • Comment number 37.

    Tom, fair comment regarding stadia nowadays, but little Hulls ground is slap bang in a residential area with lots of watering holes but no away fans allowed in any! I know of a coach load of LFC fans that were allowed into a pub two miles away by prior arrangements, and by all accounts they were made very welcome. As for the rest it was a pub in the city centre only, more than a mile away from the ground.
    If and when we get a new stadium (maybe not now as talk of extending Anfields capacity by another ten thousand has resurfaced recently)then I hope that certain elements of the character of Anfield and its surrounding welcoming pubs is retained,that would be nice.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    The KC is NOT "slap bang in the middle of a residential area", its in a park with the nearest houses over 800 metres away and only on one side of the ground. It might be a "little" ground compared to the state of the art facilities at Anfield, but it is new & paid for and works as both a Fottball stadium & a Rugby league stadium. A game may I say, where fans of both sides mix well before, during and after the game.
    Are you certain you actually went to the KC?
    As for not geting into any of the local pubs, I remember being told we would not be welcome in any pubs around Anfield (by merseyside police) and also had to make do with a couple of pints well away from the ground.
    Where are your welcoming pubs? I have always found Everton fans to be very acomodating when it comes to having a drink before & after games, but not so in the red 1/2.

  • Comment number 40.

    Apart from the Man U and Hull games, we really haven't looked interested for the last two months. It's true the front two can't seem to play off each other, they have goals in them but they are not any service. Fans are saying Jones is not interested but he doesn't stand a chance as the crosses are coming in 30 yards from the byline, defenders at this level can deal with these balls all day. Our wingers are incapable of getting to the byline to put in dangerous cross for Jones. Cisse is a flying machine but needs many chances to score which he's not getting.

    It's a shambles at the moment. If we stay up it's only because of other teams. It's in our own hands but we seem unwilling to make the effort.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Good article Phil.Would just like to say Sunderland were poor yesterday and if it wasnt for a win v Hull last week I dont know where they'd be.But the thing about it is they are still in trouble and are playing a team in Everton next week who are genuinely trying to achieve things and after getting to the cup final last week Moyes still wasnt satisfied yesterday so Everton will be favourites to win that match.I cant see them getting anything away to Pompey or Bolton after that and then there is the final game against Chelsea.Where are the points going to come??Hull are not in great shape either but Villa have dipped a little and while it is not beyond Hull getting a win like they did at Fulham,getting a result at Villa Pk seems more probable than Sunderland getting one against Everton.After that Hull are at home to Stoke which is well winnable for them.Newcastle can get the wins at home and Middlesboro are not completely out of it either.So to me its vey possible Newcastle will do enough to get out of it and finish above Sunderland and at the same time Hull may get enough points to just squeeze above Sunderland.Thats not to mention Middlesboro who could get 6 or 7 points as easily as they could get none.Even a draw for Sunderland yesterday would have been ok,but now they have a real fight on their hands and I would be genuinely concerend.

  • Comment number 43.

    The problem for sunderland is it's the players who were wanting the manager to stay on and now they don't seem like they really want to play for him.

    I think they've got enough to get bye - just but only because the teams below them are so poor.

  • Comment number 44.

    OK so I got carried away with my last one. please remove the scum section as I do not want to lower myself to the standards of some, but thats just how some people are. Sorry.

  • Comment number 45.

    Sbragia is almost the anti-Keane in football and personality terms. Quiet, low-key, under-stated. Very much below the radar as a headline maker, but he was very strong on his players with his public comments.

    In Sunderland's situation, however, actions speak louder than words and it will be intriguing to see how he and the players react when they play Everton next Sunday.

    What changes do Sunderland fans think he should make, if any?

  • Comment number 46.

    Fottball?
    I must take more water with it in future.
    Have to say that on the back of the 2 games today, although Hull can still stay up on merit, its going to be very hard. I was hoping that Wigan would do us a favour, which went down well in our house as my eldest is a latics fan having grown up in the town, but it was not to be.
    City players need to show more fight in the next two games than they have since Xmas.
    Oh, and we could do with Phil Brown handing back his TanTastic season ticket & actually getting the team to work together on & off the pitch. there have been one or two publicised player spats this season and it shows on & off the field.

