Kevin Ball is an honourable sort of bloke. My understanding is that he lives and breathes all things Sunderland. He's a likable sort of chap, which in a nutshell perhaps defines his management style. He's probably too soft in the nicest possible way. In management, you've got to be firm but fair. Di Canio was too hard and possibly too unfair too. Ball is probably very fair, but ultimately not firm enough. He's a safe enough pair of hands to steady the ship when it hits the rocks, but ultimately he doesn't quite offer enough to take Sunderland to higher places. Too harsh? Judge for yourself. You may well like and want Ball to be the manager of Sunderland, but in your heart of hearts, do you see him delivering for Sunderland? For the development team coach, he looks a superb choice, don't get me wrong. And may he beat the first team and their coach many times along the road... I hope so. Kevin Ball will get his chance again, no doubt... this is Sunderland after all:-) Perhaps the odds were stacked against him this time, which brings me on to....
The games against the Reds - Liverpool and Man U. Seriously, I thought there was a point or more to be had from the two games. In hindsight, I believe I was right. Liverpool are very impressive this season and it looks as though it was too much to ask to take a point from them at this stage in Sunderland's development. Some say, Liverpool is all about Suarez, but they're wrong. Liverpool have got where they are without Suarez for the most part. Sure, he's extremely influential and that showed against Sunderland. Liverpool are playing like a team and in their manager, Rodgers (a guy I may well have underestimated) are doing a stunning job so far this season. Rodgers is going to have to address the subject of older players at some point and that'll define him as a manager perhaps more than anything to date. Manchester on the other hand are making a very stuttering start. Almost their worst since the Premiership inception. The game was great, with many positives to take from it, but not a win, or even a draw. Sunderland once again showed signs of what they are capable of, but not for long enough. Their goal was from a concerted and sustained pressuring of Manchester. The highlight for me was Altidore bossing Vidic. Got to laugh. So I see the game against Man U as definitely one point lost and possibly 3 points lost. How do you get more from Sunderland?
Well, with a better manager of course:-) Poyet, to me, looks remarkably like a case of deja vu. Won a lower league, took the team up to the play off positions next season and left after run ins at the club... To be fair, both these leagues were one higher than those that di Canio had zoomed through and the run ins were less to do with his management temperament. IS short taking a risk on Poyet? I would say so, just not nearly as much as he did with di Canio. Poyet is evidently just as driven as di Canio and he's proven himself at a higher level - but crucially still, not the highest level. Much as I'm happy enough for Ball to take the reins in a crisis, I don't want to see it again this season... Anyway, like di Canio, Poyet looks like another man in one hell of a hurry. If he's a bit more savvy regarding the man management and can EARN the team's respect - rather than trying to COMMAND it - then I can see it working rather well for Sunderland. I still to this day don't think di Canio had the wrong idea. Sure there were problems here and there and a massive problem concerning the man management, but what he bequeathes to his successor is surely something his successor can work with. Equally, a new manager could accept the poisoned chalice, go nowhere and blame it on di Canio. It looks like a no lose situation for a new manager, even if he goes down, but I don't believe that it is - not this far from the finishing post.
Finally, this new season is shaping up extremely well (except for Palace - predictably and Sunderland - unexpectedly for me). The competition all over is phenomenal, with weaker teams taking points all over the place. And that's my point, with the exception of the aforementioned two, ALL the teams are taking points. Simplistically, all but the bottom two are actually precisely on track to stay up (one point game being the minimum to stay in). Sunderland have to get back on track and then some to make it safe. 1.3 points per game will be more like it, so they've got to start winning a few at some point. Also the goal difference is very bad. If you have to lose, do it gracefully, by a goal, not lots... So the Manchester game, although the result could have gone better, this was almost the best losing result possible and Sunderland scored. Arsenal continue to impress as do Liverpool and I didn't expect to be saying that 7 games in. Man U have definitely lost the Sir Alex Furguson bonus 10 points this season and barring some dramatic improvement there, you have to seriously worry about their qualification for Europe. They'll be back though. Both Newcastle and Hull are higher placed than their GD suggests they should be (to my mind, they've fluked a result somewhere along the line). So Sunderland, not only have to win several games, they've got to do several by at least 2 goals... A big ask for any manager at the moment. But I still believe this squad can do it, with the right manager of course.