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Wise Men Say... Time For Cats To Master The Mundane

The 'Wise Men Say' podcast has become a staple of Sunderland coverage for many fans. In the first of a weekly feature, the lads have popped by to give us a taste of the upcoming episode.

Clive Rose

When we surrendered the first available Premier League points on the opening day of the season, I thought it was of huge significance. I said prior to that game that I sensed it was imperative Fulham were sent packing back to West London with zero points, and I was generally told I was placing a ridiculous amount of emphasis on it.

My rationale was fairly basic, since Di Canio had marched onto Wearside and ruffled more than a few feathers, he had generally done so with the overwhelming blessing from the stands. But truth be told, there was always a niggling feeling at the back of your mind that it could blow up at any time. Admit it.

A win against The Cottagers would have ceased a lot of concerns from many about whether there was any method to the Italian's madness. A defeat was always likely to be extremely problematic when it came to retaining peoples' trust, and I firmly believe he started to lose the players from that point onwards.

Let's face it, we all need a kick up the arse at times, but it seems Paolo was forcefully volleying his players so hard that you could see his shoelaces poke out of their mouth. Win games and you embrace being pushed, lose them and you wonder why you bother. The Di Canio reign was akin to a stretched elastic band that was ready to be sprang back into place or snapped beyond repair. It snapped.

So there's some irony that this must needed win came in the reverse fixture. Indeed, Poyet had spoken about needing to get the weight off the players' back by moving off the bottom of the table. He has been visibly stressed at the continued failure to beat one of the sides around us.

Had we lost this game, it would have been a real double whammy. I'm not suggesting that it would have caused a player mutiny, mind, but the manager's footballing philosophy has held fairly firm despite some of the dross on the field that currently represents it, and a defeat to a woeful looking Fulham side may have caused some serious psychological damage within the squad.

Suddenly we're fronted with a home game that the fans will probably expect to win. Considering the season the Saints are having, that may bring on some unnecessary pressure for the Black Cats. I'd hope it's the sort of pressure that the players feel ready to embrace rather than shy away from, though.

How we long for a mundane and routine home win against a mid-table side! Winning derbies, beating Man City and winning cup semi-finals is all well and good when the players raise their performance levels to suit the occasion. But winning a game of this unremarkable magnitude will be another off the tick list for Gus and his men, another monkey off the back so to speak. Taking that to Old Trafford will really be something.

On this week's pod, we'll be discussing both games in detail. Analysing what was good with a Sunderland performance rather than mulling over what was horribly inept about it is unmistakably refreshing.

The employment of Lee Cattermole was particularly interesting. Some of the responsibility was amputated from Catts when the side had possession, forward balls often bypassed him. We'll debate whether this was a big aid in Adam Johnson receiving the ball further up the field where he inflicted collateral damage onto our host's back line.

When Southampton roll into town this Saturday, they'll do so armed with Luke Shaw on their left side. How does this dictate Johnson's role in the side? It's a fascinating one.

BBC Radio Newcastle commentator, Nick Barnes, will join myself and Gareth Barker in the WMS studio to answer some of these questions. There's also the aforementioned semi-final to get excited about, with the confirmation that a whopping 9'000 fans will be in Salford to cheer the lads on. You'll be able to stream the podcast from here, as always, or you can always subscribe to iTunes