  • Comment number 47.

    No wonder John was removed from Hull. My wife is a Cypriot and she stands up and claps everytime Sunderland lose! No sympathy from me.
    I fear for my boys. However Hull and WestBrom have given so much entertainment to the Premier league this season and their fans and managers are a credit to football. WestBrom and Middlesboro are gone. Newcastle should join them given their resources the management has been very poor. They need a shake up.

  • Comment number 48.

    Drop Edwards and Reid next week and play Whitehead and Steed instead. Everton is exactly the sort of game we want at this stage of the season as they have not got anything to play and by the looks of Yesterday have one or even both eyes on their cup final. I would expect a response from the lads because if we don't get one we're off to Peterborough next year...

  • Comment number 49.

    As a toon fan it obviously saddens me to see Newcastle deep in relegation trouble, if we do go down, we would possibly be the biggest football club to ever drop into the first divison (championship). It also saddens me to see a stoke fan hoping Newcastle go down rather than Hull. I believe Newcastle United Football Club is one of the biggest in the country, so why may i ask, considering Stoke just gained promotion last year so you could be playing biggger clubs, would you want Newcastle out of the Premiership? I dont mean any offence to Hull City as we havn't beaten you once in the four games we have played you this season although i do hate your sad mackem manager.

  • Comment number 50.

    Shearer_ben

    Bigger and better Man Utd spent a season in the first division and look what it did for them. As a mackem maybe it best Newcastle stay up and continue to do what they do best, be a great disappiontment. Try a pint of Strongarm you know it makes sense.

  • Comment number 51.

    come off it, shearer ben, whoever you are you arent a newcastle fan. not even the daftest of us believe we would be the biggest club ever to go down, or any of the other nonsense you wrote.

    suggestion for your next wind-up: some subtlety

  • Comment number 52.

    RokeroarerSteve

    Yes Man Utd are bigger and better club than us, and yes they are now easily the biggest club in the country, if not the world, but if we go down i can seriously see us doing a leeds. I hate to see Newcastle in a relegation dog fight, but i would rather see that every season rather than seeing us sitting in mid table in the first division....or worse. Theres nothing better than the tyne-wear derby, i just hope it will be played next year, and i hope it will be played in the premiership.

  • Comment number 53.

    In answer to Phil's question... Sunderland fans see Cisse and Jones partnership as a symbol for the team's struggles this season.

    They clearly should be doing so much better and, as individuals, they can be outstanding. But these fleeting glimpses of quality merely emphasise the inconsistentcy and complete lack of fight that Sunderland fans expect above all else.

    On paper these two should be formidable. Jones is strong in the air and has proved to be adept at holding the ball up and bring others into play. Cisse is always looking for space and shows exceptional speed when the right ball is played.

    Both are goal scorers. We've even seen glimpses of a budding friendship with their ridiculous goal celebration together at Hull.

    And yet, on the pitch, they are complete strangers, completely unaware of each others presence and locked in a unhealty competition to show who can be the most languid, tortured; and can hold their hands on their hips, while staring at the skies, for longest.

    Frankly, they are a disgrace. Jones looked unplayable at times last year and appears to have had his head turned by Spurs. Cisse is a great disappointment, his whole career seemingly built on pace alone.

    Whatever happens this season, I hope we get shot of both.

  • Comment number 54.

    shearer_ben

    I hate to say this but ... I agree. I will miss the victory too much. We need the two big clubs in the NE playing in the top flight. 90,000 home fans deserve to see the best teams.

  • Comment number 55.

    When Sunderland appointed Sbragia, the only positive I felt was that we were being reminded of our place in the league - ie, dont get your hopes up that we are anything better than a yo-yo side. Kind of the "kinnear moment" some Newcastle fans must have felt after decades of convincing themselves they deserved to be one of the "Big 3" in the top flight.

