There’s no getting away from it - yesterday’s performance was incredibly poor. A patchwork Bolton side that has been thrown together over the course of the past few weeks outplayed Sunderland for the vast majority of yesterday’s game, and we were lucky to emerge with a point to our name.
Until the final fifteen minutes or so, Sunderland simply couldn’t make anything happen on the pitch. Defensively we looked unorganised, our midfield neither supported the defence nor made anything happen further up the pitch, and in attack we looked completely bereft of ideas.
Simply put: yesterday was probably the worst the side has played this season, and the worrying issue is that performances have failed to noticeably improve since the season started.
We’re ten games in and inside the top six, which might seem like a fair start to the campaign; however, we’ve yet to see this side really give us a genuine sense of their identity this season and it still doesn’t feel like we know our best starting XI.
Furthermore, the issues that plagued us last season seem just as much of an issue. Defensively we look suspect, we lack pace throughout the team, and we rely on McGeady’s brilliance to make things happen.
Ultimately, it’s a troubling situation.
Discontent on the Terraces
The 4,300 travelling Sunderland fans voiced their displeasure during yesterday’s game. A chorus of “You don’t know what you’re doing” rained down after Chris Maguire’s removal from the match. Furthermore, sections of the Sunderland support joined in with Bolton’s rendition of “You’re getting sacked in the morning.”
However, Jack Ross noted after the match:
It’s my job to make decisions. I’m fine with the criticism, that’s no problem. That’s football isn’t it. No problem.
I’m a 43-year-old man and I’ve been through a lot in life so I can deal with these things, trust me.
I’m not flippant about it because, like any human being out there, criticism is not nice for any person no matter what walk of life they are in.
But strength of character is important.
The vocalisation of fans’ displeasure signals a shift in the flow of criticism aimed at the gaffer. Initially, rumblings if discontent were limited to a section of the fanbase, with just as many keen to give Ross an extended opportunity to deliver improvement.
However, yesterday’s ire felt cathartic. It wasn’t a section of fans feeling upset, it was the vast majority. In turn, the pressure has been increased ahead of this coming week’s two fixtures.
Decisions to be Made
After the match, Ross noted that this week’s games are an opportunity to put right the issues that have been plaguing his side:
In my opinion, we are in a unique situation, this club in this league, but we have got to deal with it. There has to be a collective want to do that and we’ve had a good chat about it, and I believe there is.
The easy part is saying it, the tough part is doing it.
We have the opportunity next week, with a cup tie [against Sheffield United] and then a home league game [against MK Dons], to then win that and negate a little bit of the fact we have had two draws this week.
However, whilst Ross is correct that good displays against Sheffield United and MK Dons will go some way to relieving the pressure, the opposite also holds true. Poor performances in both games will raise the scrutiny on his position as manager.
Ultimately, Stewart Donald and the rest of Sunderland’s hierarchy will likely have a few restless nights as they analyse the situation. Fans turning on a manager is never a good sign, but then again Sunderland’s predicament isn’t exactly horrific. It’s a tough position the Sunderland board find themselves in, and Ross will have to deliver quickly in order to secure their confidence in him moving forward.