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From The Durham Times: The Finger Of Blame Could Point To O'Neill

Every week we provide our views to topper local newspaper, The Durham Times. We generally rabbit on about Sunderland and they haven't told us where to go yet, which is great. For this kindness why not pick up a copy from all good newsagents now for just 50p!

Matthew Lewis

Here we are in what is quite possibly the worst time of the season. The end is in sight but it's still quite far away, the transfer window shut a while back and there's nothing we can do about any problems and there's generally no excitement.

Certainly there's little to no excitement on the pitch as one crushing defeat or poor result follows another as a season which started full of hope comes to a bewilderingly boring and predictable finish.

It seems though that we should have expected this. On one hand, of course we should have - this is Sunderland AFC, and this is what we do. We raise you up to knock you down repeatedly.

The other side of it is the hindsight of our manager, who this week informed us that he expected us to be on the fringes of a relegation dogfight in saying;

"I knew right from the off it was going to be very, very tough and it's been like that all season, every game we play."

So really the immediate question back has to be "Well why didn't you do more about it?" which kind of is a bit of kick in the nuts that we haven't had a reply on that front when surely it must have been the first question on all fans and any reporters' lips at this particular press conference.

The end of the summer transfer window brought much excitement with Steven Fletcher, who has proven to be excellent, and Adam Johnson for whom the jury is still out but the stats suggest he's making an impact.

If indeed Martin O'Neill still believed this to be the case in January, you have to question why more wasn't done about it.

We brought in Danny Graham, which seemed at the time and on paper to be an excellent acquisition even if so far he's made Paul Stewart look like Luis Suarez.

Alfred N'Diaye appears to be an imposing figure and certainly is an upgrade over the likes of Jack Colback or Seb Larsson in the middle of midfield, while Kader Mangane is a tall central defender we're reliably told having yet to see him play a minute of first team action after a protracted move from the Middle East.

I don't mind making additions which can come in and do a job for us but so far we've seen only a few bright spots form N'Diaye which come even close to making pulses race, and even then it's quite a mild one.

The ‘obvious' struggle has been non-more apparent than it was during last week's crushingly depressing 3-1 defeat at Queens Park Rangers. We finally filled the seven-man bench for the first time in a while, but our most attacking player on there was goblin-a-like holding midfielder and spin-around-on-the-ball machine David Vaughan.

As I said at the time, if this is our bench with seven, I'd rather have six.

I can see the logic of letting go the players O'Neill did though.

Friazer Campbell was coming to the end of his contract and we might as well have got a fee for him while we can, given his ineffectual substitute appearances this season.

Ji Dong-Won's days appear to be numbered, but he does have some talent there.

Connor Wickham needs games, but why there's any discussion about whether or not to bring him back from Sheffield Wednesday is beyond me. Ironically he could have had plenty of game time here at the Stadium of Light.

Meanwhile Ahmed Elmohamady was brought back for a brief period before being allowed to move back to Hull City where he seems to be playing absolutely lights out under Steve Bruce. As for David Meyler, well I'll concede he's no great loss.

Now don't get me wrong, all these players barring Wickham could do with getting shot of, but surely not at the expense of our own Premier League survival.

Things have been embarrassingly bad of late, and if Martin O'Neill has the gumption to suggest he knew this was going to happen all along then he has had time to put things right.

If things take a horrendous turn for the worst (I'm not mentioning the "R" word at this point) then the blame will lie solely with the man who knew it was going to happen all along, and some serious questions will need to be asked.


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