    Cisse is extremely gifted, but intolerably lazy. I've seen him throw his hands up in disgust when a pass didnt go to within an inch of his foot, rather than challenge for the damn ball. Jones has natural skill but as far as I can see, hasnt matured at all and still fails to take enough of the precious few chances the rest of the (supposedly attacking) side create. A 1 in 8 goalscorer rather than the 1 in 4 that is minimum requirement.

    Unless Borough-Newcastle is a draw we will be relegated, but frankly I cant imagine any neutral fan shedding a tear. Too defensive, too little heart, too much money and not enough fear of failure. Everything that's wrong with Premier League football, we dont deserve anything else.

  • Comment number 56.

    just think:

    hull could survive! what a retrograde step that would be for the PL

  • Comment number 57.

    PS:

    I think you mods should get your act together:

    Note:

    I am not a New Member!

    and its becomming a severe waste of my time either reading these bloggs or attempting to comment on them.

  • Comment number 58.

    CypriotJohn , how long have you been attending football matches ? Would you go to Old Trafford and sit in the Stretford End and cheer on Liverpool ? If you are an away fan and sit in the home section then you keep your mouth shut otherwise you risk a lot worse than been ejected from the stadium .

  • Comment number 59.

    Newcastle the biggest club to drop into the Championship? Don't be silly , what about West Ham & Leeds, both much bigger than the Toon!!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Squaggles...Like I already stated there were LFC fans dotted all over the place, and there usually are, except of course places like cold trafford for example for obvious reasons. The point is Hull will never be a big club with lazy stewarding such as Saturdays example showed.
    Bye bye to Hull City and good riddance.

  • Comment number 61.

    i think its time for the mod to get thier acts right !
    people like CypriotJohn are posting immaterial comments and others are eagerly replying for all his comments,no disrespect to Mr john but i would suggest it will be more interesting if we all try to stick to the main topic instead of posting messages about the stadium,stewards and Pub( i admit its a part of football culture but we are talking about the perfomance on the pitch not about the stadiums and stewards, they cannot keep the club in the PL).
    its natural that u feel bitter about that incident but i feel its time to move on and focus on football other then cribbing about same thing over and over again. there will be social difference everywhere in this world and there will be rich and poor till the end of this world. Hull cannot become another Liverpool with thier limited resources and they cannot built state of the art stadium like liverpool and i feel that u were arrogant by calling them second rate. Its a common practice that the away fans in home area should not indulge in any activity that may provoke the home fans and i believe its been followed for the safety of both parties.
    am not a Hull fan and i wont be crying if they go down and i dont like Phil brown and his arrogance towards the players, he think he is the only reason for taking them to the PL.
    I have noticed that most of the fans are accusing Stoke for being boring and negative, I believe every managers has thier style and we should respect that , Tony Pulis deserve appreciation for his achievment with the limited resources.If every one starts playing like M.U / Arsenal/ or Barcelona and there wont be any thing left which makes these Teams 'Special'. i wonder If SAF or Wenger would prefer thier natural style if they were given the Stoke squad or Blackburn squad , am sure they would prefer safety over entertainment !

  • Comment number 62.

    Going back to what your blog is axctually about, Phil!! Sunderland where TERRIBLE on Saturday, which was even more galling when this was a definite must win game when you look at the other fixtures. How can the players not "turn up?" I can never understand seemingly the lack of passion amongst the players. Some of them may as well just shrug at the final whistle and say "oh well, never mind, right which club wants to sign me next year, because I am certainly too good to play in the Championship!" The image of Juninho on his knees crying when Boro got relegated always sticks in my mind, he actually cared.The only player I can think of reacting like that now at Sunderland, Boro or Newcastle is Steven Taylor, as much as that pains me to say it. Why should the players need lifting? Surely the fact that they are facing relegation should be enough of a kick up the bum to get out there and fight. It shouldn't be a case of the manager needing to get them motivated, they aren't kids, don't they think they owe the fans something, alot them will be earning more in a week what the majority of the crowd earn in a year. But when they've moved on to another club we'll all be there still spending our time panicking about relegation or occasionally celebrating a success!!

