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Sunderland v Fulham: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay

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Roker Ramble: The Premier League relegation battle heats up...

We’re getting into squeaky bum territory as the season draws to a close. Gareth Bale says no to Wrexham, and it’s all change at South Shields...

Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images

It’s been a while, sorry about that. The reason for the radio silence is a good one. Obviously, post League Cup final, I had to have a sit down and a re-stitching of my sides after seeing tens of thousands of Geordies weep on Wembley way. I had after all just witnessed something which could have easily won Joke of the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival. Somewhat less award winning has been their return to form and impending Champions League qualification; it felt a bit like taking the piss out of a hated school teacher to your mates, only to discover he’s standing right behind you with his arms crossed. In short: the laughter has stopped. But in truth, I respect the job Eddie Howe has done. It must be hard working for those overlords, who are so consumed with chopping heeds on Skull Island.

Nevertheless, the realisation that they really should have beaten Manchester United to lift their first silverware since Oliver Cromwell was on the throne has warmed the cockles somewhat.

Talking of warming the cockles, Sunderland have done much to gladden the hearts of those on Wearside and many of my red and white brethren would probably advise me to simply concentrate on my own team. To them I say Sunderland is an obsession. They are all consuming. I think of them morning, noon and night. When I go to sleep I don’t count sheep, I replay Sunderland goals with Nick Barnes on the commentary in my head. I just bloody don’t like Newcastle either.

Anyway, to business.

The Premier League relegation battle heats up

Year after year, as the desperate bid to avoid the dreaded relegation trapdoor (*TM any terrible football pundit, like Jermaine Jenas) reaches fever pitch, I think about how lucky we are to not be involved in any of this silliness anymore.

After all, it’s only fun when you’re relegating Newcastle or the Smoggies (Tony Mowbray’s red and white army he hates ‘Boro). And let’s face it, the Toon aren’t bothering the bottom feeders any time soon.

I also, as I imagine you do too, look for the parallels in other teams’ plight as the campaign wears on with our own all those seasons ago.

This time, it’s Everton who I see as the Sunderland of 2023. On more than one occasion this week, I have heard the phrase - or is it a question - “Everton are f*cked, aren’t they.”

Everton FC v Newcastle United - Premier League
What have I done?
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

As we all know, years of overspending, poor investment, bad managers, terrible administration and the complete and utter lack of a plan will come back to bite you on the arse. This is what I’m seeing here with the Toffees. Watching their defence wave Alexander Isak through their defence like they were one of those aircraft marshallers (I had to look this up) directing a 747 brought back some bad memories.

In some ways this is justice. Because after all, Everton are responsible for a) providing us with so much dross in 2016/2017 it could have sunk the Titanic. The side which featured Pienaar, Anichebe, Lescott, Gibson, Ovieido and Moyes was so bad the Environment Agency should have been labelled a biohazard. Secondly, those turds from Merseyside committed the cardinal sin of recalling Ellis Simms only to barely play him. The effect was threefold: it screwed up our push for what I will now describe as automatic promotion, stunted his development, and also meant they were less likely to bring in an appropriate replacement for Dominic Calvert Lewin. If you’ve forgotten who he is, he’s the person who injured his ACL tying his shoelaces. Or something like that.

So as far as I’m concerned Everton are gone. Leicester meanwhile are showing signs they might get out of it, as Jamie Vardy has woken from the dead to start scoring again. Leeds on the other hand are making a great fist of really buggering up what looked like a promising situation. Southampton, despite having the coolest manager in the division can hear the alarm bells ringing long and loud. The positive for them however is that they’re probably best placed to come back up.

But, all in all, Everton are going down.

Gareth Bale NOT coming out of retirement

Booo, what a shame. Gareth Bale doesn’t want to become a part of the fairy tale that is Wrexham getting promoted to the Football League.

This IS a fairy tale, despite many years of expectation, underachievement and let downs in North Wales. Don’t worry about their megastar, multi-millionaire owners, or the fact they purchased some of the better players from two leagues higher to facilitate the push. Then of course there was Ben Foster, who was playing in the Premier League last year.

Still. What. An. Underdog. Story.

As far as I’m concerned it was a bigger surprise when Sunday turned into Monday this week.

Look, it’s because of two things really. It’s not about Wrexham or McIlheney or Reynolds. They seem like lovely guys. No, less them and more Parkinson and McFadzean. It’s not a stretch to say I get PTSD from simply watching a Wrexham match. Two terrible reminders of a black period in our history. I don’t mind saying I was cheering Notts County all the way, but alas it wasn’t to be.

Wrexham v Oldham Athletic: Emirates FA Cup First Round
Did you steal a living at Sunderland Mr McFadzean? No comment.
Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

And now they’re trying to get wee Gaz Bale out of retirement. No dice, he says as all he wanted was a round of golf with Reynolds. But apparently it was only on if they could do a fourball Texas scramble with Parkinson and the club chef. And as we all know, spending a few hours talking tactics with Parky would probably result in Bale throwing himself headfirst into the nearest water feature.

What would those tactical masterclasses feature, I wonder? Lesson one: A 1-1 draw at Gillingham is always a good result. Respect the point.

One legend out, One legend in at South Shields

I’ll never forgive South Shields for cheating their way to FA Vase cup glory after the lights went out at Morpeth Town 15 minutes from the end, and the Mariners were 4-2 down, with 10 men and EIGHT minutes to play in 2017. Shields won the replay and went on to lift the trophy.

I’ve probably told this story before, but I’m telling it again.

The man sent off that day? Julio Arca. Well, our Julio has just been appointed as the club’s new manager, his first gig in English football. As we all know, he’s replaced SKP as gaffer, after he left in what appeared to be curious circumstances at the end of the current campaign.

That’s a bit awkward, isn’t it? I can imagine Julio didn’t speak to Kev about the job, unless he advised him not to take it if he knew what was good for him.

I can’t see the logic, personally. Why would you replace a manager with experience, fresh off the back of a promotion with someone who - despite his affiliation with the club - has no experience whatsoever? Something has gone on there.

It’ll be fascinating to see how they get on in the National League North. Good luck to them. Let’s hope they’ve put enough pennies in the meter.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship
Boss, is Kevin mad with me?
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On This Day (9 June 2007): Midfielder turns down Sunderland return – and heads to Bolton instead


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