What is it about this football club of ours? You really have to enjoy the fleeting highs to the maximum when you can, because we always seem to drop through the inevitable cavern of despair that opens beneath us. I think back to Everton in the FA Cup Quarter Final in March 2012. On that night, we bottled it again. It was the beginning of a slow death for Martin O'Neill. We just never seemed to recover.
The players signed in the majority by Steve Bruce just a summer beforehand have plagued every manager since. O'Neill managed to get something out of them, before they reverted to type. Martin came under a lot of criticism for his dour style, but when you look at it you can't really blame him. With such a limited squad he did the best he could to get results. It ultimately failed.
Now we look at Gus Poyet struggling with the same problems. The same issues. When Poyet was confirmed as Head Coach, we wondered whether he had a plan B. The feedback was 'not really'. However, he came in and rode the crest of the new manager wave. We were pragmatic, then played Poyet's way, then we started to see clever tactical and formation switches and tinkering. They were getting us results. If we didn't get a result, we were competing. He had a plan for every letter of the alphabet.
After we defeated Newcastle on the 1st of February, everything was rosy in some respects. We were 14th and in a cup final. Life was pretty sweet. We were confident. But in the league the inability to break down sides around us, especially at home, was still a major issue. Gus stuck with the same system in the main and changed a few personnel. No real change in result. The players began to struggle again, lose confidence and show their lack of quality. No strikers scoring goals. No creativity. Inability to defend basic situations.
That's when the real tinkering began. The three at the back system was, in my opinion, Poyet's last desperate attempt to get something out of this group of limited and gutless footballers. Some may think I'm being harsh calling them gutless, but in recent weeks on the pitch there's been no obvious desire from them to keep the club in the Premier League.
Now going back through culprits of our demise once more, the finger now points towards Paolo Di Canio. "Paolo was right, he knew." Well yes, he did. But it doesn't take a genius to work out what he did. A lack of professionalism among a group of limited, under performing footballers. Congratulations, Paolo. You KNEW. You said it out loud and everything. In the process you managed to hoodwink a large section of our support.
It's one thing knowing what the problem is. It's one thing telling everyone what the problem is. It's another thing entirely fixing the problem. He couldn't do that, and dealt with that in the worst way possible. As a result, he left us in a mess.
The wheels have certainly come off for Gus, but he should take immense credit for even giving us a sniff of safety after our start to the season. He also gave us a cup final. But, he should be criticised. He should be criticised for his decidedly dodgy January window. He's not the first manager to fall foul of that pitfall and he won't be the last. It's highlighted and all the more hard to take this time though, because that window took place during the death rattle of a three year disaster.
Should he have played Borini up front? Yes. That's a fair criticism. The Hull cup tie. Borderline unforgivable. Vergini? Woops. Scocco? Erm...
The formation changes and what not. Everyone has their own preference. I like the three at the back. I like the freedom it should give, in theory, to our 'attacking' players. But listening to Gus after the Spurs debacle, he implied it was purely to protect a badly damaged side. That's a shame. But at the same time, it comes to something when a manager has to field five defensive players in the central area of the pitch, because they give him him no confidence in their ability what so ever.
Paolo knew? Yeah he did. I think it's clear that Poyet knows as well. Only difference is Paolo talked about it a lot, where Gus has quietly tried to fix it. But now it's starting to fall apart. Desperation has taken its toll and it's affecting his judgement. In turn, it's affecting some supporters judgement in him. Let's not forget what Poyet managed with the bunch of losers though. We'll all be rid of them in the summer and I'm sure Gus will be as delighted as we will be.
That's when the real challenge will begin and in my opinion, that's when he should be judged.
Joining us to discuss things on the pod this week is former Sunderland forward Martin Smith and somebody else. Probably. You can listen on Soundcloud via Roker Report on Friday, or subscribe via iTunes HERE.