  • Comment number 63.

    It looks like Sunderland and Hull are trying their best to not get Newcastle and /or Middlesboro relegated... it is the ultimate "bum fight" at the moment with the 4 North East teams (i'm sure someone will say Hull aren't "technically" North East... but you get my point) - doing everything they can to get relegated.... good luck ... may the most uselss teams win....

    I say Britain, you say talent, Britain's got Talent, it's the DJ Talent!...

    i vote whoever stays up withthe most points out of the 4 teams employs DJ Talent as their manager next year - just to try even harder to get relegated next time around!

  • Comment number 64.

    Interesting article Phil, and good to see you continuing to write about the fascinating battle at the bottom of the Prem. A few weeks ago, with 11 games left, I did Premiership Predictor on here with the focus on seeing if it would be Stoke, Blackburn, Pompey, Boro or Newcastle that joined WBA. I was surprised when in actual fact, Sunderland went down with Boro. Since then, they've done nothing to prove that accidental prediction right. However, since then Hull have continued their capitulation and, if Shearer gets his 1st win as manager tonight, they will be just 1 point ahead of Newcastle, who would also close the gap on Sunderland to 2 points. All 3 teams have tough fixtures but I feel it will be Hull that go - only Stoke at home looks winable to me, but that's no sure thing. Since Brown humiliated his men by taking his infamous half-time team-talk on the pitch, in a kind of 'look what a maverick I am' self-publicity stunt, they have hardly won a game. Out of Brown, Sherer and Sbragia, I would be least disappointed to the back of who must be one of English football's most arrogant characters. Sbragia will revitalise his players I believe, as he did by putting newspaper cuttings of Phil Brown's comments in the dressing room last week. He's a great coach and I think if he can't motivate them now then there's really no hope for him as a manager. And by the way, if WBA win at Spurs next week they're back in it - amazing if it were to happen! One last thing, lovely that nobody is talking about Stoke for the drop now - well done the legend that is Tony Pulis!

  • Comment number 65.

    Cypriot John

    You will always be ejected from any football ground as an Away supporter sat in the home end. And yes it is much easier to eject 2 people rather than 20 000!!

    Can't really see what your problem with that is to be honest.

  • Comment number 66.

    Cypriot John,

    Congratulations on getting your own forum / thread on Auntie; jolly well done! Unfortunately your lengthy discussion centre's on Hull's 'poor' stewards warrenting relegation:

    "The point is Hull will never be a big club with lazy stewarding such as Saturdays example showed"

    Being a big club is not, shockingly, about the quality of your stewards, it's generally more directly linked to the quality of the players and coaching staff. Whilst Hull may not be among the best in the league in those respects they have certainly not been the worst - confidence my good man is paramount and Hull are sorely lacking in that at the moment.

    As for the reason you are so angst-ridden at the moment is it anything to do with L'pool's title aspirations going up in smoke??

    As for Shearer Ben - - Tut, tut, tut - to all geordies:
    NEWCASTLE HAVE GREAT FANS BUT ARE NOT A BIG CLUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even a decent sized club, a BIG club is a club that wins things, or at least challenges for things, or has a glorious history. How do Newcastle qualify??

    Bah

  • Comment number 67.

    "After attending Hull Citys KC as a Liverpool fan and getting ejected for cheering and clapping when LFC went 2 up, I really would like to see them drop down where they belong. Second rate stewarding, second rate fans, second rate Club."

    Awww poor lad!

  • Comment number 68.

    standards . standard's . standards' .

  • Comment number 69.

    I saw Sunderland in October when the Arsenal played up there. They looked a decent side and deserved to win that day. I cant understand how they have fallen so far from there. Far more to offer than the haphazard circus at St James's or Boro, who appear resigned to loss of status.

  • Comment number 70.

