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ITHICS Fanzine: The lack of a Bally or Cattermole type in Sunderland’s midfield is harming us

We’re missing genuine leadership in our team - and as Nic Wiseman of ITHICS Fanzine stresses, it’s the lack of Cattermole or Bally type in the middle that stands out most.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Another manager, same result.

The club has been lurching from one catastrophe to another over the last couple of weeks.

First is the sacking of Lee Johnson.

In my opinion, he had to go. You can’t keep being tonked 6-0, 4-0, 5-1 and 3-0 away and expect there not to be consequences. Though he definitely improved the side, there were clear problems that he failed to address. Namely to failure to beef up a largely naïve side, however technically gifted. Who was it who said you can’t get away with playing tippy-tappy football? Sam Allardyce? He was a reasonable success at Sunderland.

From the Charlton game onwards, opposing teams have learned that all they have to do is bully Sunderland off the ball and the team folds. With referees giving scant protection in this league, an enforcer is required of the ilk of a Kevin Ball or Lee Cattermole.

This was crying out since early October, as has the ill-disciplined defence - two issues which Johnson failed to address.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

On that basis, I agreed with his departure.

But the club was then woeful in its appointment of a successor.

No one lined up to take over when Johnson was sacked, thereby throwing away six points as we were virtually manager-less for the games against bottom of the table Doncaster and Cheltenham.

The treatment of Roy Keane was laughable. Later it appears that Keane only had one interview for the post, whereas eight applicants were interviewed twice. Whether this is because Keane removed himself from the process or the club declined a further interview is not clear. But the whole appointment process was amateur in the extreme.

I’m not wholly unhappy with Alex Neil as the guy finally appointed, but the whole process was a farce from start to finish. At least we didn’t end up with Phil Parkinson mark 2, which many fans were fearing.

Sunderland v Milton Keynes Dons - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Saturday’s match against MK Dons will have shown exactly what a mess Alex Neil has taken on. Whist the performance was a marked improvement over that against Doncaster (it couldn’t have been any worse), the tendency for heads to drop after going a goal down was notable. As Chalkie, who was sitting beside me said, if Lee Cattermole was playing, he’d be going up to all the players and getting into their faces, saying “come on, let’s sort this.”

There’s that lack of steel in midfield issue again.

The post-match comments from the club after the game exhibit a strange sense of reality.

Things like, “the game was 50-50 in the first half’ and “we were the better team in the second half,” said Alex Neil.

Saying we lost the game on the back of two counter-attacks.

Well, that wasn’t the game I watched.

Then saying we gave the ball away cheaply under little or no pressure. That’s been an issue all season. Isn’t the first step of any rehabilitation admitting there’s a problem?

MK Dons were much more disciplined, and each player knew his role. The Sunderland team looked lost and without much idea or focus.

And so onto Tuesday when we host Burton Albion - a team that we have a terrible record against, and the team that sent us down to League One.

It is another must-win game... but haven’t they all been?

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