Every year Facebook mams in their thousands race to be the first to declare “New Year, New Me” as they welcome in a clean slate. Unfortunately, for us as a football club, our Facebook mum is Steve Davison, who rushes to ensure that no supporter is under any illusion that Sunderland AFC is planning to be anything other than “New Year, Same Club”.
With the off-the-field derby debacle still fresh in everyone’s memories and Mick Beale doing little in a tactical or practical sense to prove the naysayers wrong, this week’s supporter group meeting with the club, including Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, is at least demonstrative of the fact the club is aware of both on and off the field issues and are open to dialogue.
Infrastructural (and other) issues aside, heading into Friday night’s clash with an injury-ridden Hull City promised to be a test, and one that our confidence-shy side could seriously do with winning in front of an already frustrated fanbase.
On the stroke of 7P.M., the team news jumped onto our social media feeds, and after last week’s demands for a change of personnel, the news that Nazariy Rusyn would be leading the line was greeted with optimism. With the perennially injury-cursed Aji Alese struck down with another knock, Jenson Seelt was called upon to replace him, with Trai Hume switching over to right-back.
The game kicked off at a steady pace, although, much like the reverse fixture, little separated the two sides, with much of the game being played in the middle of the park. Once again, Alex Pritchard looked to be our most creative spark, with this season’s talisman, Jack Clarke effectively shepherded by Hull’s Lewis Coyle, one or two trademark mazy runs aside.
While Hull began to string some of their own possession together, they posed little threat going forward. For the most part, Rosenior’s side were compact defensively, sitting back and allowing us to play in front of them to no avail. The opening proceedings were uneventful, and lacking in any kind of flavour as far as chance creation was concerned, a far cry from last season’s end-to-end 4-4 draw.
The second-half began with a little more promise, as Clarke looked to threaten down the left. Yet, while Rusyn offered another avenue going forward, that lack of real focal point up-top was still damaging us. After a nearly effort from Trai Hume and countless corners, we were dealt a cruel, albeit foreseeable blow on the 71st minute.
Anthony Patterson challenged Billy Sharp after a loose ball back from Luke O’Nien resulting in a corner (under closer inspection it should have been a goal kick), from the subsequent set-piece, we failed to clear our lines, with the Tigers’ new man Fabio Carvalho see his shot deflect off Dan Neil and ripple the net.
A goal down, changes were made, with Hemir making a long-awaited cameo, as well as Abdoullah Ba and Timothy Pembele also entering the fray. While we huffed and puffed, Hull stood firm, and, in all honesty, we never really looked like scoring.
Once again, the boos rang out at full-time, with the pressure ramping up on Michael Beale, the players, and the recruitment team. It’s clear change is drastically needed, with a striker, midfielder and fullback desperately required before the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month.
Whether it’s fair to judge Beale after just a month in charge is another matter, but time certainly isn’t a luxury he will be afforded, especially not as the murmurs of discontent grow louder with every passing result.
Ultimately, thus far, little has changed under the new manager, with the same issues plaguing us as they did under Mowbray. If anything, we look more tactically inept, increasingly devoid in confidence, and worryingly impotent going forward.
Things need to pick up, and quickly.