    I have a soft spot for clubs from Birmingham so I would really like it if WBA survive it will be a minor miracle but worth it their fans are so passionat and loud it would be a shame to lost them I hope the 3 to go down Sunderland Newcastle Middlesbrough nothing against the north east just Newcastle I would love to go down just to prove they are not the big club they seem to think they are Middlesbrough I think deserve to go down just bad performances all season and Sunderland to go because I'd like Hull and WBA to stay up because Hull have been a fantastic wild card this season and got some real suprising results

  • Comment number 71.

    Sunderland turned up at west brom and expected to win with west brom seemingly already condemned by everyone to relegation and what they got was a team that was in their face and playing quick football, but sunderland will stay up. West brom, boro and hull to go down although personally i think it would be hilarious for newcastle to get relegated and have shearer go sit back on his sofa in the MOTD study and still pretend that he knows what he is talking about, not so easy now is it? HA

  • Comment number 72.

    Whoever out of Boro, Hull, Sunderland and Newcastle can get to 37 points will survive. That's two wins out four for Boro and Newcastle, one win for Hull and two draws or a win for Sunderland. If Hull don't beat Stoke at home then I can't see them getting at least two draws from their other fixtures so the fact that Newcastle have to play Boro will then mean that Sunderland will be safe..... if they can muster three more points..... and possibly if they don't.
    Despite the debacle on Saturday at West Brom, our position is the better of the four....... but we have to step it up...... it will go to the wire... as usual!

  • Comment number 73.

    Phil, my team for Everton.

    Fulop

    Bardsley
    Ferdinand
    Davenport
    Collins

    Steed
    Tianio
    Leadbitter
    Richardson

    Cisse
    Jones

    Leadbitter should never have been left out of the West Brom game. He's not the most talented but he's a local lad and works his socks off. Players like this are like gold dust in a relegation battle, esp in a team which is clearly lacking leadership quality. I hate to say it but we miss Nosworthy. I remember when he gave chimbonda a shake for not giving 100%, oh how we could use some of that now.

  • Comment number 74.

    CypriotJohn, if you were sat in the middle of the HOME fans, wearing colours or actively suporting Liverpool then what do you expect??? Its a given that if surrounded by home fans then you keep it shut, to explain away your ejection because of what a group of City fans were saying (which was out of order) is cheap. If you'd not sat where you did, then it wouldn't have been a problem, but no, you had to open your mouth...

    And as regards the issue over pubs, yes we have our idiots who drink at pubs close to the ground, the licensees know that, so they refuse entry to away fans and try to prevent any fallout. Safety you know, I'm sure you'd understand that.

  • Comment number 75.

    I think it would be great if all 3 north east teams went down and finally nailed the myth about this so called hot bed of football.

    3 trophies between them in 50 years, if thats a hotbed what does it make the football in lancashire with 80 odd trophies in the same period

  • Comment number 76.

    Funny, normally I enjoy McNulty's blogs but he gets stick for reformulating what everyone knows....here comes a poor blog, and praise along with it. WHO on the squad needs changed? HOW did they play like individuals? WHAT did the manager do (or not do) to get them playing better? Didn't see the whole think, but the clips I saw suggested they played alright....give us something we don't know, like how were the tactics wrong, how did WBA expose them, who goes to the doghouse, and who takes their place.

  • Comment number 77.

    Well come Sunday evening it's quite likely Boro, and Newcastle will still be 3 points behind Hull and Sunderland will still be only 1 above.
    My brother got odds this week of 156-1 that all 3 North East teams go down, and if WBA win at the weekend they will be equal on points to Boro and Newcastle.
    Re: Hull and good riddence, we have got there on our merits and if you don't like it, we don't care !
    Finally as far as a freefall, when we were up in the top 6 earlier in the season, we were still only about 10 points above the drop zone so it's a none issue.
    If anyone before the season, had offered us 4th from bottom, 3 points clear, with 4 games to play, we've have snatched your hands off. The fact that all 3 promoted clubs have been competitive this season has made for a lot more entertainment, and don't be surprised if WBA, Hull and Stoke all survive.
    And the 3 NE clubs go down.
    Boro can't score, Newcastle can't win and Sunderland players don't seem to care, hardly a recipe for survival eh ?

 

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