Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland 1-1 Southampton

Scott Heavey

A bleak season on Wearside came to a frankly fitting end with a dull and uninspired 1-1 draw with Southampton - a result which makes Arsenal fans out of us all. Here is what we made of it.

What The Gaffer Said

Paolo Di Canio was in no mood for excuses after the game. He told the official website:

Today’s point is a very important point.

We didn’t deserve to win the game because Southampton did a better job than us.

With 15 minutes to go we were 1-0 up and could perhaps taste the victory, but it didn’t happen.
I needed more from the players.

I have to be honest, after the first 25 minutes I could have made changes.

I expect much more - my demands are very high.

At this moment that is the minimum, the players should know this without me telling them. I will have to make sure I select the right players.

We have to move on and make sure we’re fully focused on our next game. I want to see a different performance from Sunderland.

Even after Tuesday’s result – whatever that may be – I want to see a professional performance at Spurs because we need to build a different mentality for the future.

Which is all true, of course, and we have all heard enough excuses at Sunderland now to last a lifetime. Much more interesting, though, was what he said regarding his plans for the future of the club.

When I came I knew the quality we had, Adam Johnson, John O'Shea etc. But not to accuse anyone, the environment was dead. It was dead.

There is not a bond. The team is not close together. Good fellas, but every one in little groups. But when we stay up I can tell you that it is a miracle.

We don't have a group of players who speak a lot. Just John O'Shea in the back, but in the middle of the field I have all shy guys.

It is very difficult, it takes a long time. We have young fellas with energy. To change everything in a few weeks it is difficult. It is obvious that physically, any side that we faced under me, we are very small side compared to the others. They are incredible athletes compared with us.

I have to make sure we change the mentality, which is down to me. Let me be sure that we keep the club up, and then I'm going to change everything. It doesn't mean I push all the players out, it means keep the right players, and bring in the right players. I don't want to upset anyone but there will be many changes. The way I want to play, my football, is dynamic football. It's crucial to have quality."

You see in people like Rodriguez today. He is a modern footballer that can keep the ball even under pressure. He's got ability but he's got strength, he can get up and down the field without feeling tired.

Obviously many of the players will remain with me, and they will have an advantage because in the pre-season they will work very hard. But before talking about this [the changes] let me finish with the job we started a few weeks ago.

So, it has taken the current crop of players all of six games to break Paolo Di Canio's patience. That's an almost impressive level of fail.

First of all, you have to note the apparent state he found upon his appointment. Talk of a lack of dressing room leaders is nothing new, but news of training ground cliques and a general lack of team ethic and atmosphere certainly is and is very worrying indeed.

That doesn't stop it also making plenty of sense, of course. There has been something rotten to the core within the Sunderland squad since the end of the Steve Bruce days, the transfer window when this group mostly came together, so it all adds up.

At first I found it a little strange that he was speaking out so publicly against his players when he still needed them. Then again, the softly softly quiet approach hasn't worked before anyway, so why keep punching that dead horse?

The lack of size is something we have often discussed too. Players like Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner, for example, and even the centre backs at the club are easily bullied and out-paced, whilst you would probably only consider Alfred N'Diaye in the whole Sunderland squad (excluding Danny Rose) as a player who is genuinely mobile to any kind of impressive degree.

Anyway, to sum up - Paolo angry, Sunderland rubbish, future interesting.

Can't Make A Silk Purse Out Of A Pig's Unpolished Turd (or something like that...)

Okay, so this was a poor performance and a poor game in general, but what else was it going to be?

Without Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher, Di Canio was missing his top two attackers and recent injury concerns restricted Connor Wickham to a substitutes role. That left the haplessly out-of-sorts Danny Graham - a player who is seemingly struggling to break out of a gentle jog never mind a scoring lull - and a well-marshaled Adam Johnson as the attacking options.

It was never going to be pretty, but with the help of some customarily fine goalkeeping from Simon Mignolet, the players looked like they were going to dig out a result. It wouldn't have been deserved, but it at least speaks well of something. I think. I haven't quite worked out what yet.

N'Diaye Continues To Shine

Whilst the rest of the team plod around looking like a cheesy cabaret Championship team tribute act, Alfred N'Diaye continues to grow with each game.

It isn't all that hard to stand out against a background as bland as that, but N'Diaye does it. He is the one player Sunderland have in a key position who actually looks like a modern footballer.

Hopefully he can continue to improve, because if he can you feel he could become a genuine dominant midfield force.

Incredible Support

The final word has to be reserved for the Sunderland support. Another bumper crowd ensured that the final average attendance for what has been a bleak and desolate home campaign on Wearside finishes at a quite extraordinary 40,544 - an increase on last year.

I doff my cap to every single person to have attended a single game this season.

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