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O'Neill's joy is Kean's pain

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Phil McNulty | 07:09 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

At the Stadium of Light

As Martin O'Neill headed skywards, Steve Kean's shoulders slumped inside his black overcoat. As O'Neill took the Stadium of Light's acclaim, Kean felt the frustrations of 319 Blackburn supporters.

It was stoppage time at Sunderland and the brutally fine margins of management made O'Neill an instant Wearside hero following his recent appointment but left the besieged Kean the villain once more.

O'Neill had barely touched down after celebrating Sebastian Larsson's winner before some of the hardy Rovers fans who had made their way from Lancashire were making their anger plain to Kean.

And yet only six minutes earlier, it looked like O'Neill was going to start his Sunderland reign as a loser and Kean would be handed fresh ammunition to fight his detractors.

Blackburn's Steve Kean (left) and Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill

Blackburn's Kean (left) can only look on as Sunderland boss O'Neill celebrates. Photo - Getty

O'Neill admitted he had not envisaged such a finale "in my wildest dreams", while Kean - not so much celebrating a year in charge at Blackburn as surviving it - only had the nightmare scenario to mull over after watching the home side snatch an unlikely win via David Vaughan's equaliser and Larsson's angled free-kick.

O'Neill was still flying on neat adrenalin when he arrived for his post-match inquisition, even stopping himself at one stage as the words tumbled from his lips in an excited torrent.

During the match, he had prowled the technical area in a familiar mixture of frustration, fury, encouragement and tension, even finding time for a touchline chat with Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen in the first half.

The body language spoke of release after 16 months out of football, O'Neill conceding the win had given him back "in abundance" what he had been missing.

"There will be many a dark day around the corner," he said as he revisited an old Irish saying. But, on this day at least, the Stadium of Light saw a little illumination.

It was the start of what will be a long journey to possible rehabilitation for Sunderland, with O'Neill admitting "we have got a million miles to go".

And while the first steps were hesitant, there were some of the signs that persuaded chairman Ellis Short to describe as him "an outstanding motivator".

It is fair to say that O'Neill enjoyed some beginner's luck, though. Kean, on the other hand, was deserted by fortune when he needed it.

You suspect large sections of Blackburn fans, understandably fearful for the future under the Venky's regime and unhappy with their manager, would not be convinced by Kean if he guided them into the Champions League and then won it. Even they, however, may accept he has not carried much luck.

Luck was certainly not on his side on Sunday. Rovers had an early shout for a penalty ignored by referee Peter Walton after Yakubu tangled with Titus Bramble, while Chris Samba was penalised for an innocuous challenge on Sunderland keeper Keiren Westwood just as Scott Dann moved to add to Simon Vukcevic's early opener.

Gael Givet had to go off after complaining of heart palpitations in the first half, while his replacement, Martin Olsson, suffered a hamstring injury. Michel Salgado sustained suspected broken ribs. Not exactly lashings of good fortune.

What was not so palatable for the visiting supporters was Blackburn's apparent tactical retreat into their own penalty area for the entire second half.

Kean's caution was tempting fate, although defeat was particularly cruel on the magnificent Samba, who was flawless and brave throughout.

Kean expressed his excitement at the prospect of successive home games against West Bromwich Albion and Bolton.

But, with Blackburn in the Premier League's bottom three, those matches will be accompanied by huge pressure on both team and manager.

Blackburn's players defended and fought in a manner that backed their post-match message that they are fully behind Kean.

Hard luck stories do not sustain seasons or managerial careers, however, so Kean needs a happier tale to tell - and fast.

O'Neill had a spring in his step, or more accurately his leap, after Larsson made the decisive contribution, but the former Wycombe, Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa boss will not be fooled by one win and can be expected to embark on a ruthless reconstruction.

He was rightly delighted with the display of the inventive Vaughan and the "genuine" attitude of his players, as well as openly excited by the cameo performed by substitute James McClean, who was brought on at a crucial stage, with Sunderland trailing.

The new manager had helped to change the outcome with a decisive intervention - just what the fans who made the Stadium of Light echo in welcome before kick-off wanted.

Sunderland still struggled to fashion a clear threat from possession and pressure, a flaw that contributed to the downfall of O'Neill's predecessor, Steve Bruce.

But there was endeavour, persistence and a refusal to accept what, for long periods, looked like being another deflating defeat.

These are at least some blocks upon which O'Neill can build, although Sunderland still display all the signs of a long-term project.

In the build-up to this game, O'Neill revealed his desire to preside over a team that played like Barcelona. On Sunday, all he wanted was a Sunderland team that won a game of football - and he got his wish.

All Kean got was another example of how the game can kick a manager when he's down.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Am I correct in thinking that it was O'Neill's decision to bring Bramble back into the fold after his suspension by Sunderland (Bruce?). Would have thought more would be made of this.

    Well done O'Neill anyway.

  • Comment number 2.

    Two teams that lack quality gave a pretty terrible game. I guess the better team on paper won it in the end but there's not much between them. The only way is down for Blackburn, you'd think. They lack... quality. Plain and simple as that. Also, Sunderland need a striker. Losing Bent, Gyan and Welbeck hurt them.

    Big shout out to O'Neill. It'll be interesting to see who he brings in in January. I don't know how, but he certainly motivates people. Good man manager. Can't see him managing Barcelona though!! (

  • Comment number 3.

