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The Neutral: Thoughts from a Sheffield Wednesday fan on SAFC's performance v West Ham

Sheffield Wednesday supporter Martin Wood is a football blogger who occasionally watches Sunderland games as a neutral, and he's very kindly offered to share his views with Roker Report on what he witnessed when he attended our game with West Ham at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The last time I walked away from the Stadium of Light it was October. Me, a Sheffield Wednesday fan, and my mate Mike, an Arsenal fan, were bemused. We'd just watched a Gunners team canter to victory despite spending most of the match asking, in fact begging, to be embarrassed. Against them, a witless Sunderland side incapable of looking the gift horse in front of them in the mouth.

And so to this weekend. I'd been keeping up with the news. The hours without a goal, the growing unrest, David Moyes being David Moyes. So, I had my expectations. And they weren't met.

What was this? In the first minute? A promising Sunderland attack? This wasn't supposed to happen. Let's forget for now that pesky West Ham goal, seemingly out of nothing.

In the first 20 minutes what stuck out for me was Darron Gibson. Much like Jack Rodwell in October I couldn't figure out what he was for. Neither defensive screen or penetrative force I sat back ready to watch the disaster unfold. And it didn't.

I thought Gibson grew into the game. Though not hugely mobile, and without a turn of pace, he showed a strong knack for keeping things simple when they needed to be, while being unafraid to pick a searching pass. Look, I think Sunderland are going down, and when that happens I genuinely think Darron Gibson will thrive in Championship (if he stays fit).

Back to October, and one bright spot in a grim afternoon was Didier Ndong. This time, I thought his game was the opposite of Gibson's. Starting brightly, all energy and hustle, I hoped to see him take the game by the scruff of its neck. He didn't.

By midway through the second half Ndong's energy had largely deserted him, replaced with hesitant sideways passing. He seemed to want everything to be perfectly in place before releasing the ball. Now, the movement in front wasn't exactly exceptional but still Ndong seemed to hinder the momentum of numerous attacking forays. And of course, his late miss was hideous.

My final call outs are two. Firstly, where has Jason Denayer been? Calm, unfussy and a physical presence - he was everything Lamine Kone should have been this season. Again, if he were at the Stadium of Light next term, he could be one of the league's top defenders.

And Finally, Wahbi Khazri. I'll let more seasoned Sunderland watchers debate his merits, but based on what I saw, his ongoing omission is nothing short of scandal. An example of that horrible football manager trait of 'not my kind of player'. Yes, at times he looked a little selfish, and sure he didn't always pick the right option, but for decent delivery and penetration for such a goal-shy team, how could he not have played more? Shame on Moyes.

So there it is. Some real positives that I didn't expect. But, at the same time, you can see the problems. And that's before chippy Fabio Borini goes on national radio and suggests a lack of squad unity.

An ability to concede out of seemingly nothing is not a habit anyone wants, while the fullback areas appeared weak, and like Ndong, hesitant with decision making. The team lacks someone who can play effectively 'between the lines' in the final third which leaves reliance on attacking from wide areas not helped by that fullback problem.

While Anichebe offers 'an outlet', to me, it ends there. He appeared ponderous and I really believe he wouldn't thrive in the Championship. There's reasons beyond his fitness that nobody signed him before Moyes opened his old-boys address book.

And let's not also not kid ourselves that the defensively leaky Hammers are some kind of Premier League force. They offered little, though the away support was excellent.

Now, we know I'm not a Sunderland fan, but I do have huge respect for the fanbase, and over my two trips this season, I can definitely feel the pain of what's happening to the club: I've felt that pain before. Today showed a little of what could have been possible. But that it's happened when it's too late and at a time the Manager can't leave the dugout for being jeered is sad. So here's my rant...

Failure achieved in the name of stability is still failure. And what if, by November next season, Moyes is gone? What will this have all been for?

Even if Moyes somehow manages to turn things round, can anyone in the club say this has all been worth it? The club relegated and fans disaffected just to get back to where you already are?

I'm sorry, but stability here is being used as a lazy excuse for poor performance at the top of the club; if an absolute basket case like Hull City can find a talented, upwardly mobile manager that can get more out of a poor squad and show some transfer market nouse, then I firmly believe Sunderland could've done so too.

These things don't always work, but to not try? Wow. The decision to keep David Moyes isn't brave or part of some masterplan; to me it looks like cowardice and a dereliction of duty by Martin Bain. I could see in October that this team was doomed. Brian Oviedo and Darron Gibson were never going to remotely fix things.

I support a club that's spent much of the last two decades being mismanaged in one way or another. The fact of the matter is that the key to Sunderland's recent 'success' has been to change manager, to do it not too late, and by bringing in someone that's been able to apply a cattle prod to the squad. It hasn't worked for the long term, granted, but maybe it could have. And again, to not even try? Even Swansea had some brief hope from their most recent change.

Oh, and if anyone genuinely thinks Moyes can turn this round, I think you may need a lie down. Only 4 of the last 15 clubs relegated from the Premier League have gone straight back up. The Championship is a league that mercilessly sucks clubs into instability. Birmingham, anyone? Derby? Possibly Norwich?

Sunderland just don't seem to me to have anything that you would say are pre-requisites for success in the second tier. Look at the teams that are battling for promotion: what's got them there? Money has helped (The Owls, Newcastle), but also on-pitch stability (Brighton), or quality young management and/or playing identity (Huddersfield, Leeds, Reading). These things aren't the be all and end all but they massively help.

I said in October that - as a watcher of Championship football - I felt this Sunderland would be nervously looking over their shoulder in the second tier. This weekend I saw things that would make me change my mind, but things off the pitch that wouldn't.