I spent most of yesterday’s second half helping my daughter complete a jigsaw puzzle entitled ‘Pretty Ponies’. I’ve done it before but it was still more interesting than the match and I’d fancy one of the razzle-dazzle ponies in the picture to score ahead of Charlie Wyke.
It was a pedestrian, plodding performance where our lack of pace and creativity was easily exposed by a Peterborough side which looked fast and inventive. They should have won.
That we did win was due to the referee, giving a penalty which looked soft to me, and a solid defensive display which was the one, genuine bright spot. A promotion-winning squad has to start with a solid back line but that’s just the first element of success not the only one.
For years we have lacked pace and a cutting edge up front and, astonishingly, we still do. Wyke, who would be out-thought, out-run and out-jumped by an Easter Island statue, and Grigg, who often appears to be allergic to the ball, have given ample evidence that they are not good enough for Sunderland.
So why did Wyke start? Why is Grigg even allowed to sit on the bench? Danny Graham looked lively when we came on but his signing will only work if he is supported by players with pace. Gooch was anonymous - an impact player who so often makes no impact; Maguire had one of his frequent off days; and Scowen ran around a lot, mostly losing possession cheaply.
We won, of course, and I was pleased with that, but at this stage of the season it’s performances which usually show how well the team are doing not results. If that’s the standard we are setting in our first few fixtures then a fourth season in League One beckons.
It could be that Parkinson has told the players to play without pattern and tempo, asked players who can barely pass to slow things down to probe for an opening. Presumably he also asked them to waste virtually every dead ball opportunity they are given. If so, we are in for a very long and trying season, at least until PP is sacked.
Listen up, Phil, teams have already sussed us out. The might of Bristol Rovers knew that if they got men behind the ball and kept it tight chances are you can get a point off Sunderland. A marginally better team than Peterborough would have been two up after half an hour and it would have been game over.
I hope in May, when we’ve won League One by a country mile, someone reminds me about this rant and points out how little I know about football. If anyone had listened to me Wyke and Grigg wouldn’t have finished the season with 20 goals apiece, and we wouldn’t have enjoyed watching so many compelling performances after Parkinson made the few technical adjustments he spotted after that stuttering win against Peterborough.
We’ll all be rubbing our hands wondering how much damage Wyke, Grigg and Maguire can do in the Championship, welcoming Lee Burge’s England call up, and looking forward to Sunderland spending the £20m received from Chelsea for George Dobson. Aye.