    319 away supporters? Really?

  • Comment number 4.

    Sunderland would have lost this game under Bruce.

    Blackburn shouldn't have any complaints - 3 attempts in ninety minutes is a relegation performance.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good win. 2 great goals which would have graced any match anywhere. Fully expect them to move up table now with O'Neill at the helm. Never going to be more than a top half of the table team tho. That boy mclean looked good when he come on didnt he? Wish them all the best (excpet against the champions!)

  • Comment number 6.

    @ 3 I thought it was near 700 but maybe I was mistaken....just hows how much support there is for kean and the Venkys regime. Didn't Kean say something ridiculous last week that his team could still reach 10th place? Fairly unlucky this game with the 3 injuries before the hour,which would disrupt any team, but can't see them being saved from relegation.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a Blackburn fan I will make no excuses that Kean has not been good enough, but a dash of good fortune and some better refereeing would probably see us well out of the bottom 3.

    I'm glad you mentioned the referee Phil, just another game to add to the list, we've had ridiculous injury time penalties against Everton and Norwich robbing us of points also.

    Sunderland and especially Stoke can count themselves very lucky to both win yesterday, nothing to do with O'Neil or Pulis being great at all. A half decent referee would have seen Blackburn 0-2 up, Bramble sent off and Yakubu taking a penalty to make it 0-3. Add to that a crippling day of injuries on top of not having Rochina or Hoilett available on the day, sadly we tried to cling on for dear life in the second half.

    Depressing times at Rovers!

  • Comment number 8.

    319 away supporters? Really?

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

    They rarely bring many more to Old Trafford, about 20 odd miles away.

    Pathetic.

  • Comment number 9.

    I feel a little sorry for Steve Kean, I mean he cant win really can he? He replaced a manager the fans loved in Allardyce, and was the told he'd never get the chop! The owners then came out and tried to sign all matter of older players like Raul, Beckham and Ronaldinho, when really they should have been more realistic in their targets.

    IMO Allardyce would be doing a better job than Kean, but you cant blame him for that. Or the fact that Venky's havent sacked him, its not like he's going to ask for the sack or resign, he wants to do a good job and is obviously trying.

    I reckon they'd need to spend about £20 million in January to get the sort of players to keep them up. Need a classy defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and another striker. Yakubu will score a few, but you couldnt really see im getting 20 in a season.

  • Comment number 10.

    Also should have said really feel it for the blackburn fans. Stuck with owners and a manager they dont want. Them Venky's are a joke aren't they?! And Kean never gonna win them over so may as well fall on his sword now....

  • Comment number 11.

    @ 9

    The sad thing is, as much as I feel for Kean, I don't think if they had a few stars in the team they'd do anything worthwhile. Plus with the reports about the bank claiming 10m in January, they may not even have 20m to spend on players. Come January I can see hoilett being sold off to spurs, and rumours are spartak will bid for nzonzi.

  • Comment number 12.

    @7 - Poor refereeing decisions happen to every club. The game you mentioned vs Everton, Blackburn missed 2 penalties themselves that day. You had a goal unfairly disallowed yesterday, but you were in no way deserving of anything out of the game. I suggest looking closer to home rather than blaming officials for your plight.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm not blaming the officials for our loss yesterday, we were poor yesterday, especially after the 3 enforced substitutions.

    But I'd rather have been defending a 0-3 lead against 10 men in the second half than 0-1.

    To have a perfectly legitimate goal chalked off is harsh.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    Blackburn deservedly will go down. Terrible football team.

    Can't believe the sacking of Allardyce (this guy rarely catches a break!) and the arrogant persuits of Ronaldinho et al. Even now Kean lives in permanent denial about being a top 10 team when it's plain for everyone else to see this is nothing but a team of PL has-beens getting by on past reputations.

    Hopefully shining lights Hoilett and Samba will move on to teams who deserve their talent.

    Feel sorry for the fans? On what basis would you have sympathy for people who can't get behind their own team for 90 mins so at least their on field performance isn't clouded?

    Nothing short of disgraceful.

    Sunderland - well O'Neill will get them into the top 10 but they're no better than Stoke, Fulham, Newcastle et al which is ridiculous considering the money they've spent.

  • Comment number 16.

    Steve Kean is really on a hiding to nothing. It's all very well to say or to imply 'I'm no quitter', but he is eventually going to get the sack, despite what the Venky's may be saying now.

    As a Hammers fan the general consensus now in hindsight is that the owners waited far too long last year. I myself thought he (Grant) should have only have 15 games. Lets face it if you have just a handful of points after that something is going badly wrong. They stuck with Grant and honestly never looked like getting out of it.

    Blackburn have grit, determination and pluck, but at the moment no luck and they can't buy a win. Common sense says a change must happen and if that is the case why wait?

    Kean is an optimist but with the crowd against him and the rub of the green not favouring him he might do better to consider his options. Perhaps he feels that his only chance now is to turn it round, but if there is no money to spend and precious little quality to buy out there anyway it's going to be a mountain he can't climb.

    Sometimes players will respond better to a new face and methods. He might be doing the club and the fans a service by stepping aside.

    Sunderland have acted accordingly. I always liked Bruce and was sad to see him get the chop but every season, despite moments of promise they have had fallow runs which have seen them flirt with the bottom end. The financial implications are so great these days SAFC have acted swiftly while there were good men available.

