Despite the fact the most fans didn’t expect many points to be harvested from back-to-back home games against Chelsea and Spurs, the manner of the latest defeat seems to have left fans a little more gloomy than before (if such a thing were possible). Today we play West Ham United and with that at the forefront of our minds it seems quite apt that we take a look at past results and a player who lost his way at both clubs.
The gloomy feeling is no doubt partly a reflection of other results with teams threatening to spiral down towards the relegation mire managing to pick up some crucial points. Back to back wins for Crystal Palace certainly hasn’t helped things and we look a little marooned at the bottom, still in single point figures for the season. Even the most optimistic Mackem would say we need at least four points from forthcoming games against West Ham and Norwich, if not the full six.
That said things aren’t looking too great for West Ham either. After a decent start they have slid down the table scoring just twice in their last five games, picking up a solitary point and morale shattering defeats to Crystal Palace and Norwich alongside more expected losses to Chelsea and Liverpool. After facing us the Hammers have a League Cup Quarter final away to Spurs followed by Man Utd and Arsenal in the league before the Baggies visit Upton Park after Christmas.
Relegation six-pointer anyone?
The History Books:
So what’s our history like against the Hammers? Well, it’s pretty even with 31 wins and 32 losses (21 draws) but, as is often the case with Sunderland, the stats are distorted slightly by the fact that there was a time when we were brilliant. Sadly there are few still alive who remember those heady days, so if we look at the last 25 years the Hammers are well ahead having won around half the matches played between the two sides; 17 compared to our 11 wins (8 draws).
Our recent performances against the Hammers is excellent with the Lads unbeaten in the last four games, recording three wins, scoring 8 and conceding just the one goal. I wonder if there are any Sunderland fans reading this and not thinking, “Oh, we’re bound to lose then!”? Pessimism runs deep and, it has to be said, generally with good reason for us!
Whilst older generations might reminisce about Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, when I think of players which link the two clubs together its George McCartney. Apart from anything else, it’s nice to think back to the days when we actually played with full-backs; you know, real ones, on the correct side too!
In his first spell for us, McCartney was the baby-faced left-back who established himself as a first team regular making 134 appearances between 1998 and 2006. Often featuring behind Hoolio on the left hand side, the two formed arguable the only productive left-sided combination post Michael Gray & Allan Johnston.
With Sunderland at our lowest ebb, and Sir Niall acting as manager, chairman and club saviour, an injured McCartney moved to West Ham in exchange for Clive Clarke, £50, a pack of cones and a dozen yellow bibs (or something like that). He took a while to establish himself in the West Ham team but did eventually become a regular under Alan Curbishley. However, McCartney was sold back to Sunderland after just two years when Keane brought him back to the SOL in 2008 and gave him a whopping 5 year contract. The move turned out to be a pretty dreadful one for all involved. After initially getting games under Keane, McCartney picked up a series of injuries once Steve Bruce had taken over and fell out of the first team picture. Keane himself departed the managerial post just a few months after McCartney signed and for Curbishley, the sale had even larger ramifications. Curbs claimed McCartney was the last of several players sold without his permission and resigned his post. The courts agreed and West Ham paid him £2.2million compensation, though, that sweetener has been somewhat soured by the fact that he has never managed in the 5 years since.
After a loan move to Leeds to regain some fitness, McCartney re-signed for the Hammers, initially on loan, in August 2011 before making the move permanent. Now 32, he started in the Hammer’s recent 4-1 defeat to Liverpool and may well start against the Lads on Saturday. He’s never quite hit the form of that first spell for the Lads and, though injuries have inevitably played a part, his career could be an example of the old saying ‘never look back’.