Gav - “It should have gone ahead!”
I must admit that when I initially heard that the game was off this weekend, I thought it was a sensible idea to call it off.
Mainly because we have so many players missing from action. Important first-team fixtures like Jon McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan have been called up for international duty, and then there’s the whole host of injuries we’ve picked up that Jack Ross would have had to contend with.
With a weaker squad, we were certain to go into this game with more than a handful of selection headaches - and that could have had an impact on the result, particularly in a game against a team in Blackpool that have only lost once so far this season (and that was in their second league game, away at fellow promotion hopefuls Portsmouth).
But, as the last few weeks have gone on, I can’t help but feel that the wrong decision was taken to call it off, and that whilst we have issues we still have a squad strong enough to cope with playing this game.
Since the game was called off, we’ve picked up a draw against Peterborough, a win at Bradford and a victory in the Checkatrade Trophy over Carlisle United. In the latter of those two games we’ve had a stretched squad to choose from but they’ve coped admirably, and I feel that some continuation wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing.
Robbin Ruiter looked reassuringly steady on Tuesday night and I feel he would have been more than capable of stepping into McLaughlin’s shoes for this one game, whilst we ultimately wouldn’t have suffered from the non-inclusion of Bryan Oviedo as he’d have been suspended anyways - although we can now only say that with the benefit of hindsight.
On the back of two wins where we’ve not had issues scoring goals, it seems a shame to now have to wait a fortnight between league games before the team take to the field again.
Postponing the game means that this weekend hands our rivals a chance to gain some ground on us unchallenged, and whilst it’s far too early in the season to call that a concern, I can’t help but wonder whether our decision not to play takes the pressure off the teams around us that have a chance to create some breathing space.
Alex - “Calling it off was the right decision!”
Of course it was, man.
I can understand how, on the surface, some fans might be disgruntled at the prospect of missing a week of beloved club football as they must instead be subjected to the mundane affair that is the international break. No one wants to watch England play a friendly when you could be watching a competitive fixture involving a team you actually care about - I get that, I do.
I sympathise even more so when having our game called off seems unjustified. Surely we can just play on!? We’re not missing that much, right? Oviedo was suspended anyway for trying to take a lump out of Marcus Maddison; Robbin Ruiter is surely competent enough for one League One game, and... well... Ozturk hasn’t looked terrible recently; there’s a plausible chance he can fill in competently for Flanagan.
There’s far more to it than just that, though. We might only be effectively losing two first-team players to the international break in actuality, but when two more players are removed from an already depleted pool of talent to call upon, suddenly such a minor loss becomes all the more significant and consequential.
Max Power is out of contention following his second red card of the season, Denver Hume picked up a knee injury in the same game Lynden Gooch and Glenn Loovens felt their hamstrings go. Charlie Wyke is out for what’s going to feel like years but is in reality only about half the time poor Duncan Watmore has spent on the sidelines - and he’s only just returning to training now.
When you’ve lost the utility of so many players the last thing you want is another couple of names crossed off the list. The numbers add up to make a daunting chasm of quality and each individual number added from then causes it to widen agonisingly.
This is made all the more profound by the rapid fire nature of the fixtures in the football league. It’s not uncommon for depleted teams to be gradually worn down by the relentless barrage of Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday encounters, and considering we’ve just come off the back of precisely that set of fixtures, I’d much rather we had the chance to rest and recuperate.
There’s no doubt that we have a tremendous squad on paper for this division, but when the fixtures are coming thick and fast and the aforementioned names are dropping off one by one, it begins to become apparent that there can be flaws in every plan, and even the best teams can ultimately be bested.
If the team - stretched thin - which we would’ve fielded against Blackpool began to show the predictable signs of fatigue expected from a team low on numbers playing on a frequent basis, it’s entirely plausible that we would’ve been beaten. After all, as Gav pointed out, Blackpool have only lost once this season, and that was away to table toppers Portsmouth.
Each and every loss weighs heavily on the shoulders of players and managers hoping to finish in the top two. One weekend without football is a small price to pay to ensure that Sunderland’s promotion chase perseveres in the long run.
Who are you siding with on this one then?
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