    I'm glad to see O'neill back. Never know now what he could have achieved as his spells out of the game have disrupted his career. That said he is shrwed, a good motivator and capable of getting average players to exceed their ability consistently. I wish them both well, better referee's and luck.

  • Comment number 17.

    @11 quite right sir, their few good players will likely leave, and all the talk about money will probably result in no major signings.

    I actually thought Blackburn would be OK this season, with Robinson in net (class) and Dann and Samba in front of him they really should be more solid. But they arent blessed with the biggest squad, and their attack seems fairly toothless at times (apart from the Yak last week). Whilst Pederson is a goos player, and Dunn puts in the odd performance, they just dont have anyone who performs consistently enough.

    Whenever Steve Kean does an interview, you can tell he's a genuine guy, just in a no win situation

  • Comment number 18.

    @ 14

    I watched the Olympic trials for the national diving team in Spain on saturday night. Must have to say, those guys look like a shoe in for gold next year! ;)

  • Comment number 19.

    @

    Agree with pretty much everything bar the "you can tell he (Kean) is a genuine guy". Does he genuinely believe blackburn will achieve a top 10 finish? If so, he's genuine, albeit massively delusional!

  • Comment number 20.

    @19 what can he say though? I know what you mean but he's not going to say "everybody is right, were terrible and we'll be lucky to finish 19th" Saying top 10 is wildly optimistic i agree but like i say, he cant condemn the team he's managing

    He's got to appear positive, even if its only to the cameras. He doesnt yet appear to have lost the dressing room either, which may be his saving grace.

  • Comment number 21.

    With respect to "we all follow United" pathetic our football may be at times but we take a lot more than that to Old Trafford but only up to the 1800 you allow any visiting team!!That is "pathetic"!!76,000 plus and you allow 1800 to visiting teams just so they don't make too much noise in a ground void of atmosphere....and that is from United season ticket holders(of which I doubt you are one,just one of the glory hunters from the far flung corners of Britain or Ireland!!)whom I work with!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Kean is right in one sense,we should have had 3 points at Norwich,Everton,Chelsea even and maybe yesterday but we didn't and other teams have the same bad luck(except Bolton,they are rubbish!!).Venkys have a hidden agenda and for all the good work Jack Walker did,his family have sold us down the river!!The only saviour would be Sparky but he wouldn't touch us with a barge pole now in this position.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 20

    Yeah I know what you mean, but what's wrong with saying "well with good results and some form I think we'll pull clear of the relegation zone and aim for a top 15 finish". Then we can build on that for next year and look to get 10th"? That's still optimistic and at least more realistic! I mean MON is optimistic, but he's hardly going to say he can see SAFC pushing for europe at the end of the season.

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    @martinhollings

    Although not a Utd fan, I have been to matches at Old Trafford several times (won't go into why), including Blackburn games. I've no comment to make on what counts as a "pathetic" following, but the travelling contingent from Blackburn has been pretty much the smallest I've seen, barely occupying the full corner allocated.

  • Comment number 26.

    The simple truth is that the Venky’s didn’t invest their money in Blackburn to win the PL or be in the CL. They are smart enough to realise that for any English club to be involved in the top 6 or any European competition requires mega operating costs which a club like Blackburn cannot afford.

    Blackburn represented them an opportunity of a bargain investment (compared to other club investments that we have seen in the last few years) with a plan of increasing the club’s resale value by attracting ‘marketable’ players such as Beckham, Ronaldinho and few more others in 2 – 3 years.

    They will never invest the sort of money required to make Blackburn / or any other team a top bracket club.

    I think that is the bottom line of their intentions for buying BR.

  • Comment number 27.

    @23... a little less optimism and a little more realism would probably be better you're right. Anyhoo, i dont think it'll matter come the end of the season, as i doubt he'll still be there and the chances are they'll be relegated.

    Still have a sneaky feeling Bolton will turn it around though. Come January they usually make a couple of signings or loans which transfor their season (Think Wilshere and Sturridge). Maybe Macachran (probably spelt incorrectly) from Chelsea?

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 25

    I suspected all along you were Howard Webb hence your frequent visits to the theatre of screams. Your cover is officially blown.

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 28

    I wasn't going to reveal this, but I'm actually Uriah Rennie...

  • Comment number 30.

    You just REFUSE to have a memory of more than one game don't you Phil?

    Shameless post-hunting. Yes I'm aware I'm playing into your hands, but if you had any dignity you would resign.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 27

    Yeah a few other armchair pundits and myself pointed out bolton are in a similar position to SAFC, devoid of goal scorers having lost elmander and sturridge, and no creativity due to holden's injury. Would very much expect to see mcreachen on loan and probably a striker. Their defence has always been shaky but they've normally been able to outscore other opponents, can't seem to do it this time round with ngog and klasnic.

    BR are on the way down, will be interesting if they will ever come up with Venkys in charge. Problem with Bolton is if they sack Coyle, who will be interested?

