My emotions were all over the place on Saturday and after acting rather immaturely to say the least I have calmed down. I don’t know how I am going to make it until the end of the season.
I was so angry that our chances just would not go in and I have to give Baggies keeper Ben Foster credit for that. He was very good when he needed to be.
Norwich winning, especially with the last kick of their game with Newcastle at Carrow Road, didn’t help matters either. Part of me is half-resigned to relegation which is the pessimist inside of me but on the other hand it’s still in our hands. We still have a game in hand on Norwich, a better goal difference and we still have to play them.
Let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment; imagine we beat Norwich and win our game in hand. If that somehow happens, we’re two points above them with a better goal difference with five games left to play each. We can still do it, which is more than can be said for Newcastle at this moment in time, although I’m not ruling them out until it’s mathematically impossible.
During the game on Saturday, like many people around me, I was constantly checking what happened between Norwich and Newcastle. In the event we failed to pick up a win, I wanted that game to end a draw. When I saw that Norwich had won, there was a groan around me at the Stadium of Light.
However, one good thing about that is that Newcastle look out of it and despite me saying it’s not over yet, there doesn’t seem to be much optimism around Tyneside. Losing that game, and in the manner that they did, was a massive blow for them. They have a game extra than Norwich and arguably ‘easier’ opponents i.e. Swansea, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.
Assuming Newcastle are joining Villa in the Championship next season, it looks like it’s directly between Sunderland and Norwich to avoid filling that third spot unless Crystal Palace are further dragged into the battle.
I don’t think Norwich are a particularly good team but they try hard and seem to work for each other as a team. Sunderland, unlike at the start of the season under Dick Advocaat, are trying just as hard to win games and we’re showing quality. I firmly believe we’ve got more quality in our side than Norwich although that alone doesn’t guarantee you results.
If Norwich and Sunderland win this weekend it actually wouldn’t be too bad because the gap would still be four points but Norwich and Palace would be on the same number of points. Palace have a horrible run of games to the end of the season.
Then if Sunderland beat Norwich (we seriously need to put that terrible record at Carrow Road to bed with an away win that lunchtime) and Crystal Palace lose it’s a three horse race again but our chances of staying up are increased.
It’s all ifs and buts of course but we shouldn’t think we’re doomed just yet.
One big positive is that we FINALLY kept a clean sheet on Saturday but let’s be honest – we probably kept one because West Brom didn’t come to attack. They were happy to sit back and play for a draw. But in whatever circumstances they came, keeping a clean sheet will be a boost to Sunderland. It’ll be an even bigger boost if we keep a clean sheet on Sunday against Leicester.
I’ve said previously that I don’t rate Leicester as highly as everybody else seems to. Don’t get me wrong, their season has been unbelievable and if we were in their position, we’d be enjoying every minute. If they win the title, it’ll be the best story football has ever seen. Rightly so that their fans enjoy this season because chances are they’ll not experience this again in the Premier League.
But that’s also kind of my point. This is a one-season wonder they’re experiencing. However fantastic they have been, they needed a great escape to stay up last season, were in the Championship the year before that AND were tipped to be in the bottom half of the table before we played them in August.
We shouldn’t write this game off and it actually annoys me when people say that anything we get out of this game is a bonus.
Have Leicester been fantastic this season? Yes. Do they deserve to be where they are? Absolutely. Do they work hard for each other and play as a team? Most definitely.
But have they got the quality of player that the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have got? No. Are they suddenly Barcelona or Real Madrid? Definitely not. Can we beat them on Sunday at home in front of our supporters? Why can’t we?
Leicetser will be solid on Sunday there’s no doubt about that but I think we have the quality to beat them.
On the way back from the game on Saturday I was keeping an eye out for the Liverpool v Tottenham result which ended a draw. Why is that relevant to Sunderland? It’s relevant because the following day Leicester beat Southampton, again one-nil, and went SEVEN points clear at the top of the table.
I honestly think that could help Sunderland get a result. Claudio Ranieri has done wonders with them and he has experience in being successful however Leicester as a club aren’t used to this situation.
There will be some form of pressure there and the last few games they’ve played their opponents have had nothing to play for. Watford and Southampton are two examples – they don’t have anything to play for and while they’ll want to win as professionals, the intensity or urgency isn’t going to be as high as earlier in the season.
Norwich and Newcastle on the other hand did have something to play for and it took Leicester a very late goal to beat Norwich while they only just scraped past Newcastle, who have an abysmal away record.
Even then both of those games were at the King Power Stadium where all of their plastic clappers were behind them. I don’t have too much of a problem with plastic clappers by the way. If we were in their position I’d use them until my arms physically couldn’t take anymore.
This time I’d like to think it’d be harder for Leicester and certainly much harder than the game on the opening day of the season. Our fans need to be behind us from the very first whistle until the last as it actually does make a difference. Make the stadium overpower Leicester.
It's an old cliché, but we need to be that twelfth man at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.