Dear Roker Report,
Just one or two comments re: recent events in the world of SAFC.
Firstly, to say that last Sunday’s Checkatrade Trophy Final defeat was a disappointment would be a bit of an understatement, when Sunderland’s “Wembley jinx” continued in the shape of a sixth straight defeat at England’s “football capital”.
Not really a good record since that momentous day way back in 1973, and what it made it a bit harder to take was the fact that the outcome could have been so different, for on the basis of our first-half performance v Portsmouth, the CT appeared ours for the taking.
Unfortunately, an age-old SAFC weakness again reared it’s rather ugly head, when, in the second period, we appeared to “take our foot off the gas”, sat back, and allowed Pompey back into the game. And even though we “took them to the wire” as it were, in the final analysis, we couldn’t really have any complaints about the result, for in all fairness Kenny Jackett’s side deserved their success.
Still, disappointing as it was, its history now, there’s no real point in dwelling on the whys and wherefores re: our latest Wembley failure, for as much as some of us would like to, none of us can change the history/the past.
Believe me, if this were possible, there’s just a few things re SAFC that I (and doubtless many others) would like to change/put right, i.e. the events of the last few years, which landed us where we are now, in League 1!
All we can do now is be positive and learn from the setback, as with any setback in life, then move forward, hopefully wiser for the event.
And as such, I for one hoped that out of adversity would come some positivity, as was the case five years ago, when defeat in the League Cup Final v Manchester City acted as a spur of sorts in our battle against the drop. Then of course, we pulled off one or two wins against the odds, i.e. at Chelsea and Manchester United, which helped to ultimately preserve our top-flight status.
So with this in mind, it was good to see a positive reaction at Accrington, when our 3-0 win in no way flattered us, and doubtless served warning to the likes of Barnsley, Portsmouth, and one or two others that we intend to go all-out for an immediate return to The Championship. Unlike in 2014, the odds are more in our favour/our destiny very much in our own hands, so its now up to us to go all-out for the prize at stake.
We now have eight more “cup finals” of a sort, particularly our final home League game with Portsmouth at the end of the month, which, asides from being a “revenge mission” of sorts, could also be rather critical re the League 1 promotion race.
Still, if the side can perform the same way in our remaining fixtures as they did last Wednesday night v Accrington, then there must surely be a better-than-average chance of The Stadium Of Light hosting Championship football come August 2019.
Even if Luton now seem assured of top spot, Barnsley have perhaps shown lately that they’re by no means invincible, and as such may yet slip up, so with our players and fans all pulling together/giving 100% for the remainder of the season, then who knows, for nothing is won and lost just yet.
Which leads me onto the subject of our manager, Jack Ross. OK, so maybe some of his tactical etc. decisions last Sunday were questionable, as they have been at other points during the season, but the fact is that “JR“, like any other manager is only human, not 100% perfect and therefore prone to mistakes, just like all of us in fact.
In which case, and while I respect the views of others/their right to be critical, I feel that any calls for him to be sacked in the wake of the Wembley defeat were just plain silly. For one has to consider the “bigger picture”/the job he’s done overall since arriving at Sunderland, which has been quite astounding/a marked contrast to the so-called fare of previous seasons.
And it did appear that he’d perhaps learned from some of his mistakes at Wembley in the game at Accrington, when he saw the value of going 4-4-2 as opposed to his previously preferred formation, a change which made us a lot more potent, certainly as an attacking force, hence the result.
So hopefully this sets a new trend of sorts, in which case, perhaps best to wait until May, before we cast judgement.
Finally, just a word about the “Cans & Megabus Rochdale away guide”, part of which mentions that “in the 112 years of the town’s football team’s existence, never have they been able to welcome such illustrious opponents to Spotland”. This is not quite strictly accurate, for while I do not wish to be “picky” or unnecessarily critical of the article, which, like others on the RR site makes for interesting reading (as always), I would like to bring up the point that there have actually been one or two other “fallen giants” who’ve visited Spotland.
For as far as I’m aware, once-mighty Aston Villa had a two-season spell in what was known then as the Third Division in the early 1970’s, during which time they encountered Rochdale home and away. Then in the 1980’s, Burnley, Preston & Wolves (especially the latter) all suffered rather alarming declines which landed them all in (old) Division Four for the first time ever, and such they also crossed paths with Rochdale. And in common with those of Villa, these club’s visits to this particular part of Lancashire were no doubt welcomed rather keenly, some of these meetings were rather fleeting, as will be (fingers-crossed) ours, no disrespect intended to Rochdale FC of course.
In fact, and as yourselves at RR also pointed out, I’m sure our own visit to Spotland will be Rochdale FC’s most eagerly-anticipated home fixture of 2018-19, and as such is sure to be a great occasion, boosted of course by the travelling “red and white army”. And while the game is sure to be keenly-contested, what with “The Dale” equally in need of the win in order to boost their survival bid/get their new manager off to a winning start, hopefully three more vital promotion points will come the way of JR’s side.
Onwards and upwards.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Canny assessment of the week that was Andrew, and I hope you’re right - the game this afternoon at Rochdale is a fantastic opportunity for us to pick up another three points on our charge towards promotion.
Barnsley are looking over their shoulders now and that adds pressure to their own games - Burton away isn’t an easy fixture and if they slip up down there whilst we win, we’ll be almost able to taste that second promotion spot.
Keep the faith!