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    I have to say blackburn fans are a disgrace. they are meant to be supporters of the team and yet how many of them can say that even though they didnt agree with keans appointment, that they still turned up for games and cheered them on? also consider the fact some were complaining when allardyce was in charge becuase he was boring, i mean who do they think should be manager then. the fans are important in deciding games with case in point the sunderland fans yesterday when vaughan scored blew the roof off and massively helped the players in finding a winner whereas blackburn fans (the ones that bothered to show up) boo when their team scores. how absurd and childish.

    im a leeds fan so weve suffered through odd managers and bad periods but still fill out elland road and our away allocations because we support our team.

    to be honest i hope blackburn do go down just so fans of the EPL dont have to endure their 'fans'anymore

    on sunderland, good win for MON but long way to go but they will need a reliable striker soon as they needed two stunning goals from midfield and neither wickham, seesgnon or ji looked like scoring. on another day this could have been a defeat.

  • Comment number 34.

    @ 14 - soul patch: in strictly entertainment terms, the Sunderland vs Blackburn game offered much more value to the very rubbish el classico which was riddled with play acting and diving and general poor play. Take a look at the match stats. How many clear goal scoring opportunities did your bunch of Spanish plodders create?

  • Comment number 35.

    I really don't get the Kean-out bregade. They've been there booing the team on since the start of the season, where do you expect them to finish with 'support' like that. They got 3 points last week, should have had another 3 yesterday. They have been very unlucky. Kean actually bought some pretty good players in for the money available imo. Yakubu, dann, fomica/rochina (I get mixed up about which one is which) are good signings.

    Sadly enough for blackburn, they will be relegated. With the negative support, the owners will probabaly give in and sack Kean. Then who will they replace him with? Who on earth wants to go to try and save Blackburn in a 6-month window with these owners and 'fans'

  • Comment number 36.

    @31... It would be difficult to predict who would take over at Bolton if Coyle went, and although Gartside has been fairly patient with Coyle, it can only be a matter of time if they carry on like they are. I reckon he'll stick with hime, if only due to the lack of other good managers wiating to step in. You're righ a striker is imperative to how their season pans out. I have to admit I was shaking my head in the summer when they released Elmander and replaced him with N'gog. He never did anything for Liverpool, and they create more chances than Bolton to be fair, so what they expected I do not know.

  • Comment number 37.

    36... full of brilliant spelling and grammar... heavy weekend taking its toll...

  • Comment number 38.

    @15

    Your statement re: SAFC being only on par with Newcastle and Stoke being shocking given the money spent is a common misconception in the football world at the minute. Yes, Keane wasted some money but under Steve Bruce we went from relegation candidates to achieve 2 mid table finishes, with a net spend of just £2 million. Hardly breaking the bank.

    I love football fans blatant disregard for the facts!

  • Comment number 39.

    Good to see the xenophobe that is The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa returns with his typically idiotic and narrow minded views of English footballers. I could lower myself to his level and have spout of about all Spanish fans being racist xenophobes, but I wont bother..

  • Comment number 40.

    Shame on you Phil you forgot to mention that O'Neill also managed Norwich.

  • Comment number 41.

    @38

    Just out of interest, is that including the sales of Bent and Henderson

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • Comment number 43.

    James McClean was brilliant last season for Derry City and I'm glad he's been given a chance at Sunderland. You rarely see any old style wingers now - you only have to look at Nani in the United game to see how playing on the opposite wing and cutting in is de moda. McClean is lightning quick, direct and always looks to get to the by-line to whip in a cross. Similar in style to Valencia.

  • Comment number 44.

    I appreciate Kean may be genuine , BUT is he really ...he's not doing the job for Blackburn , why not do the right thing and say goodbye ?

  • Comment number 45.

    @44... The fact that he's genuine would probably be outweighed by the fact that hell be on a decent wage, and probably cant see were his next managerial job is coming from should he exit! Genuine he might be, stupid he obviously is not.

  • Comment number 46.

    and now watch this post descend into another boring argument over whos better... Spain or England, Real or Man U, Rooney or Villa, Fergie or Guardiola. Personally i dont care, and would much rather talk about the subject at hand, Sunderland, Blackburn and the relegation fight in general. Go spit your dummies out somewhere else

  • Comment number 47.

    #32

    To answer your question, I managed to watch the second half (looking after my daughter took priority over watching the first half).

    In reality, there were two poor teams doing their best to play some brand of "nice" (whatever that means) football but being ultimately denied their aim either by lack of genuine team quality or being stricken by fear of losing.

    I can't remember Blackburn fashioning any sort of chance during the second 45 minutes. Sunderland seemed to place a great deal of faith in getting the ball forward and wide quickly in the hope and expectation that the respective wide men would deliver a telling cross. This appears to be where they met their upper limit. Either through poor delivery, unnecessary dalliance or weak strikers failing to read the cross, they didn't really put any pressure on Robinson. In fact, the two goals came from an absolute pearler of a distance strike and a well taken free-kick. One cannot count on goals of that type in every game, meaning that O'Neill clearly has got a lot of work to do.

    May be Blackburn contributed to their own downfall but Sunderland had a lot of territory and possession and still failed to create a meaningful chance from their method and approach.

    Personally, I don't see anything particularly wrong with direct wing play (a little predictable if that is your only method - although it helped Stoke yesterday, too) but you need that final ball and a striker or two who can be in the right place at the right time.

  • Comment number 48.

    They rarely bring many more to Old Trafford, about 20 odd miles away.

    Pathetic.

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

    Disgraceful really. Goes to show what Blackburn really are; a small club who bought one title in the 90's.

