Worst Performance Of The Season
I think that I can say without a doubt that what I witnessed yesterday afternoon was comfortably Sunderland’s worst performance of what has been a completely miserable season.
The scoreline of 3-0 was, in all honesty, not a fair reflection of the performance - it was in fact much worse, and I think that Sheffield United let us off lightly.
We went into half time just 1-0 down and it could have quite easily have been more, and I reckon that a better team would have truly punished us for our complete and utter ineptitude. We were dreadful from start to finish.
I lost count of the amount of times we needlessly put the ball out of play, misplaced passes and gift-wrapped possession back to Chris Wilder’s side.
It was as though the players had never played together before. To this point Chris Coleman has publicly and privately protected his players, but I hope to God that he went down their throats after that in the dressing room.
The sold-out away end of Sunderland supporters deserved more than what they witnessed, and the players ought to be ashamed of themselves.
If anything it should remind us of the scale of the task that Chris Coleman faces. There are still 66 points left to play for this season and there’s nothing more than a fag paper between the bottom six sides.
The message coming away from the game needs to be made incredibly clear - that was not good enough, and more displays like that will be what will eventually see us off if we are not careful.
McGeady’s Lost His Hunger?
It would appear that as Simon Grayson walked out of the door at the Stadium of Light, so did Aiden McGeady’s hunger and desire to play for this football club.
I was dismissive of the criticism that was leveled at him by Everton supporters when he signed for us in the summer, mainly because his initial two months here were impressive and he scored us some important goals at a time when everyone else appeared to be struggling.
But yesterday he just looked lost, disinterested and quite clearly lacking in confidence.
We know what he’s capable of. An on-form Aiden McGeady is as good as any attacking midfielder in this division, and at his age he should be one of the players we count upon to use their experience when the momentum in games isn’t going in our favour.
He’s got to step it up, particularly since it would appear that Lewis Grabban is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines and our only other fit senior forward couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.
His goals could be important if we are to stave off relegation, but we simply cannot accept the level of performance that he gave yesterday at Bramall Lane.
Squad Looks Stretched
Just look at the injury list we have - Duncan Watmore, Lewis Grabban, Didier Ndong, Lee Cattermole, Paddy McNair, Billy Jones, Lamine Kone, Jack Rodwell and Jonny Williams.
All of those players were expected to play their part this season, yet with the exception of Grabban and Ndong we’ve barely had a tune out of any of them.
Darron Gibson has been in good form since Coleman arrived but, with his injury record, we cannot reasonably expect him to play ninety minutes every week. The same goes to John O’Shea, who at his age should not be playing full games twice in a matter of days.
Even Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman - two players trying to find their feet as first teamers - need to be given a breather every once in a while, but the lack of squad depth means that they play every week and Coleman is unable to protect them in the same way that he has been able to with Josh Maja and Joel Asoro.
In an ideal situation we’d have a pool of players whereby we can rotate players them when the games come thick and fast, building up some momentum as a result.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson that I learned from yesterday’s performance was that this squad is far too stretched at present, and that if Ellis Short is serious about helping this club to eventually get out of the Championship he needs to dip his hand in his pocket and fund signings that will help Chris Coleman to improve our fortunes.
No Need To Panic
Having said all of the above, I still think that we need to be patient and remain calm.
Before yesterday I felt that our form under Coleman was pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but certainly a lot better than before he arrived.
As I mentioned before, we still have 66 points to play for. I’ve seen plenty of people on social media writing us off as relegated already but, haway - there’s still plenty of time for us to put things right.
Our next two games are very important. Nottingham Forest have suffered four defeats in their last six and last time out they were comfortably beaten by Sheffield Wednesday, whilst Barnsley are just three points better off than us and sit two places above in the table. Whether or not we feel we are capable, six points has to be the target.
My message, as always, is to ‘keep the faith’. Chris Coleman knows exactly what he’s doing and I’ve no doubt that he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that the players don’t lose focus of the task ahead.
It was a bad day at the office, and we’ll have many more of those, but let’s not get too carried away. We just need to write this one off and hope that we’re better in the next game.