What the hell now? Sunderland's weak-minded fodder couldn't hack Sheff Utd's swagger; 5 thoughts


So Sunderland were unable to compete with a little Sheffield United sparkle on a cold Boxing Day at Bramall Lane. This mental weakness will see the poor bairns slogging it out in League One next season. 


As Sunderland's terrible 2017 limps to a dismal conclusion, the club languishing in the Championship's bottom three are in a whole heap of trouble. League One next season is a very real possibility and there was nothing on display at Bramall Lane to suggest sufficient fight resides within the squad to launch a vigorous battle to avoid relegation. 

Here's our morning-after five first thoughts. 

Worse than the debacle of Portman Road

When Simon Grayson's side got smashed by Ipswich at Portman Road in September, the lowest point in his brief tenure, there was at least a little glimmer that things could better. Sunderland managed to match that dire display against Sheffield United yesterday but this time, it's difficult to find anything to cling on to in order suggest things will get better. Not one player emerged with any credit - a collective stink. 

The sum part of transfer window after transfer window without a clue

The club without a clue. The transfer window opens in a few days time - usually the time of year when supporters of failing teams muster a little hope that their club can unearth a few gems to bolster an ailing side. But recent history at the Stadium of Light tells us January will offer little comfort. 

The present Sunderland squad can conceivably lay claim to being the worst in the club's history. Those that remain from the Premier League days are only here because they couldn't find a way out in the summer and of the 10 that were brought in during the last transfer window, only Lewis Grabban has proven himself so far. The rest are crocked, unfit or mentally feeble - unwanted where they came from and now unable to prove themselves here. 

Chris Coleman now bears the weight of all hope that Sunderland can turn this season around. But he arrives at a club without any track record of transfer strategy or scouting prowess. Like Sam Allardyce in January 2016, the ex-Wales boss will have to rely entirely on his guile and contacts book to bring in a couple of cheap reinforcements who may be able to make a difference. 

Central midfield will be the achilles heel which brings about another relegation

Sunderland were relegated last season, in part, because their central midfield options were so dreadfully poor. Penny-pinching over Yann M'Vila, Jan Kirchhoff's perma-injured state and the failure of record signing Didier Ndong to stamp his mark meant the spluttering of the Black Cats engine room could not sustain the side. And so it will be again without a January arrival of a central midfielder who can pick up play and take the ball up the pitch. 

Darron Gibson's weaknesses were exposed again yesterday and if the 30-year-old recovered a little from his terrible start against Sheffield United - in which he could barely stagger in a straight line - he was hardly helped by the light-weight duo of Honeyman and Gooch alongside him. 

Ndong will probably be sold or loaned out in January but without a decent Championship-class midfielder brought in (for cash) then Sunderland will be fighting relegation until the end. 

James Vaughan, ear-cupping idiot

When James Oliver Vaughan gestured at the travelling Sunderland fans thronged behind the goal at Burton Albion over a month ago, someone should probably have stopped the former Bury striker mid-ear cup to tell him that scoring 2 goals in fourteen appearances wasn't really worth bragging about. In a Dickensian twist, there wasn't going to be any 'more' was there. 

Fast forward five weeks and Vaughan's account is still stuck on two, but from 20 appearances. He was garbage yesterday. Isolated he may have been, but when the ball did occasionally find its way to him the Black Cats striker was shrugged away by United's defenders as if he was merely a minor irritation. Cupping your ears in a sarcastic gesture aimed at supporters is an awful idea if you're, well, awful. 

The one difference between host and visitor

After the game, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said his players had been under pressure during their run of six matches without a win before the visit of genial Sunderland. The Blades boss suggested his men had been "hurting" and had "picked themselves up off the canvas". 

That was the difference between Sheffield United and Sunderland. Losing and embarrassment have become so ingrained in the Black Cats squad, a 3-0 festive trouncing probably barely registered on the way back up the M1. Various managers may have insisted the players do care really, but they don't and Chris Coleman probably feels like he's talking to the wall - already - just like his predecessors. 

Coleman must be allowed to rip the sordid soul out of this club and start afresh. Let's hope Ellis Short backs him because without it, the American's investment is going up in smoke down in English football's third tier. 


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