    Their fans who moan about Kean and Venkys are very fickle. They were delighted when the Venkys bought the club and were happy to abandon the Jack Walker trust to get the Venkys on board.

    And now they're moaning about Kean. Yet they were all rejoicing when Big Sam was sacked.

    The Blackburn fans got what they wanted this time last year; so why are they now complaining?

    On a more positive note, good win for Sunderland and MON, MON turned the game round in a way Bruce never could. He'll certainly get more out of the current squad than Bruce, but will he buy wisely? He didn't always do that at Villa. Clearing out Bruces garbage signings will take time too.

    Rate him as a manager though, so good luck.

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • Comment number 50.

    38.At 11:12 12th Dec 2011, RedandWhiteTractor wrote:
    @15

    Your statement re: SAFC being only on par with Newcastle and Stoke being shocking given the money spent is a common misconception in the football world at the minute. Yes, Keane wasted some money but under Steve Bruce we went from relegation candidates to achieve 2 mid table finishes, with a net spend of just £2 million. Hardly breaking the bank.

    I love football fans blatant disregard for the facts!

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

    Fair play re that but I'm sure the net spend figure is hugely distorted by Bent's sale. Also, transfer fees don't account for the huge signing on fees players and agents get when they are signed up. Sunderland's squad has had huge turnarounds in the last few years. Doubt players like Richardson, O' Shea and Bendtner command low wages either.

    Just think you've been paying over the odds for sub-standard players.

  • Comment number 51.

    #21

    Yes i'm a season ticket holder and, considering it's one of the teams closest to us, Blackburn's away following is arguably the smallest that comes every season. We'll see how many turn up on NYE, i'm guessing not many.

  • Comment number 52.

    49.At 11:40 12th Dec 2011, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:
    End of discussion.

    ============

    dont make promises you cant keep....
    ============


    Anyway back to the matter at hand.... Who's going to bein the bottom 3 come the end of the season? I reckon, and it a long shot, that itll be Blackburn, Wolves and QPR. Dont know why, just a feeling.

  • Comment number 53.

    Blackburn, Wigan and ? The 3rd spot is really up for grabs, although at this time you can't seeing it be anyone else but Bolton.

  • Comment number 54.

    52.At 11:46 12th Dec 2011, jwl86 wrote:
    49.At 11:40 12th Dec 2011, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:
    End of discussion.

    ============

    dont make promises you cant keep....
    ============


    Anyway back to the matter at hand.... Who's going to bein the bottom 3 come the end of the season? I reckon, and it a long shot, that itll be Blackburn, Wolves and QPR. Dont know why, just a feeling.

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

    I hope it's those 3. Terrible football teams.

    Wigan, Swansea, Norwich et al should be lauded for at least trying to play the beautiful game in a beautiful way.

    Still money gave us "win at all costs" football so I'm guessing the 3 poorest teams are going down this year.

    Norwich, Swansea & Wigan.

  • Comment number 55.

    3 poorest teams? Surely Everton are in that category? They can't rub 2 pennies together at the moment.

  • Comment number 56.

    55.At 11:55 12th Dec 2011, The_Soul_Patch_Of_David_Silva wrote:
    3 poorest teams? Surely Everton are in that category? They can't rub 2 pennies together at the moment.

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

    I'd guess their assets (players) are probably worth significantly more than the three I mentioned.

    With players like Howard, Jagielka, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Cahill, Osman, Saha etc plus Moyes (biggest asset) I can't see them going down but stranger things have happened.

  • Comment number 57.

    Once again Patches invokes following the sport he probably follows - if it's that thrilling, YOU watch Lawn Bowls, and leave the rest of us to voice our opinion without having to constantly repeat how EPL>La Liga.... better teams does not make a better league, and I for one thought El Classico was El Crassico!

    Good win for MON, but still far too much frailty exposed - fortunately not capitalised on by the somewhat unfortunate Blackburn.... draw would probably have been more reflective of the game. Still, good to see that SAFC finally played with a bit of heart, even when staring defeat in the face.

    (There are after all other teams in other leagues who resort to play-acting, diving, hacking if the game doesn't go their own way.... I'm not going to mention names, but I saw some of it over the weekend!)

  • Comment number 58.

    #54

    "Still money gave us "win at all costs" football so I'm guessing the 3 poorest teams are going down this year.

    Norwich, Swansea & Wigan."

    Do you have some insider knowledge on the state of these three teams' finances, or are you basing this on the sort of money that they lay out on players?

    In any case, I think Swansea and Norwich may escape by virtue of their ability to pick points up at home (Swansea currently have a pretty good home record to balance out their miserable away record and sit midtable).

    The bottom three now looks like a pretty good case for the bottom three come May. I just can't see, on the evidence thus far, how they can extract themselves.

    Significantly, perhaps, there's a 2 point gap between Wigan and Wolves. If that grows beyond a win and a draw soon, that could be a very long way back.

  • Comment number 59.

    54. At 11:53 12th Dec 2011, becks-phone-call-went-to-me wrote:

    Wigan, Swansea, Norwich et al should be lauded for at least trying to play the beautiful game in a beautiful way.

