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Captain's Blog: Water(logged)-Gate!

This week's Captain's Blog comes early and looks at the abandoned Reading game.
This week's Captain's Blog comes early and looks at the abandoned Reading game.

The phrase 'rain on your parade' has perhaps never been quite so apt. A whirlwind of transfer activity, the natural optimism of the first home game of the season, and an encouraging opening day point at Arsenal had converged to create the perfect storm of excitement amongst the Sunderland support heading to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

And then suddenly it was gone.

The decision to postpone Sunderland's Premier League game with Reading has been generally met with suspicion, disbelief, and outrage. It didn't take fans long to flood the internet (no pun intended) with anger and blame-gaming.

I must admit that the postponement left me feeling deflated and at a wholly unwelcome loose end. As a football fan, there are certain seminal occasions in a football season to which I consider myself fundamentally entitled. An FA Cup third round tie at the turn of the year is one of them, as is some football to provide an escape route from festive family frivolities on boxing day. A first league home game of the season when it is shiny and new in August is one of them, too.

So I can understand the temptation to vent frustration and demand someone is held accountable. What I don't understand is why a game of football being rained off is causing such outrage.

Within minutes of the postponement, Reading manager Brian McDermott was on the phone to Talksport radio being interviewed by their resident rent-a-gob Adrian Durham. The line of questioning was shamelessly leading, but the upshot was that McDermott appeared on national radio proclaiming to be a veritable expert in drainage technology and the volume of rainfall over an 8 hour period in a location he had only arrived at 20 minutes previously.

According to The Royals boss, the match would have unequivocally gone ahead in Reading in the same conditions, and he wasn't about to let the fact that he didn't know what the conditions had actually been deter him from that stance.

McDermott was sure to have been as frustrated as the rest of us, and his mood was unlikely to have been helped by the realisation that his team's trip north had been rendered needless and, as mentioned, the questioning was leading, but it served to highlight the ludicrous fuss and sensationalism over what was an unusual yet far from unheard of situation.

Now I won't try and pretend that I know what happened. Clearly, the drainage system failed to cope with the volume of water, but whether that was down to a problem somewhere or it simply being overloaded I don't know. Either way, there doesn't necessarily have to be blame attached, and certainly not on the strength of nothing but conjecture.

What I do know, however, is that the August fixture list is not immune to the weather. How do I know that? From the moment I got up on Saturday the papers and media were full of references to it being thirteen years to the day since Sunderland famously won a farcical derby match at St James Park that we all know should have been abandoned due to rain. By afternoon, the same people reminiscing about that game were crying disbelief that the weather could claim a Premier league fixture in August, and the same papers who had mentioned it were drawing conclusions laying the blame at the club for a botched post-concerts relaying of the pitch.

I also know that last August, a pre-season friendly between Newcastle and Fiorentina was abandoned after 64 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch and, despite much of the media mischievously reporting what non-league games in the region did go ahead, games at Sunderland RCA and Washington FC were also postponed this weekend due to the rain.

Unheard of for a fixture to fall victim to the weather in August? Not in the North East it isn't.

The real shame of it all is the loss of momentum that Sunderland have suffered. With an incredible and long-awaited flurry of transfer activity on Friday, the whole club was buzzing. The supporters couldn't wait to get into the ground and were sure to be in vociferous mood, and the squad could have only been buoyed by the injection of quality it had been given.

A positive result against Reading, which was a difficult game but one which held no fear, could only have cranked it up further. It is that missed footballing opportunity that is the real tragedy here, but it can only be confounded by baseless accusations from fans and a society obsessed with blame culture.

I am sure the club will get to the bottom of what, if anything, happened in time. I will be as interested in the findings as anyone else and certainly don't preclude the possibility of a mishap somewhere. For now, though, it would appear to be just another occasion when the weather won without the need for added scandal or drama. It is Britain, after all. Is a lot of rain really such a difficult explanation to believe?

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