On the 19th of October, Sunderland seems to have a history of unfortunate events, with a bruising defeat to West Ham and other comfortable victories for the opposition becoming a regular occurrence on this day.
This particular result was certainly not as humiliating as the 8-0 loss suffered in East London in 1968. However, new manager Gus Poyet’s first game in charge was a galling 4-0 defeat at Swansea City, exactly ten years ago today.
In simple terms, everything was going wrong for Sunderland at this stage. The Italian maverick Paolo Di Canio had departed after our defeat at West Brom a couple of weeks earlier, with Kevin Ball taking on caretaker duties in the interim.
At this stage, it appeared we were destined for relegation, and it was only October. Having earned just one point from our first eight games, it hinted at only one outcome, and Poyet’s task of preserving our Premier League status was a mammoth one.
Regarding the game itself, the result was all the more deflating after our positive start.
Scotland international Steven Fletcher returned from injury to lead the line, and he was involved early on as we created some half-decent opportunities.
Fletcher, who’d scored twice at the Liberty Stadium on his Black Cats debut last season, latched on to an early corner only to send his left-foot shot the wrong side of the post.
Phil Bardsley then had the goal in his sights, only to slice midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini’s deflected cross horribly over from close range.
Whilst Swansea certainly had their own opportunities in the first half, our performance was perceived as better than anything seen under Di Canio. This makes the second half collapse all the more unfathomable, as described in our very own match report from the game.
Gus Poyet will have a hell of a lot of work to do this week, and there really can’t be too many excuses for the performance put in, with a second half as shambolic and poor as anything seen under Di Canio.
Whatever Swansea boss Michael Laudrup said at half-time had the desired effect. According to the BBC match report, the Sunderland goal was living a ‘charmed life,’ with chances from Wilfried Bony, Nathan Dyer, Michu, and Wayne Routledge all going astray.
However, the pressure eventually told when a corner went in off Phil Bardsley before Jonathan De Guzmán quickly added another with a twenty-two-yard curling shot into the top corner.
The concession of these two goals highlighted our fragility as the floodgates opened, and Swansea added a third moments later. However, substitute Fabio Borini did have a decent chance when he came off the bench.
The third goal came from the penalty spot, as Bony converted after Craig Gardner had unnecessarily brought down Leon Britton.
By the time the fourth came, the game was over as a contest. We did well not to concede any more goals in a twenty-minute period. The final goal came late, and it seemed to irk the writer of our match report.
Chico Flores made it 4-0. A corner comes in, and since we absolutely hate defending those we just didn’t bother and allowed an unmarked Flores to head in via Steven Fletcher who couldn’t get out of the way.
In truth, the game was a comedy of errors.
We had plenty of work to do, and with a Tyne-Wear derby on the horizon, Poyet couldn’t have asked for a better fixture to boost the motivation of his defeated squad.
After the game, he made few excuses but expressed his frustration at the abject second-half display.
It’s difficult to take because there were things in the first half that we were able to do. We could not keep doing them in the second half and it is something we will look at.
We have been doing well in first half of many games. In the second half it changed completely and we will try to address that.
It is not a nice welcome to the Premier League for me but it is where we are. There is no place to hide and you have to take it.
It’s up to us. There is nothing to complain about and we will make sure we keep working to sort it out for next week when we play Newcastle, which is one of the biggest games for the fans.