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

    Norwich, beautiful football?? I don't know which Norwich you've been watching mate..... The best way to assess how a team plays it's football is by looking at the front men. Two immobile bruisers like Grant Holt and Steve Morison demonstrate, that they are ultimately a kick-and-rush outfit. Almost every goal is headed and this is a result of playing into the front men early. Blackburn play better football than Norwich when Hoilett and Rochina are available, much better.

  • Comment number 60.

    58.At 12:16 12th Dec 2011, Titanicus wrote:

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

    Basis is an estimate of football related outflows and inflows.

    For example, Steve Morgan (Wolves) and Tony Fernandes (QPR) will dip into their pockets in Jan if they fear the drop. Venkys you'd think have more capital than the three clubs I mentioned and teams such as Bolton & Everton's current assets are a cut above the teams that came up (their players are better).

    However, that said, the beauty of football is that it never pans out that way and that's why we love it. I fear, however, it is getting more predictable in that sense and sooner or later heroic team spirit stories will die out (read B'pool last year).

    My point was because of money, football is dying.

    I hope Swansea & Norwich do stay up. They've played some good football this year whereas I dread to even read match reports on Wolves and Blackburn!

  • Comment number 61.

    Wow, wee that was boredom mediocrity, save for the nice shot at 84 mins.

    The 'non-top 6' Pubmiership in full, glittering-as-clay effect! All it missed was the token penalty and bad refereeing decision.

  • Comment number 62.

    Anybody watch the "El Classico" on Saturday, or the live televised Olympic Trials for the Spain National team as it's better known as. Iniesta, Busquets and Xavi are favourites for a clean sweep at London 2012.
    As for Real, what on earth has mourinho done to their discipline? Absolutely awful. I've seen better tackles from "Fat Sam" and "Drunk Scott" playing for the "Punch Bowl".
    The pinnacle of world club football it is not. With the amount of 6 yard one twos, aimless shots from outside the area, undelivered crosses, misplaced passes, scything and play acting you would have had it confused with the Sunday Classic between "The Red Lion" and "The White Lion".

  • Comment number 63.

    Hopefully Blackburn and Wigan go down and West Ham, Saints and Leeds come up.

    The Prem should have teams which can pack out their stadiums wit decent supports. Blackburn fans are awful and Wigan is a Rugby town and doesn't pack out even against us (United). Would be great to have some big games against Leeds again, top flight needs some Yorkshire presence as well!

  • Comment number 64.

    Got to agree with Soul Patch. Barca v Real was an absorbing, thrill-a-minute 90 minutes which showed both teams supreme technical abilities and attacking flair. It was a joy to watch. Contrast that with Sunderland V Blackburn and Stoke v Tottenham yesterday and the differences couldn't be more stark.

    As for the 3 to drop. Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan. Not before time either.

  • Comment number 65.

    59.At 12:22 12th Dec 2011, Supermario_45 wrote:
    ---------------------

    Not one Blackburn match that I've seen this season have they played "decent" football. Hoilett is a good player, not convinced by Rochina even though he has talent. Behind them there is nothing though. Gamst and Dunn are shadows of the players they were under Hughes. Givet & Salgado at FB? You'd be less bruising if you had Ruddock and Vinnie Jones playing there instead!

    Norwich's build up play is pretty good. When they're desperate they usually throw on Holt. No arguments re the number of headed goals though.

  • Comment number 66.

    @ All the relegation talk...

    Surely it must be a first if all promoted teams stay up this season? I can't think of a time when that has happened?
    I wonder whether that means the standard of the Championship is increasing or the standards of the prem are decreasing?

  • Comment number 67.

    I did watch it. Barca proved how good they are in the big games and Real showed that depsite spending near £200million they're still not a match for Barca and their (mostly) home grown talent (minus Sanchez, Villa although he didn't play much, maybe Pique, Alves).

    What has this got to do with Sunderland v Blackburn?

  • Comment number 68.

    66.At 12:29 12th Dec 2011, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    It's happened once before I recall. Birmingham (Bruce), West Ham (Pardew) and another all stayed up.

    Re the second question, it's definately the latter! But it is more competitive at the top though, which is good.

  • Comment number 69.

    LOOL, 2nd and 3rd line- that's one of the best things I've read ever!

    Best ever sports editor! That line alone made the match worth it! Phil gets the golden cookie.

  • Comment number 70.

    I would tell people who are coming down on Blackburn fans to look at the facts. Steve Kean's form as a Manager over the past year has been quite simply abysmal, it has not only been relegation form but horrendously so. Up until recently Blackburn fans have been supporting their team dotingly and making it plainly clear that the Venkys and Management team were the problem. So bad is our faith in our current ownership that most Rovers fans were sincerely hoping for a loss to Swansea because they felt that might finally rid them of Kean. Many, myself included, felt that unless Kean is gone by January we are destined for relegation. Hence the boos when Yakubu hugged Kean during our win, a win I might add against a side with the worst away record in the Premier League.

    I fail to see why so many are in support of Kean when his record is so horrific, especially pundits such as Mark Lawrenson who feel it necessary to berate fans for opposition to Kean. They feel the need to point out when we play well, even though it rarely results in points and ignore Kean's glaring statistical errors including horrendous substitutions and an over-cautious approach that has cost us points in the games against Tottenham and Sunderland. We were awful yesterday and deservedly lost, paying the price for an over cautious manager who for some reason played Salgado (a has been) at right mid, substituted Givet with a player in a bad run of injuries and only just cleared as for the Sunderland game. It beggars belief what does this man is doing with our club and still we're hounded as being unreasonable. I think you'll find that the majority of Rovers fans are both rational and perfectly reasonable, and most are spot on in their steadfast belief that Kean has to go. He is simply not good enough.

  • Comment number 71.

    Since our last home game was against Wigan, Sunderland fans are in a position to compare the two opponents and I'd rather be a Blackburn supporter. They probably deserved better but paid for a lack of ambition in the second half. Incidentally, to the fan complaining about Bramble's tackle on Yakubu, the video showed clearly he got the ball. There wasn't anything wrong with Dann's goal, though. Westwood once again went walkabout and just didn't get there.

    The prime lessons for me were that Vaughan is a must in midfield, that Richardson is a better attacking midfielder than he is a left-back and that McClean's ability to get a cross past the first defender is a gift most of his team mates don't share. We squeaked this one but as the game went on you could see O'Neill learning and changing things. We need to get through to January and make one or two signings and everything should be okay.

    As for Blackburn, keep the faith. There are three teams worse than you in this league.

  • Comment number 72.

    Got to agree with Soul Patch. Barca v Real was an absorbing, thrill-a-minute 90 minutes which showed both teams supreme technical abilities and attacking flair. It was a joy to watch.

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

    One of the least competitive games i've ever seen. Whilst being able to roll over any of the 18 La Liga turds every other week, Barca are simply miles better than them and it showed. Apart from Valdes, who remains one of Europe's worst keepers.

    I thought Sunderland still looked fragile yesterday but maybe the 'new manager' factor was what dragged them to the three points in the end. I don't think they'll finish any higher than mid-table but if O'Neill can make the odd signing in January then he'll at least have them moving in the right direction.

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • Comment number 74.

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

  • Comment number 75.

    @ 73

    Memory recalls there were similarly strange refereeing decisions at the Olympic Spanish Diving Trials in Madrid, 21.00 Saturday?
    Messi for one, diarra, ramos. In fact I'm shocked 22 players were still on the field. "Smirnoff Steve" and friends need to be snapped up by La Liga!!

  • Comment number 76.

    Lot of credit to O'Neill, though he was very, very lucky with the win.

    He'll learn to have his team be more assertive next time, especially at home =]

    That said, Sunderland, of course, need major amendments in the transfer month.

    Plus in other news, I feel that Roberts has overreacted with Verheijen. As a close worker of the great Speed, it is only fair he states what is necessary. As hard as it does seem, life does go on. No-one is forgetting Speed, which Robert's seem to be implying, which is actually even more 'offensive' than Verheijen's comments!

    By stating this, he has already caused a stir and potential division within the teams ranks, and needs to resolve this quick as in actual fact he is the one not helping. Anger is more often than not a selfish act.

  • Comment number 77.

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

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • Comment number 79.

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

  • Comment number 80.

    Phil you mentioned the dreaded word, luck.

    I have never seen a team get relegated, by bad luck.

    I don't think there is that much wrong with the players, ok they won't win anything but they are certainly not relegation standard, as they look now. They are putting in a shift in and some of their players would certainly be wanted by other clubs in the prem. Blackburn's problems lay in one area alone, management and until they realise that, they will continue to struggle.

  • Comment number 81.

    QPR look very vulnerable at the moment, no real goal scoring threat, other than Helguson in bursts. Barton isnt pullin any trees up, Taarabt is just a spoilt kid looking for his next pay day and SWP isnt much good either (though i think you can partly blame chelsea and city for ruining his career).

    Wolves are a horrible team to watch, with (in my opinion) an even worse manager. Noone looks like they could win a game on their own, which may prove crucial in the run in when games are tight. Personally i hope they go down.

    And Blackburn, well theres been enough siad on here that i needn't go into their shortcomings too much.

    Theyre my picks for the drop. Swansea, Norwich, Wigan and Bolton will struggle but avoid the drop... i hope

  • Comment number 82.

    i notice there are fairamount of posts being removed here, mainly from one source. Keep up the good work Mod's. Hopefully we'll eventually have a blog where the conversation does not inevitably lead to that country just below France (no not andorra)

  • Comment number 83.

    As always, these blogs degenerate into a La Liga-v-EPL debate. No-one cares about the tin pot Spanish league which has a 2 team title race and an 18 team relegation battle every year. It is tedious, predictable and showcases some of the biggest egos and most blatant play acting anywhere in the world. Why not keep it on topic of the Sunderland-v-Blackburn game?

    O'Neill was lucky yesterday although the way Blackburn played, he probably deserved it. Kean is clearly not capable at this level and cannot get the best out of what he has. A better manager would have them 5/6 points and places higher up the table. For Sunderland, they will be fortunate this year that there are at least 3 worse teams than them in the Premier League. Without them, they would be in trouble. As it is, a 12/13th place beckons for them.

  • Comment number 84.

    To be fair, Sunderland's net spend during the Bruce era was around £15 million. But then why worry about the facts eh?

    Striker needed in January, that has been evident since Bent left last January(nonwithstanding that at the time we had Welbeck and Gyan on the books). McLean looked raw and exciting. Midfield was nicely balanced and if Sessgnon could find an end product he could be a real one to watch second half of the season.

    Defensively found short at a set piece, which is worrying but indicative of the malaise that Burce left us in and something that must be high on O'Neills list of priorities.

    Overall, a positive performance from Sunderland and the fact that we were on the right end of a comeback (after throwing away leads in our previous two games) bodes well.

  • Comment number 85.

    Soul Patch is right about the standard of refereeing in the premiership. Tottenham had at least three big decisions to complain about against Stoke: a penalty shout for a foul, a handball on the line (pen AND red card if givien) and a goal disallowed when three yards onside. Really Spurs should have won 4-2, but hey, it was Stoke's 'fighting spirit' and hard work that won them the day, right? Er, no, it was the officiating.

    And why has my first post been referred for further consideration? If We all follow United can freely refer to 90% of la liga teams as 'turds', surely nothing I said was worse than that?

  • Comment number 86.

    @ 62: could never have been said any better!

    @ soul_patch & publad: I honestly don't know the el classico game you saw. Since you have chosen to be blind, please can you tell me Real's formation for the game? Can you also describe Real's game plan and tactics?

    So much for CR7 being a world class player. All he does is pound 33 yr old Spanish fullbacks in the la liga to submission. I would have never believed that contrary to soul patch's opinion, CR7 was a "hit and hope" kind of player.

  • Comment number 87.

    "Behave yourself"...
    The_soul_patch_of_Frankie_Howard

  • Comment number 88.

    does anybody else think Blackburn miss Brett Emerton? I never had him down as a great player, but when he was on the right and Pederson on the left, they at least had a good balance to the side. Plus, he could play right back as well, giving them better legs there than Salgado, who looks past it now

  • Comment number 89.

    It won't be long till Sunderland are mid table under O'Neil. He is a fair and honest man and if his team are rubbish he will say we were rubbish unlike the whinger Bruce. Bruce should never be allowed near a Premiership team again

  • Comment number 90.

    So is everyone tipping SAFC to stay up now?

    I'm not disagreeing, just want to see the basis of your thoughts for it....

    There's no doubt MON will make his mark and could kick off a climb, but unfortunately SAFC have been way short on confidence - and it shows more than at any of the clubs below them - and that could be a killer and still drag them down into the mix.

    My tip is for them to still have to struggle against these demons, but to just scrape out of the relegation.

    Blackburn are for it - I can't see anything changing while the Venky's are so obstinate.... don't get me wrong, it's nice to see them showing loyalty with their manager, but loyalty doesn't win matches.... and neither does Kean.

    Bolton - unbelievable really after a half decent record in the EPL - look almost certain to join them. Difficult to say exactly what has gone wrong since Coyle took the reins, but that's when the downward spiral started.

    The third spot is a trickier one to call, and will more than likely be one of the W's... Wolves escapology tricks may not be enough this year... West Brom are putting in some good showings above their weight category, but let themselves down badly in matches they should be winning.... Wigan are looking pretty woeful at the moment - toothless in attack and too generous at the back...

    If had to choose, would probably say Wigan.... so bottom 3 in no particular order Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan...

  • Comment number 91.

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

  • Comment number 92.

    @ 87

    Not to mention contreao the "best LB in the world". On mars, maybe, on planet earth he's a pub version of ashley cole.
    I noticed there was some praise for the "tactical masterstroke" pep pulled by playing 3 in defence and pushing alves into a midfield position. They seem to do a good job of stifling the midfield and with the odd amount of luck (xavi) were able to hit real on the break (fabregas).
    What surprised me was the number of stray passes from both teams, the poor defending (why on earth is ramos playing in central defence), the hit and hope tactics of real, and the indscipline (the amount of lunges I saw).

  • Comment number 93.

    80. At 12:56 12th Dec 2011, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    "Phil you mentioned the dreaded word, luck.
    I have never seen a team get relegated, by bad luck. "

    I wonder if Neil Warnock would agree with you after Sheffield United went down.

    I think before O'Neill is lauded as the new messiah, it is worth remembering that Larsson was very lucky to still be on the pitch. Had Yakubu made more of the over the ball challenge, it would have been a straight red.

  • Comment number 94.

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

  • Comment number 95.

    Pundits have said for years that the teams coming up cannot solely rely on home form to keep them up....

    But I think that legend has been well and truely dispelled after last season... Man United won a title based on their fine home form!!!!

    Swansea and Noriwch will both be fine...

    Three to go down I hope are as follows - Blackburn, Wigan and Liverpool but realistically Wigan will probably save off relegation for another season :)

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 90

    I don't think they've (Bolton) spiralled downwards since Coyle took over. They were tetering with relegation when megson was in charge, and the guy was a bit like kean, hugely unpopular. Coyle's problems have been defence (steinsson has dipped in form, cahill / wheater / knight have been poor), no creative spark in midfield (holden is out for the season) and no recognised goalscorer (elmander and sturridge gone, klasnic was always a link up man, ngog not up to the task). Expect to see a few loan signings in january.
    I'd be worried for Blackburn, norwich and qpr can be dragged back (though I expect qpr to continue investing in jan), wolves, wigan and fulham.

  • Comment number 98.

    @ 91


    very much like the moderator then.

    obviously its a traffordite well miffed about playing football on thursday nights when no one watches.

  • Comment number 99.

    O'Neill's a good manager.

  • Comment number 100.

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

 

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